Work of the League of Nations in the 1920s


The Valuable Contribution to Social Issues

The League used its special agencies and commissions to achieve its aim of encouraging cooperation in solving economic and social problems. These bodies succesfully improved the lives of many Europeans in the 1920s.

One commission helped refugees after WWI. Millions of people had fled their homes during the fighting, and the League helped to resettle them. They also sent over 500,000 prisoners of war back home.

The health organisation worked to combat the spread of serious diseases such as leprosy, malaria and plague.

The Slavery Commission didn't wipe out slavery altogether, but it had success in many countries, e.g. it freed 200,000 slaves in places like Burma and Sierra Leone.

The International Labour Organisation also had lots of success such as persuading member countries to introduce minimum wages and limits on weekly working hours.

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The League resolved some disputes in the 1920s

The League resolved several different situations over territorial claims without fighting. These successes gave it a good reputation.

1. UPPER SILESIA was a region with valuable industry. A referendum was held for citizens to choose whether to be ruled by Poland or Germany, but the result was too close to be decisive. In 1921, the League suggested dividing the area between the 2 countries, which both sides (and most citizens) accepted

2. THE AALAND ISLANDS sit almost exactly between Sweden and Finland. They belonged to Finland, but most people there wanted to be ruled by Sweden. In 1921, the League decided that the islands should remain Finnish, and both sides accepted this.

3. BULGARIA was invaded by Greece in 1925 after border disputes. The League ordered Greece to withdraw, and it obeyed.

None of these disputes threatened world peace, and they didn't involve any very powerful nations. Some historians say this means these successes aren't particularly impressive.

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It wasn't always Successful...

1. CORFU, a Greek island, was occupied by Italy in 1923 in response to an Italian diplomat being shot dead in Greece. At first, the League told Italy to leave and fined the Greeks. Italy ignored this and demanded compensation from Greece. The League changed its mind and agreed that Greece should give money to Italy and apologise. Greece obeyed and Italy withdrew its troops.

2. VILNA was chosen as the capital of the newly-fromed Lithuania after WWI, but most of the population were Polish. Poland seized Vilna and refused to give ip up when told to do so by the League. On this occasion, the League was powerless to stop military aggression.

3. THE RUHR (an industrial region of Germany) was invaded and occupied by France in 1923 after Germany had failed to keep up its reparation payments. The French began shipping its products back to France. The League of Nations didn't intervene. The USA helped reolve the situation with the Dawes Plan.

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