The league of nations
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The League of Nations. The L of N was set up because Wilson wanted it more than anything else. He wanted the League to be a ‘world parliament’ where nations could sort out arguments. He wanted to make the world a better place. S.I.D.E. Stop wars. Improve people’s lives. Disarmament.

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The League of Nations

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The league of nations

The League of Nations

  • The L of N was set up because Wilson wanted it more than anything else.

  • He wanted the League to be a ‘world parliament’ where nations could sort out arguments.

  • He wanted to make the world a better place.

S i d e


  • Stop wars.

  • Improve people’s lives.

  • Disarmament.

  • Enforce the Treaty of Versailles.

America pulls out

America Pulls Out

  • The United States did not join the League.

  • The cartoon suggests that the Senate rejected the Treaty because it had been left out of negotiations.

  • Americans did not want to get dragged into other countries’ problems.

Strengths weaknesses

Strengths & Weaknesses

  • Forty-two countries joined the League at the start.

  • In the 1930’s about 60 countries were member.

  • This made the League appear strong.

Absent countries

Absent Countries

  • The most powerful countries in the world were not members.

  • The USA did not want to join.

  • The Russians refused to join they were Communists!!

  • Germany was not allowed to join.

  • This weakened the League.

Who was in

Who was in?

  • Britain and France were the main members.

  • Italy and Japan were also members.

  • These were the most powerful countries.

Four powers


  • Covenant – all members had promised to keep the peace (Article X)

  • Condemnation – the League could tell a country it was doing wrong.

  • Arbitration – the League could offer to decide between two countries.

  • Sanctions – stopping trade



  • The League could use its four powers to make countries do as it wanted.

  • Theoretically, the league was allowed to use military force.

  • The League did not have an army of its own.

  • If a country ignored it, there was nothing the League could do.

Absence of the great powers

Absence of the Great Powers

  • The absence of the US was catastrophic.

  • The US was the wealthiest nation in the world and had the greatest potential to intervene in the interest of maintaining peace.

  • The absence of the USA meant that challenges to the status quo established at Versailles, would meet limited resistance.

Absence 3 great powers

Absence – 3 Great Powers

  • The concept of collective security depended on collective action.

  • The absence of the three great powers limited the effectiveness of the League’s reaction in a crisis.

Russia and germany

Russia and Germany

  • The Treaty of Rapallo demonstrated how the League had no recourse.

  • It also illustrated that the disarmament clause of the T of V was dead in the water.

  • Germany developed weapons which could not be seen by League inspectors, they also trained large numbers of personnel.

Success without the league

Success without the League

  • The disarmament conference in Washington. (organized by the US!)

  • The Locarno Treaty between France and Germany which promised lasting peace. (Germany was not a member of the League!)

League of winners

League of Winners!!

  • The absence of the defeated countries meant that the League was a league of victors enforcing the T of V.

  • Another serious problem was the fact that a number of important countries dropped out between 1919 and 1939.

Biggest weakness

Biggest Weakness!

  • The different parts of the League were supposed to work together.

  • In a crisis no-one could agree.



  • Assembly – the main meeting of the League met once a year.

  • Its main problem was that decisions had to be unanimous, which was very difficult to achieve.

  • Council – a small group of the more important nations – Britain, France, Italy and Japan plus some other countries met 4-5 times a year.



  • Agencies (committees of the League):

  • Court of International Justice – for small disputes

  • Health (to improve world health)

  • International Labor Organization (to try to get fair wages)

  • Slavery (to end slavery)

  • Refugees

  • Secretariat – was supposed to organize the League but failed

Collective security

Collective Security

  • This was the cornerstone of the L of N.

  • Article X – all nations would protect the other members against aggression.

  • No more alliance systems or to defend one’s own self-interest.

  • C.S. is a more abstract concept.

  • It does not specify where threats come from.

  • It assumes that all nations will see each challenge in the same light.

Failure collective security

Failure – Collective Security

  • Not all nations see every crisis in the same way.

  • It failed as a concept because it ignored reality.

  • It required a level of altruism that humans had not yet been capable of.

  • It failed because it asked nations to give up their freedom of action.

  • It also asked nations to enforce policies they disagreed with.

  • Or intervene against countries they were friends with.

Main problem

Main problem

  • The league could not be considered very collective if three of the largest nations were not members of the League.

  • The UK and France could not agree on their treatment of Germany.

  • It was likely they would not agree on any major issues.

Influence other countries

Influence other countries

  • Collective Security

  • Moral Persuasion

  • Community of Power

  • The cartoon is from 1936 and it is entitled “Moral Persuasion”

  • What was it saying about the League?

The lack of enforcement

The lack of enforcement

  • The weakness of collective security was demonstrated by the fact that it was necessary to reinforce the obligation of the league members to resist aggression.

  • Draft treaty of Mutual Assistance in 1923 – supported by France but rejected by the UK and its dominions.

  • It would have called on nations to support the victims of aggression as determined by the League.

  • The same thing happened with the Geneva Protocol for the Pacific settlement of International Disputes.

  • This would have enforced compulsory arbitration in all disputes.

Lack of support

Lack of support

  • Few members of the League were willing to take on the open-ended commitments that collective security entailed.

  • The main reason being self-interest.

  • Also after WW1 the prospect of armed intervention would not gain support from the population of any nation.

  • There was widespread opposition to using military force to resolve other countries disputes.

  • Especially if the aggressor was a large country.

  • This was true of the Corfu dispute in 1923.

  • This was led by Mussolini and members of the League took no action.

Corfu 1923 fail

Corfu, 1923 – FAIL!!!

  • An Italian general was killed while he was doing some work for the League in Greece.

  • Mussolini was angry with the Greeks and invaded Corfu.

  • The Greeks asked the League to help.

  • The Council met and told Mussolini to leave Corfu.

  • It told Greece to give some money to the League.

  • Mussolini refused.

  • The League changed its decision told Greece to apologize and pay money to Italy.

  • The Greeks did as the League said and then Mussolini gave Corfu back to Greece.

Collective security1

Collective Security?

  • It was a concept that attracted great popular support but nothing of a concrete nature.

  • It was an illusion in which desperate populations wanted to believe.

  • However, if there was to be collective security then the collective has to agree.

  • The world in the 1920’s and 30’s was far from agreement on many fronts.

Early attempts at peacekeeping 1920 5

Early attempts at peacekeeping 1920-5

  • In the early years of the league it was called on to intervene in a number of disputes.

  • Its record of success is mixed. It allows us to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the League and collective security.

  • Success: The Aaland Islands, Upper Silesia and the Greco-Bulgarian War of 1925.

  • Failures: The Seizure of Fiume, Vilna, the Russo-Polish War, the Corfu incident and the Ruhr invasion.

Bulgaria 1925

Bulgaria, 1925

  • Greek soldiers were killed in a fight on the border between Greece and Bulgaria.

  • The Greeks were angry.

  • Bulgaria asked the League to help.

  • The Council of the League met.

  • It condemned the Greeks and told them to leave Bulgaria.

  • The Bulgarian govt sent orders for their soldiers not to fight back.

  • The Greeks did as the League said and left Bulgaria.

Greece and bulgaria

Greece and Bulgaria

  • Greece and Bulgaria are fighting like Tweedle-dum and Tweedle –dee.

  • The League, like the dove of peace stops the fight.

  • ‘Just then came down a monstrous dove whose force was purely moral,

  • Which tuned the heroes hearts to love and made them drop their quarrel.

Common factors success

Common factors - Success

  • The antagonists were small or medium powers.

  • These powers were usually unwilling to resort to violence.

  • This allowed the League to negotiate and enforce a settlement which both parties would accept.

Common factors failure

Common Factors - Failure

  • The dispute involved a major power that refused to submit to the League.

  • Countries decided to resort to violence and not seek peaceful solutions.

  • The Corfu incident was a major indicator of the problems the league faced.

  • Greece complained that there seemed to be one set of rules for small countries and a different set of rules for big countries.

  • Italy was a major power and when she resorted to violence the league could do nothing.

  • This was the case when a major power pursued a policy in contravention of the League.

  • Peacekeeping would only prevail in the disputes of smaller countries provided that the stronger members could agree on a course of action.

Early problems for the league

Early problems for the League

  • In the absence of the US it was vital that the remaining powers were in agreement on major issues.

  • This was not the case.

  • The British govts of the 1920’s did not really support European settlements.

  • In the dispute between Turkey and Greece 1920-23, GB and France took opposite sides.

  • France supported Poland in Russia and Silesia, GB did not.

  • GB also had major problems in Ireland and the Empire so it did not focus on upholding the interests of the League.

Enforcement of treaties

Enforcement of treaties

  • The Dutch did not give up the Kaiser.

  • Germany did not surrender war criminals.

  • She did not disarm or meet reparations quotas.

  • Austria could not and did not pay reparations.

  • Poland did not accept her frontiers.

  • Italian troops did not evacuate Fiume.

  • Turkey did not accept the Treaty of Sevres.

  • Nothing much happened.

  • The will to enforce the treaties was lacking or at best divided.

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