Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-77c89778f8-n9wrp Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-07-20T23:06:40.712Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

3 - Keynes’s Economic Consequences (1919)

The Book and Its Critics

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 December 2023

Patricia Clavin
University of Oxford
Giancarlo Corsetti
University of Cambridge
Maurice Obstfeld
Peterson Institute for International Economics, Washington DC
Adam Tooze
Columbia University, New York
Get access


The continued relevance of Keynes’s famous polemic, after more than a century, is itself remarkable. It has always been controversial: first as polemic, then as economic analysis, and finally as historiography. In which genre should we place it? The literary force of its vignettes of the key participants must be acknowledged. Likewise the concentration on reparations in linking the Armistice to a burden of post-war debt highlights the notion of guilt. And the distinction between historic ‘indemnities’ and the wholly new coinage of ‘reparations’ still needs to be better understood. Hence the inescapable centrality of Article 231 of the Treaty, the famous War Guilt Clause. Subsequent controversy has focused largely on assessments of the actual burden that reparations posed – or would have done if actually paid. Here the salience of Etienne Mantoux’s contribution in 1945 is still worthy of acknowledgment (though, ironically, not in castigating Keynes as ‘anti-French’). Instead, the ongoing significance of the analysis presented in the Economic Consequences points to the centrality of Keynes’s vision of the welfare of Europe as an integrated organic whole – rather than seeing the Treaty as a zero-sum game in which Germany had to punished, for moral as much as economic reasons.

Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2024

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Broadberry, Stephen and Harrison, Mark (ed) (2005), The Economics of World War I (Cambridge) for Albrecht Ritschl, ‘The pity of peace: Germany’s economy at war, 1914–18 and beyond’.Google Scholar
Bunselmeyer, Robert E. (1976), The Cost of the War, 1914–1919: British Economic War Aims and the Origins of Reparation (Hamden: Conn).Google Scholar
Clarke, Peter (2017), The Locomotive of War: Money, Empire, Power and Guilt (London and New York: Bloomsbury).Google Scholar
Clavin, Patricia (2013), Securing the World Economy: The Reinvention of the League of Nations, 1920–46 (Oxford: Oxford UP).Google Scholar
Ferguson, Niall (1990), Paper and Iron: Hamburg Business and German Politics in the Era of Inflation, 1897–1927 (Cambridge: Cambridge UP).Google Scholar
Ferguson, Niall (1998), The Pity of War (London: Cambridge UP).Google Scholar
Holscher, Jens and Klaes, Matthias ed. (2014), Keynes’s Economic Consequences of the Peace: A Reappraisal (London: Pickering and Chatto).Google Scholar
Hull, Isabel V. (2014), A Scrap of Paper: Breaking and Making International Law During the Great War (Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP).Google Scholar
JMK, with vol. number and page reference: The Collected Writings of John Maynard Keynes, 30 vols., Donald Moggridge and Austin Robinson (managing editors), Cambridge University Press for the Royal Economic Society, 30 vols., (1971–1989). JMK 2: The Economic Consequences of the Peace (1919); JMK 3: A Revision of the Treaty (1922); JMK 17: Activities, 1920–1922: Treaty Revision and Reconstruction.Google Scholar
MacMillan, Margaret (2001), Peacemakers: The Paris Conference of 1919 and Its Attempts to End War (London: John Murray).Google Scholar
Mantoux, Étienne (1946), The Carthaginian Peace: Or the Economic Consequences of Mr Keynes (Oxford: Oxford UP).Google Scholar
Moggridge, Donald (1992), Maynard Keynes: An Economist’s Biography (London: Routledge).Google Scholar
Skidelsky, Robert (1983), John Maynard Keynes, vol. 1, Hopes Betrayed, 1883–1920 (London: Macmillan).Google Scholar
Steiner, Zara (2005), The Lights That Failed: European International History, 1919–1933 (Oxford: Oxford UP).Google Scholar
Tamke, Jürgen (2017), A Perfidious Distortion of History (London: Scribe).Google Scholar
Tooze, Adam (2014), The Deluge: The Great War and the Remaking of the Global Order, 1916–31 (London: Allen Lane).Google Scholar
Trachtenberg, Marc (1980), Reparation in World Politics: France and European Economic Diplomacy, 1916–1923 (New York: Columbia UP).Google Scholar
I am grateful to Stefan Collini, John Thompson and Maria Tippett for their acute criticisms of an earlier draft.Google Scholar

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats