League of Nations
•Met for the 1st time in December if 1920
•Initial membership was 32 Allied states and 12 neutral states, though all ex-enemy
states had joined by 1926
•USSR was admitted in 1934
•USA never joined
•How the League operated:
•Articles 1-7 membership + structure of organization
•Articles 8-17 prevention of war
•Articles 18-21 treaty obligations of members
•Article 22 mandated territories (A, B & C classifications)
•Article 23 humanitarian issues (e.g. labour, trafficking in women, children &
drugs, health issues and arms trade
•Article 24 the special commissions
•Article 25 promotion of the Red Cross
•Article 26 how to amend Covenant
League of Nations
League of Nations
•Debating chamber
•All members rep.,
each w/ one vote
•Met annually
•Decision maker
•Permanent: GB, Fr,
It, Jap & Ger (post
1926) – had veto
elected by Assembly
Court of
Int’l Labour
•Advisors on
economic and social
•15 judges
•Based in The Hague
•Settle member
•Recorded decisions
•Prepared reports
Special Commissions
Traffic in drugs,
drink & arms
Traffic in women
& children
Aid to
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•“[the League] depended on the goodwill of nations
to work, though it was the absence of goodwill that
made it necessary” Hugh Brogan, The Penguin History
of the USA, 2001
“…successive British governments took care to
confine any specific political military commitments
they might make to Western Europe, although
under article 10 of the League Covenant they had
undertaken to ‘preserve…against external
aggression the territorial integrity and existing
political independence of all members of the
League’” Ruth Henig, Versailles and After 1919-1933,
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•“the allies had been so impressed by the effect of
economic embargoes employed against Germany in
the war that economic sanctions were chosen as the
League’s main weapon. The possibility of military
sanctions was admitted, but their extent was left
undefined, and they could only ever be applied if a
member state agreed to put its own forces at the
disposal of the League.” R.M. Rayner, The Twenty
Years’Truce, 1943
“Rival states can be frightened into friendship only
by the shadow of some greater danger.” British
historian A.J.P. Taylor
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“My offensive
equipment being
practically nil, it
remains for me to
fascinate him with
the power of my
Punch magazine July
28, 1920
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•Aaland Islands 1920
•Vilna 1920-23
•Upper Silesia 1921
•Corfu 1923
•Mosul 1924
•Bulgaria 1925
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Attempts to strengthen the League/Collective Security
1922 Washington Four Power Naval Treaty: USA, GB, Fr & Japan – halted the
building of capital ships for 10 years and est. a ratio of capital ships for each
power (5 for USA & GB; 3 for Japan; 1.67 for France and Italy)
*** Ruhr Crisis occurs***
1923 The Draft Treaty of Mutual Assistance: sponsored by France, it would have
required all League members to come to the assistance of victims of aggression.
(rejected by Britain)
1924 the Geneva Protocol: sponsored by France, it called for a general
disarmament and made arbitration compulsory in all disputes.
(rejected by Britain)
1924 the Dawes Plan: US economist Charles Dawes offers the following plan at
the London Conference:
1. Mortgage taken in German railways and industry + popular tax
2. US ‘reparations agent’ resides in Germany to supervise repayment
3. Amount of reparations reduced
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League of Nations
Conditions Improve
1925-30 the Locarno Era:
•1925 the Locarno Treaties – Ger. Foreign Secretary Gustav Stresemann & Fr.
Foreign Minister Aristide Briand agreed to settle all disputes by arbitration
and the Franco-German border is formalized. Britain’s Foreign Secretary
Austen Chamberlain signs as a guarantor.
•1928 the Kellogg-Briand Pact - US Sec. of State William Kellogg & Aristide
Briand sign a pact that “in the names of their respective peoples that they
condemn recourse to war as a solution to international controversies, and
renounce it as an instrument of national policy in their relations with one
•1929 the Young Plan – proposed by American Owen Young; reduced the
total sum of reparations to be paid to to $112 billion to be paid over 59 year
period & called for the Allied evacuation of the Rhineland (5 years early).
•1930 the European Federation – proposed by Briand at the 10th League
Assembly, called for a “federal link… between the peoples of Europe.”
Stresemann also encourage a European customs union in addition to a
common currency.
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The Depression
•World trade falls by 70%.
•US national income drops by almost 50% between 1929 and 1932, withdraws loans.
•In France, the moderate government was replaced by a radical left-wing gov’t in 1932.
•In Britain, iron and steel production dropped by 50% and politics shifted to right-wing
•In Germany, the loans stopped and the economy collapsed. Unemployment rose from
1.4 million in 1928 to 12 million in 1932. The Weimar gov’t lost credibility and Franz
von Papen assumes control in 1932.
•In Japan, 50% of the factories closed and silk production fell by 67%. Military factions
carried out a series of assassinations and the radical right took over.
•As governments became increasingly protectionist (economically and militarily),
tensions mounted. Economic sanctions were no longer a viable option as most
countries were afraid of the impact it would have on their own countries. Without
the means or resolve to resist aggression, many began to turn to appeasement to
solve growing concerns.
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The Manchurian Crisis 1931-33
League of Nations
The Manchurian Crisis
•In Sept. 1931, a bomb (planted on a train by
the Japanese) exploded near Mukden giving the
Japanese the excuse to invade Manchuria
(mineral rich area of China)
•The Kwantung Army sets up the puppet
government of Manchukuo.
•China appeals to the League for arbitration
(both are members)
1. Orders withdrawal of Japanese forces
(Japanese gov’t agrees, but army
2. Est. a commission under Lord Lytton to
investigate (takes a year to report)
3. League instructed not to recognize
Manchukuo, but to give Manchuria
back to China
•Japan withdraws as member of the League in
1933, stating that the powers were guilty of
League of Nations
The Manchurian Crisis
Why did the League fail to resolve this issue, especially since this was a clear case of
open aggression by one League member against another?
What impact did the crisis have on the League?
1. The affair suggested that the League would not follow through on its philosophy
of collective security.
2. The exodus from the League set a precedent that others were soon to follow.
3. With Japan’s departure, the Far East was removed from the international
system of collective security.
4. Once Japan “got away with it”, Mussolini began planning his expansionist
adventure into Abyssinia.
League of Nations
The Abyssinian Crisis
League of Nations
The Abyssinian Crisis
•In 1932, Mussolini begins to plan
invasion of Abyssinia (Ethiopia and
Eritrea) in an effort to build a North
African empire (though mainly to distract
Italians from economic pressures at
•The first clash was at the Wal-Wal oasis
in December of 1934, though the full
scale invasion (100K troops strong) did
not begin until October 3, 1935.
•In the face of brutality and ferocity,
Abyssinian Emperor, Haile Selassie,
appealed to the League.
League of Nations
The Abyssinian Crisis
•The French and British were hesitant to
alienate the Italians, as they assumed
that only a strong alliance with Italy
would keep the increasingly aggressive
Nazi Germany in check
•Though the League officially condemned
the invasion, they looked for a
settlement outside of the League
•In December, British For. Sec. Samuel
Hoare and French For. Min. Pierre Laval
suggested that Italy be given 2/3 of
Abyssinia in the Hoare-Laval Pact, but
plan was leaked, was shot down by
British public condemnation
•By May of 1936, Italy controlled
League of Nations
The Abyssinian Crisis
What impact did this crisis have on the
1. The affair again proved that the
League would not follow through on
its philosophy of collective security.
2. Italy, now isolated from its former
allies, moved closer to Nazi Germany.
The weakness was exposed for Hitler
to exploit, which he rapidly did by remilitarizing the Rhineland in March
of 1936.
3. As the “final nail in the League
coffin”, the League was never able to
exert authority again.

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