Educational Travel Lesson Plans

Great War (1914-1918): France: Clemenceau's Views at Versailles



Through an analysis of primary and secondary sources, students in this lesson will identify, understand and be able to explain the reasons behind Clemenceau’s desire to cripple Germany after the Great War and how the final treaty contained many of those ideas.


European History

World History

Grade Level



90 minutes (2-3 wk. prep)

Tour Links

  • Versailles
  • Champs-Elysses
  • Place Clemenceau
  • Assemblee Nationale
  • Clemenceau Museum

Essential Questions

  • Who was Georges Clemenceau? 
  • How and why was he able to take the lead at the Versailles conference of 1919?
  • What were Clemenceau’s major demands for the peace treaty imposed on Germany?
  • In particular, what were his sticking points on the items listed below?
    - German disarmament of its military
    - War guilt
    - Reparations
    - French and German territories along the border

Key Terms

  • Alsace-Lorraine
  • Clemenceau
  • Great War
  • German War Guilt
  • Reparations
  • Treaty of Versailles 1919
  • Versailles

"Humanity is mad. It must be mad to do what it is doing. What a massacre! What scenes of horror and carnage! I cannot find words to translate my impressions. Hell cannot be so terrible. Men are mad!"

French Soldier’s diary from the Battle of Verdun, 23 May 1916

No allied nation suffered like France during the Great War.  Its armies had been decimated (over 70% of its soldiers were killed, wounded or missing); much of its farmland was now an unusable wasteland; many of its cities were on the verge of collapse; much of its industry lay in ruins; the horrors of gas attacks, trench warfare and machine guns were ingrained on the psyche of an entire generation.  Much of the war itself had been fought on its soil.  As the elderly French prime minister, Georges Clemenceau, rose to address the peace conference at Versailles, a hush fell over the delegates.  The French were bitter.  Twice in Clemenceau’s lifetime, they had been attacked and had suffered at the hands of the German empire.  Never again. In Clemenceau’s address, he outlined the basic theme of France’s position regarding Germany and the end of the war: blame, guilt and punishment.

I come now to the order of the day.  The first question is as follows: "The responsibility of the authors of the war."  The second is thus expressed: "Penalties for crimes committed during the war." … [The task at hand] is a very vast field.  But we beg of you to begin by examining the question as to the responsibility of the authors of the war.  I do not need to set forth our reasons for this.  If we wish to establish justice in the world we can do so now, for we have won victory and can impose the penalties demanded by justice.

We shall insist on the imposition of penalties on the authors of the abominable crimes committed during the war.  Has anyone any question to ask in regard to this?  If not, I would again remind you that every delegation should devote itself to the study of this first question, which has been made the subject of reports by eminent jurists, and of a report which will be sent to you entitled, "An Inquiry into the Criminal Responsibility of the Emperor William II."

There it was: in one short speech, Clemenceau had outlined the French position.  Germany alone was responsible for the war and should therefore bear the punishment of defeat.  Over the next few months, Clemenceau would stand firm on his positions.  He would give Wilson his League of Nations, but he would also make sure Germany would never again have the ability to wage war against France.  We know, of course, that Clemenceau’s planning was all for naught, as within a generation Hitler’s armies would march down Champ-Elysees, but in 1919, Clemenceau’s words and his ability to stand firm in the peace conference carried the day. 

Through an analysis of primary and secondary sources, students in this lesson will identify, understand and be able to explain the reasons behind Clemenceau’s desire to cripple Germany after the Great War and how the final treaty contained many of those ideas.

educational tour image
  1. Students will identify, understand and be able to explain the events surrounding the Peace Conference of Versailles in 1919 and the role played at the conference by French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau.
  2. Students will identify, understand and be able to explain how the French delegation to the Versailles conference in 1919 saw the issues listed below.
    a. German War Guilt
    b. German Disarmament
    c. German / French territories along the border
    d. German Reparations
  3. Students will identify, understand and be able to explain how the language of the final peace treaty contained many of Clemenceau’s objectives.

To view resource web pages, download the lesson plan PDF above.

I. Anticipatory Set

  • Writing / Question: Should victors in a war be able to punish the losing nations?  If so, should there be limitations on how much to punish, or should the winners simply be able to dictate whatever terms they choose to impose on the losers? (5 min)
  • Handouts – Copies of documents and readings from the websites listed. (5 min)

II. Body of Lesson

  • Lecture / PPT – The Roles and Goals of Clemenceau in creating the Treaty of Versailles (20 min)
  • Video – Treaty of Versailles (15 min)
  • Independent Activity – Students read the articles and sources on The Paris Peace Conference of 1919, specifically looking at French aims and how those goals eventually made it into the final treaty, taking notes as appropriate. (25 min)
  • Suggestion: Have the students read some of these articles and sources for homework before class.
  • Group Activity – Socratic Seminar: Discussion on Clemenceau’s goals at the peace conference (15 min)

III. Closure

  • Assessment – Essay: Explain in detail the goals Clemenceau had at the Versailles Peace Conference of 1919.


On tour: Musée Clemenceau

While on tour, students should find time to visit the Musée Clemenceau (Clemenceau Museum) at 8 Rue Ben Franklin in Paris. The Museum, housed in a four-room apartment, from which he could see and gain inspiration from the Eiffel Tower, and where Clemenceau lived for over thirty-five years until his death in 1929, contains his books, travel souvenirs, clothes and other artifacts belonging to the Prime Minister. Students can see firsthand where Clemenceau lived and worked, battling the problems of an empire and a nation.


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