League of Nations


Aims of the League

  • Prevent agression by any nation
  • Encourage co-operation between nations
  • Encourage disarmament- this would prevent war
  • Improve living and working conditions
1 of 11

Structure of the League

Assembly- Is a debating chamber located in Geneva (Switzerland), where each member gets 1 vote and meets once each year. Had the power to:

  • admit new members and elect permanent members of the council
  • vote on League's budget
  • suggest changes to existing treaties 

Decisions made by unanimous votes, could only reccomend actions to council, not carry it out. 

The Council-Met 3 times a year and in emergencies

  • Consisted of 5 permanent members (Britain, France, Italy, Japan and from 1926 Germany). Permanent members had power to veto. 
  • 4 temporary members elected every 3 years by Assembly

Secrateriat-Carried out administration and kept records of meetings and reports. 

2 of 11

Structure of the League

Permanent Court of International Justice- Made up of judges from member countries.

  • Gave decisions on disputes between countries and gave legal advice to council 

Had no way of making sure decisions were put into action

International Labour Organisation- aimed to improve working conditions 

  • Made up of empolyers, goverments and working representitives that met once each year
  • Collected stats and info about working conditions
  • Tried to persuade member countries to adopt suggestions of improvement on working hours, wages and health and safety. 


  • Mandates commision- If countries controlled territory, it acted in the interests of people. 
  • World Health Organisation- deal with problem of diseases
  • Slavery commision- worked to end slavery
  • Refugee Organisation- helped return people to origional homes
3 of 11

Membership of the League

There were 42 origional members and this increased to 60. 

USA did not join because...

  • Congress voted against voting and Republiacan believed in isolationism
  • Believed treaty of Versailles was unfair
  • Hostile attitudes towards Britain and France
  • Did not want to sacrifice troops and spend money


  • Were not allowed to join until they proved they were a peace loving country 
  • Joined in 1926


  • Unwanted at first due to communist beliefs and fear of the spread of communism
  • Didn't wish to join as they thought it was a "rich club"
  • Eventually joied in 1933
4 of 11

Organisational Weaknesses

  • Countries defeated in the war were not allowed to join
  • Powerful countries like the USA were missing
  • Too slow in dealing with disputes as council only 3 times each year
  • Unanimous voting on decisions
  • Permanent members had power to veto
  • No army
  • Dominated by France and Britain who acted in self interest
  • Economic Sanctions (stop trading) were unsuccessful as countries could still trade with rich counteries such as the USA.
5 of 11

Successes in 1920s

Aaland Islands, 1920-1921

  • Sweden and Finland prepared to fight over Aaland Islands 
  • The league gave the Islands to Finland
  • Both countries accepted and war was avoided 

Upper Silesia, 1920

  • Between Germany and Poland 
  • Both wanted it due to its rich iron industry
  • A plebliscite was given enquiring whether they wanted to be apart of Germany of Poland
  • Urban areas voted Germany, rural areas voted Poland 
  • Upper Silesia was divided

Austria, 1922

  • Was facing economic issues after WW1
  • Financial experts in League prevented a collapse of Austrian government by reorganising Austria's finances and economy. 
6 of 11

Successes in 1920s

Bulgaria, 1925

  • Greek soldiers were killed on Bulgarian boarder, so Greece invaded
  • Greeks were ordered to leave and pay compensation
  • The matter was resolved and no major countries got involved

Improving living and Working conditions

  • Many refugees from WW1 were rehomed
  • Attacked slave traders and drug sellers 
  • Supported measures against malaria and leprosy
7 of 11

Failures in 1920s

Vilna, 1920

  • Capital of Lithuania was consisted of mainly Polish people
  • 1920 Polish forces occupied Vilna, Vilna asked for help but league could not get Poles to leave
  • Neither Britain or France sent soldiers, Vilna stayed under Poland's control

Corfu, 1923

  • Mussolini blamed Greeks for the death of Italian surveyors  and ordered them to pay compensation 
  • They refused and so Mussolini ordered his navy to shell Corfu
  • The Council pressured Corfu to pay the compensation and apologise 
  • Only then Mussolini withdrew
8 of 11

Failures in 1930s- Japan and Manchuria

  • Japan wanted to expand its empire
  • Japanese railway that ran through Manchuria (china) was destroyed
  • Japanese blamed China and Japan invaded Manchuria and set up a "puppet" government
  • China appealed
  • Japan claimed it was using self defence to keep peace in China (China state of anarchy)

Leagues actions

  • Took a year to present report
  • Declared Japan's actions unlawful and Manchuria should be returned
  • Japan declared to invade more of China and left the league
  • Britain and France were more interested in keeping good relations with Japan
  • Economic sanction would not work due to USA
  • Britain and France were unwilling to use their military (league had no army)
9 of 11

Failures in 1930s- Italy and Abyssinia

  • Mussolini wanted to expand empire further in Eastern Africa
  • Sent troops into Abyssinia to conquer it

The leagues actions

  • Relied on Britain and France to send troops
  • They were reluctant as they wanted an ally against Hitler
  • Agreed to divide Abyssinia- 2/3s to Italy
  • Showed that Britain and France acted in self interests
  • Italy left league and conqured all of Abyssinia
10 of 11

Failures in 1930s- Disarmament

Disarmament Conference

  • All countries should disarm at same level as Germany
  • France was afraid to due to events in WW1 and were unwilling to disarm
  • Hitler argued that if world disarmament to the same level as Germany would not happen, Germany would rearm. 


  • Failure to disarm lead to Germany leaving league
  • Hitler openly announced the increase of his army to 500,000
11 of 11


No comments have yet been made

Similar History resources:

See all History resources »See all The interwar years in Europe resources »