League of Nations

  • Created by: juddr12
  • Created on: 02-03-15 14:16

After the Treaty of Versailles (1)

Evidence that Britain's position in 1919 was strong:

  • Germany had been defeated by not only the war but by the Treaty.
  • Germany had almost disarmed due to the reforms and they were in huge debt to the Big Three.
  • The British Empire remained large and at its largest size ever.
  • France and Russia, previous rivals, had been weakened by the huge losses of the war and distracted by the civil war and revolution.
  • Admiral Chatfield, in 1934, said that "we have got most of the world already, or the best parts of it".

Evidence that Britain's position in 1919 wasn't strong:

  • There was a huge financial cost to the USA from the UK.
  • Britain were reluctant to support French demands against Germany, and were keen to regain the $2,472 million owed to Britain by Russia.
  • Russia was exhausted from the war. 750,000 young men had been killed, which was 6.3% of the male population ages 15-41. 28% of Oxford students had died in the war.
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After the Treaty of Versailles (2)

The main priorities of Britain after the Treaty were staying in Europe, keeping good terms with allies and defending the British Empire, and, if any problems arised, try to appease them. Appeasement policy was needed to keep the relations strong between countries and to avoid further conflict. Britain claimed that they wanted to keep peace by keeping what they had and not interfering in any conflict of other countries, and by the "preservation of the status quo". The political party in power at this time was the Conservatives, and they had won a lot of elections prior to this and after this point, which kept their long-term plan of the "status quo" stronger than if another party interfered.

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The Weaknesses of the British Empire (1)

The British Empire got a lot from the Peace settlement in terms of land and territory. Britain got Iraq, Palestine and Transjordan from Turkey, and got parts of Togoland and Cameroon from Germany. However, not all of the land they now owned was desirable:

  • In Palestine, Jewish settlement in the area caused conflict with the Arab population. 150,000 Jews settled, who set up industries and bought land from the Arabs. Arabs revolted and then the Labour government capped immigration of the Jews, but then the Jews revolted too.
  • To get India to cooperate in the war, they were offered a "responsible (self) government", and following the Government of India Act in 1919, Mahatma Gandhi emerged a victorious leader of Congress encouraging the Indians to boycott elections and to not pay taxes. Gandhi was locked in prison and let out for a conference in London with Macdonald, which didn't end successfully as the Indians demanded a separate homeland.
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The Weaknesses of the British Empire (2)

  • Canada, Australia and New Zealand (the Dominions) were self-governing, but increasingly wanted control over their own foreign affairs as they feared they would be pulled by the British into another war. Canada and New Zealand refused to help in the Chanak Crisis in 1923 and the Locarno Treaty. Balfour called for an Imperial Conference in 1926, where he claimed that they were to be "freely associated as members of the  British Commonwealth of Nations" but also in control of their foreign affairs. This passed in 1931, meaning that the British couldn't count of the Dominions for help.
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Disarmament (1)

The war ended, and there was less of a need for large military establishment. The war costed a lot of money, and debts to other countries were huge (with £959 million to USA) and the economy needed to be recovered by budget cutbacks. The public wanted to spend more money on social benifits, such as housing, which increased from 41.5 million pounds in 1914 to 292 million pounds in 1934.

Not only would disarmament save money for other types of expenditure, but it also would keep peace. It was seen that the war was caused by armament, therefore disarming was natural. People believed that another war of such a scale would happen again, which led to disarmament and decrease of defence expenditure. It was difficult for the country to act alone because they had a burden of debt, and they needed to save as much money as possible to resolve the crack in the British Empire left by the war. Andrew Bonar Law claims that the country "(couldn't) along act as the policeman of the world. The financial and social condition of (the) country (made) it impossible".

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Disarmament (2)

Britain disarmed by pulling expenditure from the defence areas and the "ten year rule" (August 1919). The "ten year rule" was the convention, which would hold the government accountable if they didn't complete their promise to stand down their military arms for 10 years. Expenditure of disarmament decreased from 612 to 115 million in three years. Winston decided that this should be renewed anually. It was abandoned in the situation of the Manchuria crisis.

Regarding the Washington Naval Agreement of 1922, the British wanted to disarm the military of the Japanese owners of parts of China, because their army was far superior. To protect Britain's interests, the USA and Britain would have 5 capital ships each to Japan's 3, while Italy and France would have 1.75. Also, it was agreed that no other capital ship would be constructed for 10 years. In 1930, the London Naval Agreement was formed which fixed the proportions of cruisers between the USA, Britain and Japan of a ratio of 10:10:7. The advantages of the naval agreements were evident: it avoided a wasteful naval race with the USA who would win in the event; they remained on good terms with America; it supported public opinion. On the other hand, the disadvantages were that they sacrificed the relationship with Japan and that there was a race to build non-capital ships and cruisers regardless. Luckily, however, the 1930 agreement stopped the production of cruisers.

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Disarmament (3)

Throughout the 1920s, there was an increase of anti-war literature. Moreover, there was an Oxford Union debate, in 1933, regarding armament which outcome opposed the current Conservative governement; in October of 1933, the East Fulham by-election resulted in a win of a pacifist Labour candidate by a majority of 5000 votes. Such beliefs in the public led to the 1932-1934 Disarmament Conference.

The Disarmament Conference was held in Geneva, with Arther Henderson as the conference president. The conference revolved around the area of disarmament. However, the Germans were invited to negotiate, which led to their call for "parity of treatment" (parity meaning equality). While Britain was accepting of their beliefs, other countries were not. The disarmament conference was full of adversary and fighting that Hitler redrew from the conference in 1933 (one year before it ended officially).

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League of Nations

The League of Nations was an association of most of the independent nations of the world. The Paris Peace Conference created this and was authorised by the Treaty of Versailles (28th June 1919). The League was formulated in the first 26 articles of the Treaty. The League began in Geneva in 1920 on the 10th January.

The League of Nations was needed to maintain collective security and peace, which was common public opinion after the effects of the First World War. On the 8th January 1918, the speech of Wilson's Fourteen Points also generated spark for this kind of association: "a general association of nations must be formed under specific covenants for the purpose of affording mutual guarantees of political independence and territorial integrity to great and small states alike". Similarly, Lloyd George made a speech only 3 days before: "and lastly, we must seek by the creation of some international organisation to limit the burden of armamements and diminish the probability of war".

The League's main aims were to encourage world peace with "collective security" and international co-operation. To maintain "collective security", it was seen that disputes would be resolved easily, international law would be controlled and that nations' armaments would decrease.

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Britain and the League

Britain supported the League, but why?

  • Lloyd George was liberated and had welcomed the Peace Conference.
  • The centre-ground and left-wing politicians, such as Lloyd George, Ramsay MacDonald and Arthur Henderson, would be in more favour of the League, when compared to the Conservatives, such as Austen Chamberlain.
  • The League spread the burden of cost of the war, and allowed countries to save money from armaments.
  • The public were in huge favour of the League. The "League of Nations Union" was majorly successful and had a high membership. Politicians, therefore, couldn't discount the League to appeal to the public voters.
  • However, there were dangers that the League's actions may involve Britain in areas that were none of her concern.
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International disputes involving the League (1)

1920-23 Poland-Lithuania War over Vilna

  • October 1920 - League of Nations negotiated an armistice between Polad and Lithuania, but didn't hold as Polish troops seized Vilna.
  • The League of Nations called for a plebiscite, and it failed. They failed to reach a comprimise.
  • March 1992 - Poland officially annexed Vilna.
  • Conference of Ambassadors in 1923 recognised Polish's ownership over Vilna.
  • Therefore, the League of Nations failed here.

1920-21 Sweden-Finland War over the Aaland Islands

  • The Aaland Islands were directly between Sweden and Finland. Russia originally owned it, but it came under the hands of the Finnish although Swedish people lived there. 
  • The Swedish people wanted it back.
  • The League of Nations intervened after the threat of war and promised the Aaland Islands their own traditional beliefs and laws.
  • Sweden backed off, and both countries backed down because they weren't strong enough to fight each-other or the League.
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International disputes involving the League (2)

1924-25 Greece v Bulgaria

  • A dog ran over Bulgarian land and a Greek soldier ran after it. He was shot, and there was a huge dispute over it.
  • Ironically, a war began over it. There were more than 50 deaths regarding it.
  • The Bulgarians appealed to the League for a ceasefire.
  • The League took their suggestion seriously, and both sides heeded immediately. Greeks then left Bulgaria.

Poland v Germany (the Question of Upper Silesia)

  • Upper Silesia was a piece of land owned by Poland, but housed a lot of Germans. The League of Nations held a referendum in Upper Silesia, and the population formed a majority that they wanted to be owned by German. Although the vote suggested that the population wanted to be German, the League left it in the hands of the Polish.
  • The French fought hard against the Germans in this case.
  • Would you claim that the League was fair or not? Surely it only protected the interests on the major powers due to this evidence?
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The Geneva Protocol (1924)

The League's powers were considered minor. They could only intervene in a dispute if one of the parties asked them to help in the dispute.

In 1924, Ramsay McDonald, the Labour Prime Minister, proposed the Geneva Protocol. The Geneva Protocol was an attempt to better the powers of the League so that they could intervene in any dispute. It also allowed the League to take tougher action. The rest of the Assembly and France were strongly accepting of the idea.

However, in October of the same year, Stanley Baldwin replaced Mcdonald as Prime Minister. Baldwin was the Conservative leader. With the help of Austen Chamberlain, the new Foreign Secretary, Baldwin refused to ratify the Geneva Protocol and it never took effect because it may have pulled Britain into wars that weren't her place.

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Allied attitudes to the League


  • 1919 - American Senate rejected the Treaty of Versailles and the USA never joined the League of Nations.


  • They didn't seek much revenge, like the French. They wanted a stable and peaceful Germany with a working economy.
  • They feared that communism would spread due to the discontent in Germany. Therefore, they wanted to use Germany against communism.
  • Germany would balance with the power of France, which could decrease the probability of war.


  • Needed security against any further German attacks, which had happened twice in 1870 and 1914.
  • Felt betrayed by Britain abandoning the Anglo-American Guarantee, which was that they would support France when they were in need.
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The French wanted Germany to pay £44 billion reparations, the Americans believed that they should pay £4.4 billion and the British wanted them to pay £24 billion. The final 1921 Reparations Commission awarded a £6.6 billion amount to the losing countries of the war.

The share was also disputed. The French wanted 70% of the reparations, while they actually got 52%, while the British wanted 30% for themselves, while they recieved 28%, and only 50% for the French. The share of the reparations was finally agreed at the Spa Conference 1920.

The question of the amounts the Germans should be charged and the shares were complicated because they wanted, not only to keep on adequate terms with Germany but also, to be able to pay back all of the complicated loans and debts to each-other from the war. 

Between 1920 and 1922, there was major question as to whether the reparations should remain. The French were highly critical of the breaks of clauses in the Treaty by Germany, and reacted by sending troops into German cities. The British tried to persuade the French to loosen the Treaty to open Britain's trade to help their economy - there were 23 example conferences between 1920 and 1922 regarding the reparations. In 1922, Britain proposed that reparations would end and the war debts to the USA should stop. America, France and, even, the City of London showed little support.

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The Ruhr Crisis (1923)

In January of 1923, the French were not happy that Germany was falling behind on redemption payments. The French went into Germany with their troops to Ruhr, the heart of Germany, to force them to pay their reparations. The Germans tried a policy of "passive resistance" which made the industrial production and the economy collapse. The Germans were in a bad recession due to this; in some circumstances, people set fire to money to keep themselves warm because it was cheaper than buying coal.

The British believed that without Germany their economy would also crash. However, the German's crash actually increased the amount of money coming into Britain and decreasing the amount of unemployment for the burden of German's competition was lifted. Either way, the British and the Americans put a lot of pressure on Poincare, the new French leader, to relax, but he was persistent on the Germans and expected them to pay.

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The Dawes Plan (1924) and The Young Plan (1929)

April 1924, the Dawes Committee proposed that the reparations should be reduced and created over a long period of time.  MacDonald, the current Prime Minister of Britain, fought hard for America and France to support the Dawes Committee. Given that Poincare was replaced by Herriot in May 1924, the French happily agreed with it and the agreement was reached in August 1924.

The Dawes plan was a success, but it never had been intended as a final solution. A new plan would be put in place after five years, which was agreed in the Dawes Plan. The Young Plan took place in 1929, and finalised that the Germans would have an extra 60 years to pay the reparations.

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The Locarno Pacts (1925)

The following people were in power during the time of the Locarno Pacts: Ramsay MacDonald, Austen Chamberlain (foreign secretary), Aristide Briand and Gustav Stresemann. These people were seen as less confrontational, and more appealing and negotiable. Stresemann, who was the leader of Germany at the time, had a policy of "fulfilment", which was to follow the main powers and abide by the Treaty so that the leaders of the other countries would be sympathetic and loosen it. Austen Chamberlain, although Conservative, was quite enthusiastic about the Locarno Pacts and claimed that it was "the real dividing line between the years of war and the years of peace".

The Locarno agreements were talked over, and the final verbal agreement was that allied troops would leave the Rhineland and the frontiers would never been altered by force.

Following this, the Locarno Honeymoon was the friendship between the signers of the Locarno Pact. It seemed that their words were remaining loyal, and Chamberlain, Stresemann and Briand would have "Geneva Tea Parties" in the League. Their promises were being upheld until the Great Depression, which changed the attitudes of the different countries. On a few occasions, however, the French wondered if they could trust the Germans and they began to build defences along the Maginot Line, on the German's border, in 1927.

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Ending of Reparations

In Germany, the state worsened due to the Great Depression, with 5 million unemployed in 1932. MacDonald, in addition to most British MPs, still wanted to negotiate terms with Germany and remove reparations. A conference was held in June 1932 at Lausanne wanted to finally remove redemption payments for the Germans.

The final agreement was that all German redemption payments would be lifted and abolished if the Germans paid a final amount of 2.6 million marks to a European Reconstruction Fund.

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