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Jun 28, 2019 | Versailles, France
On Thursday, June 27, 2019, a group of twenty students in HTS 2801 (Special Topics, Treaty of Versailles) at Georgia Tech Lorraine traveled from Metz to Compiègne, France to undertake an historic visit. In Compiègne, they were joined by twenty students from Dr. Vicki Birchfield’s EU study abroad program. Together, the two groups visited the Glade of the Armistice where two railcars met in November 1918 and the agreement to end four years of fighting in World War One was reached.
From Compiegne, Dr. Stoneman’s and Birchfield’s classes traveled on to Versailles, the site of the signing of the ensuing peace treaty on June 28, 1919. Here, students had the opportunity to tour the famous chateau and gardens of Louis XIV and enjoy a restaurant dinner in a private room next door.
The next day, June 28, Georgia Tech’s students had the privilege of participating in a symposium at the palace organized by the WWI Centennial Commission to mark the centennial of the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. Participants included leading scholars from the US Army War College, Harvard University, and the University of Virginia, as well as the Pritzker Museum (Chicago), French lycée students, and a select group of American high school history teachers. Topics covered included lessons and global repercussions from the peace conference, as well as American philanthropy and humanitarian aid.
Following the day-long symposium, Georgia Tech’s students participated in an official ceremony at the Pershing – La Fayette monument at Versailles to commemorate nearly two and a half centuries of Franco-American friendship. Alongside the mayor of Versailles and the government prefect, Tech students gave a moving speech, honoring “our nations’ historical bond,” and laid flowers at the feet of the statue of La Fayette.
The eventful day ended with a visit to the municipal library of the city of Versailles, housed in the former Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Louis XVI. Here, Benjamin Franklin negotiated the Treaty of Paris that ended America’s War of Independence from Great Britain.
The library’s curator opened the rare book room and regaled the students with selections from the royal library, including royal funerary speeches, the king’s “Facebook” from the Estates General in 1789, and, most specially, Louis XVI’s copy of the first constitutions of the thirteen colonies.
All in all, the two days of visits to Compiègne and Versailles brought to life the events that ended World War One in a unique way that students will not forget -- Said one student, “... the whole trip was an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experience. The treaty of Versailles only turns 100 once. I am so grateful that I got to be part of this historic moment.”