The birth of the League:

• Wilson wanted the League of Nations to be like a world parliament
• Representatives of all nations to meet together regularly to decide on any matters that affected them all.
• British leaders wanted a simple organization that would just get together in emergencies.
• France proposed that the League should have its own army.

The aims of the League:

• Discourage aggression
• Encourage co-operation business and trade
• Encourage disarmament
• Improve living and working conditions

Depended on:

• Economic reconstruction
• Political stability
• Social/cultural stability
• Popular consensus
• 42 founding nations

Self-Interest of the Leading Members:

• Selfish interests
• Not all countries joined the League
• Slow decisions
• Japan & Italy completely ignored the League
• League had no army of its own
• After WWI – lack of army and loss of economy

Why did USA not join the League?

• Anti-British and Anti-French sentiments
• Did not want to be involved with economic sanctions
• Did not want to be responsible for mobilizing troops
• German immigrants did not want USA to be included in anything related to the Treaty of Versailles

Structure of the League:

The Secretariat: Kept records and managed reports.

The Assembly:

• League’s parliament
• Admitted new members
• Appointed temporary members in the council
• Decided on the budget of the League
• Discussed ideas put forward by the council
• Met once a year

The Council:

• Met about five times a year
• Permanent members- Britain, France, Italy and Japan.
• Temporary members - elected every 3 years.
• The permanent members had a VETO power.
• Moral condemnation – decided which country is the aggressor
• Discussed and sanctioned economic and financial sanctions
• Could advocate military force in case of an aggression

The International Labour Organization:

• Aim: Improve working conditions of working people
• Brought together employers, governments and workers’ representatives once a year
• Collected statistics and information about working conditions

The Permanent Court of International Justice:

• Settled disputes between countries peacefully
• Based at the Hague, Netherlands
• Made up of judges from the member countries
• Had no way of making sure that countries followed its rulings

The League of Nation Commissions:

The Mandates Commission: Made sure that Britain and France acted in the interests of the people of the assigned territory.

The Refugee Committee: Returned refugees to their original homes.

The Slavery Commission: Worked towards abolishing slavery around the world.

The Health Committee: Dealt with the problem of dangerous diseases and worked towards educating people about health and sanitation.


Upper Silesia, 1921
• Industrial region on the border between Germany and Poland.
• Both wanted control of it – Rich iron and steel industry
• Plebiscite organized for the Silesians to vote which country they would like to join.
• Industrial areas – Germany
• Rural areas – Poland

Aaland Islands, 1921

 In between Sweden and Finland
 League declared the region as part of Finland
 Sweden accepted.


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Vilna, 1920

• Poland and Lithuania were two new states created by the post-war treaties.
• Vilna (Vilnius) had a large Polish population.
• Poland invaded.
• Lithuania appealed for help.
• Poland was clearly the aggressor.
• Poland did not withdraw.
• The British and French could have sent troops to force the Polish out of Vilna but the French did not want to upset Poland as they saw it as a buffer state against Germany.
• Britain did not want to act alone and send troops to the other side of Europe.
• The League did nothing.
• The Poles kept Vilna.


 In the 1920s, the League had been quite successful. In the 1930s, it failed terribly.
 In the 1930s there was a worldwide economic depression.
Countries wanted to increase their wealth at the expense of other nations.
 Fascist governments, which believed in the survival of the strongest, came to power in Germany and Italy
 Japan tried to overcome the depression by building up an empire.
 In 1932, the Japanese army invaded Manchuria and threw out the Chinese.
 They set up their own government there and called it Manchukuo.
 China asked the League to help.
 The League sent a group of officials led by Lord Lytton to study the problem (this took a year).
 In February 1933 the League ordered Japan to leave Manchuria.
 Japan refused
 Instead, Japan left the League
 Many countries had important trading links with Japan.
 The League could not agree on sanctions or even a ban on weapons sales.
 Britain and France did not want to support a war, so nothing was done.
 The Japanese stayed in Manchuria
 The League had failed.


 By 1935, most countries did not think that the League could keep the peace.
 When Hitler began to defy the Treaty of Versailles in the 1930s, the League was powerless to stop him.
 Mussolini got ready to invade Abyssinia (Ethiopia)
 Abyssinia asked the League to help.
 The League start negotiating with Mussolini
 He simultaneously sent an army to Africa.
 The League suggested that a part of Abyssinia was to be given to Italy.
 Mussolini ignored the League, and invaded Abyssinia.
 The League banned weapons sales, and put sanctions on rubber and metal exports.
 The Abyssinian Emperor Haile Selassie went to the League to appeal for help, but it did nothing else
 Britain and France secretly agreed to give Abyssinia to Italy (the Hoare-Laval Pact).
 Italy conquered Abyssinia. The League had failed.

Success or Failure?

Corfu, 1923

 Border dispute between Greece and Albania
 Italian general Tellini was sent to supervise one of the border conflicts
 Tellini and his men were ambushed.
 Mussolini blamed the Greek government for the murder
 Mussolini demanded compensation
 Greece appealed to the League
 League announced that compensation was to be paid and it would be kept with the League till the murderers were found.
 Mussolini bought his way around the conference of ambassadors and claimed the compensation.

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Bulgaria, 1925

 Bulgaria was invaded by Greek troops
 A few Greek soldiers were killed
 Bulgaria appealed for help
 League condemned the Greek action
 Greeks agreed to pull out and pay compensation although they complained that the League had a different rule for major powers.

How did the League of Nations work for a better world?

 The League got refugees and former prisoners of war back to their homelands.
 Acted quickly to stamp out cholera, smallpox and dysentery in the camps.
 The International Labor Organization (ILO) was successful in banning poisonous white lead from paint and limiting the hours of work in the case of children.
 ILO improved the working conditions and introduced a resolution for a maximum 48-hour week, and eight-hour day, but only a minority of members adopted this as they thought it would raise industrial cost.
 World Health Organization (WHO) worked hard to eradicate leprosy.
 A global campaign was started to exterminate mosquitos, which reduced cases of malaria and yellow fever.
 The League made recommendations on marking shipping lanes and produced an international highway code for road users.
 The League blacklisted four large German, Dutch, French and Swiss companies involved in illegal drug trade.
 Freed 200,000 slaves in British owned Sierra Leone.
 Organized raids against slave owners and traders in Burma.
 Death rate in Africa, which was 50% was brought down to 4%.
 Records were accurately measured and noted.

International agreements of the 1920’s:

Washington Naval Treaties

1. Involved USA, Japan, Britain, France
2. Aim: To improve US-Japanese relations
3. Limited naval growth
4. Guaranteed China's independence
5. Promised to respect territorial possessions in the Far East.

What worked?
It restricted military strength and improved relations.

What created problems?
It left Japan with the most powerful navy in the Far East (important consideration in 1931 - Manchuria).

Genoa Conference 1922

1. Involved Britain, France, Germany, Russia
2. Aim: To improve French-German relations, sort out European war debts (to USA), rekindle relations with Russia.

 USA refused to attend
 Germany and Russia left (came up with another treaty – Treaty of Rapallo).
 Indicated serious problems that could arise out of French-German relations and US isolationism.

Dawes Plan 1924

1. Involved Britain, France, Germany, USA
2. Aim: To sort out reparations (1923 crisis - France/Belgium invaded German industrial region, the Ruhr, to take reparations. Led to hyperinflation in Germany)
3. Reparations instalments (not the total) set according to what Germany could pay.
4. US loans made available to Germany.

What worked?
- Germany could pay reparations
- French troops left the Ruhr
- German economy recovered
- International tension eased

Problems created:
- German recovery/ stability was tied to US prosperity

Geneva Protocol 1924

1. Weakness in League of Nations Covenant: unanimous decisions difficult to reach
2. Britain and France suggested that members should involve the League to sort out disagreements and disputes and accept the decision of the Council
3. Aim: to strengthen the League
4. Elections in Britain brought the Conservatives to power
5. New government refused to sign the Protocol

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Locarno Treaties 1925

1. Involved Germany, France, Britain, Italy, Belgium, Poland, Czechoslovakia
2. Aims: To confirm European borders (especially German) and reduce hostility.
(i) Germany, France, Belgium agreed to respect their borders. Britain and Italy agreed to be guarantors.
(ii) Germany agreed with Poland + Czechoslovakia that border disputes would be arbitrated not fought over.
(iii) France promised to help Poland and Czechoslovakia if they were attacked (by Germany).

What worked?

• There was apparent reconciliation between Germany and France (end of hostility over WWI, Versailles, Ruhr occupation)
• Germany was allowed to join the League of Nations.
• Regular meetings were held between Stresemann (Germany), Briand (France) and Austen Chamberlain (Britain)
• Started 'Locarno Honeymoon' - a period of goodwill and hope

Problems created:

- Superficial - French people did not forget about WWI nor did the Germans forget about Versailles and the Ruhr invasion?
- No German guarantee about eastern borders (with Poland/Czech) was discussed
- Britain offered no guarantee to Poland and Czechoslovakia - would Britain help them if Germany attacked?
- Germany was invited to discuss these issues; this suggested that the rest of the Treaty of Versailles could also be discussed.

Kellogg-Briand Pact 1928 (Pact of Paris)

1. Involved USA (Kellogg), France (Briand) + a total of 65 nations
2. Part of the Locarno Honeymoon.
3. Countries signing it agreed not to use war to get what they wanted ('renounced war as an instrument of policy')

What worked?
+ Sounded good and helped to further the Locarno Honeymoon feelings
+ USA played an important part despite its policy of isolationism

Problems created:

- No way of making those who signed keep to their promise (Japan signed, but invaded Manchuria in 1931)
- If the League of Nations received ongoing and complete support, there was little need for the Pact

Young Plan 1919

1. Involved France, Germany, USA, Britain
2. Aim: To settle the final amount of German reparation payments
3. The total was reduced

What worked?

+ Showed French willingness to compromise (unlike 1922) so it held potential to improve French-German relations
+ Showed willingness to accept that the terms of the Treaty of Versailles Treaty were harsh and could be changed

Problems created:

- Showed willingness to accept that the clauses of the Treaty of Versailles were harsh and could be changed
- Wall Street Crash/ Depression/political turmoil meant that it never happened