The Collapse of the League of Nations


The League Didn't Achieve its original Aims

1. The League aimed to act against aggression, encourage nations to discuss their disputes, and work towards disarmament. These aims were all intended to prevent another war. The League failed to do this - WWII started in 1939.

2. The League did have some success in settling disputes in the 1920s, e.g. Upper Silesia.

3. It also managed to encourage cooperation on social issues. It helped to improve the lives of ordinary people around the world - but this wasn't its main purpose.

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Some say the League was Doomed from the Start

1. The LoN had to defend the Treaty of Versailles, even though many of the members themselves thought the treaty was unfair. This associated the League with unpopular diplomacy from the start.

2. When the USA refused to join, Britain and France had a very difficult task - they had to support the League's finances and military, but they weren't very strong themselves. Germany and Russia weren't allowed to join the League at the start. This excluded 2 powerful nations which could have contributed to the League.

3. The League's organisation made decision-making complicated and lengthy. Britain and France didn't lead strongly, and were often very slow to do things.

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Some say the League Failed because Bad Decisions

1. The League needed to show a strong response to aggressors, but didn't have the strength to do it. None of the members wanted to risk the lives of their troops after WWI.

2. Ambitious members (e.g. Mussolini) weren't dealt with strongly enough.

3. Too many members didn't keep to the Covenant. When they were challenged, they simply left the League, e.g. Germany and Japan in 1933, Italy in 1937.

4. Instead of cooperation, the League let the old system of alliances creep back, even between members.

5. The Manchurian crisis was a turning point - the League failed to resist Japan. After that, countries began to increase their armed forces - they had lost faith in the League and expected war.

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The League couldn't Control some Issues

1. In the 1930s, the Depression made the political situation tougher worldwide.

2. The Depression made the problems with the League's structure much worse - weakened countries were finding it hard to deal with their own problems, so they weren't able to respond to international problems.

3. You could argue that no organisation could have stopped leaders like Mussolini or Hitler peacefully.

Comment on point 2 - The League was founded on internationalism - the idea that countries should take collective action based on common interests. Instead of working together, the Depression made countries more isolated.

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