The League of Nations, 1919-30
The League of Nations
A number of important principles had come
out of Wilson’s 14 Points in January 1918 …
• Self-Determination
• General Disarmament
• Peaceful discussion of international disputes
• Setting up of League of Nations
Wilson was determined to make sure that a war like
the Great War would not happen in the future …
Why was the League set up ?
The League had four main aims, all of which were related to
Wilson’s 14 Points of January 1918 …
Bring together all nations in a parliament to discuss and
settle disputes peacefully.
 Improve people’s working and living conditions; help
people to become better off by improving international
trade. It was believed that injustice and poverty were
important causes of war.
 Make war impossible by persuading all nations to disarm,
not just the losing countries from the War.
 Safeguard the independence of countries and their frontiers
How was the League organised ?
The Assembly
Met once a year
One nation, one vote
Decisions had to be unanimous
Met regularly to deal with incidents
4 permanent members
(Britain, France, Japan, Italy)
4-11 non permanent members
Did the paperwork of the
Prepared reports
Civil Service
Court of International
Based in The Hague
Settled disputes in
international law
15 judges
International Labour
Membership …
 USA never joined –
42 countries joined at
American Congress
the start, rising to 60 in
refused to the sign the
the 1930s
Peace Treaties – Wilson
 Defeated countries from
was voted out of office
WW1 could not join
 The League was
immediately (e.g.
regarded as a ‘winners
Germany joined in 1926)
only club’
 Russia was left out –
 Neither Britain nor
communist revolution in
France gave the League
their full support
How would the League keep the peace ?
If one country were aggressive to another, the League
would force the aggressor to back down by:
 Pressure of world opinion
 World trade ban (economic sanctions)
 Force if necessary (though the League had no army)
What the members were promising to do was to take
common action to defend each other in the event of an
attack. This was called COLLECTIVE SECURITY.
Weaknesses of the League…
Certain key nations did not join
(e.g. USA) – others left (Germany,
1933; Russia joined in 1934, left
1939; Japan left 1932/3; Italy left
It had no real power to enforce
decisions – relied on goodwill and
No permanent military force
Economic sanctions did not work
Failed to achieve disarmament of
all nations in the 1930s (one of the
4 principal aims of the League)
Decision-making was slow
because both Assembly and
Council required unanimous votes
to take action – sometimes
aggressive countries had already
been successful before the League
got round to action
Certain key members of the
Council could veto action (e.g.
Italy (1935-6) and Japan (1931-2)
Neither Britain nor France gave
the League their full support they were more worried about their
own empires and trade,
particularly during the World
Economic Crisis, 1929-35
We pause here so
you can do some (or
lots of!) work!!!
Refer to our class produced
.ppt of key events, treaties, etc
from the 20s as well as
Chapter 11 in your Wolfson
and Laver text.
in the 1920s
Work of the League’s
commissions – particularly
refugees, drug trafficking,
slavery etc
International Labour
Organisation – campaigning for
improved working and pay
Border disputes in Upper Silesia
in 1921
Aaland Islands dispute, 1921
Greek invasion of Bulgaria in
Vilna dispute in 1920
Greek-Turkish war 1920-22
The French and Belgian
invasion of the Ruhr in 1923
The Corfu incident in 1923
Failure of disarmament efforts
in the 1920s – Washington
Naval Treaty (1922), failure to
have an international conference
on disarmament until 1933
Failure of self-determination in
the Treaties
TOK links…
the members of the League
act with integrity and honesty in
fulfilling the terms of the
Covenant that they signed?