The League Of Nations

Detailed notes on the League or Nations and their work

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How successful was the League in the 1920s?
The birth of the League
After the First World War everyone wanted to avoid repeating the mass slaughter of the war
that had just ended. They also agreed that a League of Nations ­ an organisation that could
solve international problems without resorting to war ­ would help achieve this. However,
there was a disagreement about what kind of organisation it should be.
President Wilson wanted the League of Nations to be like a world parliament where
representatives of all nations could meet together regularly to decide on any matters that
affected them all. Many British leaders thought the best League would be a simple
organisation that would just get together in emergencies. France proposed a strong League
with its own army.
It was President Wilson who won. He insisted that discussions about a League should be a
major part of the peace treaties and in 1919 he took personal charge of drawing up plans for
the League. By February he had drafted a very ambitious plan.
All the major nations would join the League. They would disarm. If they had a dispute with
another country, they would take it to the League. They promised to accept the decision
made by the League. They also promised to protect one another if they were invaded. If any
member did break the Covenant and go to war, other members promised to stop trading with
it and to send troops if necessary to force it to stop fighting. Wilson's hope was that citizens
of all countries would be so much against another conflict that this would prevent their
leaders from going to war.
The plan was prepared in a great hurry and critics suggested there were some unclear
thoughts. Some people agreed by Wilson's arrogant style. He acted as if only he knew the
solutions to Europe's problems. Others were worried about his idealism. Even so, most
people in Europe were prepared to give Wilson's plans a try. They hoped that no country
would dare invade another if they knew the USA and other powerful nations of the world
would stop trading with them or send their armies to stop them. In 1919 hopes were high that
the League, with the United States heading it, could be a powerful peacemaker.
However, back in the USA, Woodrow Wilson had problems. Before the USA could even join
the League, let alone take a leading role, he needed the approval of his Congress. Also, in the
USA, the idea of a League was not at all popular. Here's why...
Immigrants The League was inextricably linked to the Treaty of Versailles. Wilson had
insisted that all the signatories to the Treaty should join the League. The
League was also supposed to enforce the Treaty. Yet some Americans
hated the Treaty itself. Many Americans were recent immigrants. There were
millions of German immigrants who had never approved of the USA joining
the war against Germany. They certainly didn't want the USA to prop up the
League as it squeezed the reparation payments out of Germany.
World To many Americans the plans for the League of Nations suggested the USA
conflicts was promising to send its troops to settle every little conflict around the

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Americans had been appalled at the carnage of the First World War.
They wanted to stay out of such disputes.
Economy Others were worried about the economic cost of joining the League. They
thought it would be as if the USA were signing a blank cheque. The USA
would promise to solve all international problems regardless of the cost.
Business leaders in particular argued that the USA had become a powerful
country by isolationism ­ staying out of European affairs.…read more

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American decision, they would not have voted to join the League
either. They felt that the Americans were the only nation with the resources or influence to
make the League work. In particular, they felt that the trade sanctions would only work if the
Americans applied them.
For the leaders of Britain and France the League posed a real problem. They were the ones
who had to make it work, yet even at the start they doubted how effective it would be.…read more

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The League and border disputes in the 1920s
The treaties signed at the Paris Peace Conference had created some new states and
changed the borders of other existing states. However, putting a dotted line on a map was a
lot simpler than working out where the boundaries actually lay on the ground. These new
boundaries might split a community, putting some people in one state and rest in another.
It was the job of the League to sort out border disputes.…read more

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It safeguarded rail links between the two countries and made arrangements for
water and power supplies from one side of the border to be supplied to the other. Both
countries accepted the decision.
Aaland Islands. 1921
Both Sweden and Finland wanted control of the Aaland Islands, which were midway between
the two countries. Both countries were threatening to fight for them. They appealed to the
League. After studying the matter closely, the League said the islands should go to Finland.…read more

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Two years after Corfu, the League was tested yet again. In October 1925, Greek troops
invaded Bulgaria after an incident on the border in which some Greek soldiers were killed.
Bulgaria appealed for help. It also sent instructions to its army.
The League condemned the Greek action. It ordered Greece to pull out and pay
compensation to Bulgaria.…read more

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Even in the areas where it could not remove social injustice the League kept careful records
of what was going on and provided information on problems such as drug trafficking,
prostitution and slavery.
How did the international agreements help the work of the League?
Disarmament in the 1920s
In the 1920s, the League largely failed in bringing about disarmament.…read more

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It affected relations between countries. It also led to
important political changes within countries. Much of the goodwill and the optimism of the
1920s evaporated.
The effects of the Depression within various countries:
Britain suffered high unemployment. It was not willing to get involved sorting out
international disputes while its economy was still suffering.
The USA was unwilling to support economic sanctions when their own trade was in
such a mess.…read more

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Japan was a leading member of the League which needed careful
handling.
There was now a long and frustrating delay. The League's officials sailed round the world to
assess the situation in Manchuria for themselves. It was September 1932 ­ a full year after
the invasion ­ before they presented their report. It was detailed and balanced, but the
judgement was very clear. Japan had acted unlawfully. Manchuria should be returned to the
Chinese.…read more

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