League of Nations

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League of Nations

The Aims and Purpose

Woodrow Wilson's idea part of the 14 points

He wanted a new system of collective security which meant that all countries should unite against an aggressor

The aims were:

  • to achieve international peace
  • to encourage nations not to go to war but to solve disputes peacefully
  • to encourage disarmament
  • to improve working and living conditions throughout the world

The aims were achieved through collective security, which meant that nations would combine to impose the following sanctions:

  • Diplomatic Sanctions- Telling the aggressor that he was wrong
  • Economic Sanctions- refusing to trade with the aggressor
  • Military Sanctions- As a last resort going to war together against the aggressor.
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The Organisation of the League

The Assembly

  • It consisted of delegation from every member country, each one with a vote.
  • Decisions had to be unanimous with no disagreeing
  • They could discuss any matter
  • The assembly could only recommend and not enforce its decision on the council
  • With up to 60 nations, it was far too big for useful discussion, therefore unanimous decisions were rarely agreed upon.
  • They only met once a year which meant that quick action was impossible.
  • Therefore they delegated their power to a caretaker Council.

The Council

  • It consisted of four permanent members: Britain, France, Italy and Japan. Germany was added in 1926
  • There were also four temporary members elected by the Assembly
  • Permanent members had a veto which meant they could stop the council from reaching a decision.
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The Organisation of the League

The Secretariat

  • It was set up to help the assembly and the council with their work.
  • It kept records of their discussions and decisions, and prepared reports to inform discussion.
  • It was based in Geneva, Switzerland, which became the home of the League

The Court of International Justice

  • It was based in The Hague and was intended to judge international disputes.
  • Judges were appointed from different member countries
  • It could not interfere unless it was asked to make a judgement and had no way of enforcing its decision
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The Organisation of the League

The international Labour Organisation

  • It was set up to improve working conditions in countries by using working representatives.

Special Commissions

  • They were set up where necessary to solve problems such as drugs, refugees and to oversee the rule of mandated territories.
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Membership of the League

In order to exert collective pressure, the League needed a large membership.

It started with 42 countries and reached nearly 60 members by 1930.

However there were 3 important absentees:

  • The USA- They never joined despite President Wilson's wishes. Many Republicans wanted to keep the USA out of European affairs. This isolation policy was partly due to the high human cost of the first world war and partly because of the self-sufficiency of the USA. America would have had to pay to keep the peace in Europe. The Senate refused to confirm the Treaty of Versailles and kept the USA out of the League.
  • Germany- They were not allowed to join the League at first but in 1926, after proving itself responsible they were allowed to join, but Hitler withdrew in 1933 over disarmament.
  • The USSR- They had become communist in 1917 and intended to promote revolution in other states. Other powers were afraid of communism and did not trust Russia to fulfill her promises . The USSR did not join the League until 1934, leaving again in 1939.
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Successes and Faliures of the League- 1920s

Many of the successes were not to do with international crises.

  • The Refugees Commission- this gave refugees passports, which helped settle over 3 million into new lives in new countries. About 400,000 prisoners of war were returned to their homes.
  • The Health Organisation trained officers, set up clinics for children and distributed medicines. It started a worldwide campaign to exterminate malaria-carrying moquitoes.
  • women and children were protected as far as possible from sexual abuse.
  • the international labour organisation was partially successful:

- Countries agreed to reduce working hours.

- Trade Union membership became a right

- A minimum working age was set at 15.

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Successes and Faliures of the League- 1920s

  • Disarmament was less successful. At  first, navies actually grew in size while Germany was only forced to disarm. However, at the washington conference 1921-22 the large navies were reduced in size. This was the only move towards disarmament.
  • The Locarno Treaties 1925
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