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Assess the effectiveness of the League of Nations to the maintenance of peace in

Europe to 1939.
The brainchild of Woodrow Wilson, the League of Nations was written into the
Treaty of Versailles and was essentially an organisation designed to resolve
international disputes, administer world justice and avoid future conflict. To this
end, the League relied on the concept of collective security: if a member
country was attacked, the rest of the League would treat the matter as an attack
on them and would go to the aid of their fellow member. Both military force and
trade sanctions could be imposed. In addition, great emphasis was also placed
on universal disarmament and the pressure of public opinion.
The League had various successes, which included settling a dispute between
Finland and Sweden over the land Islands in 1920, ending Yugoslavias invasion
of Albania in 1921, and helping to avoid all-out war between Greece and Bulgaria
in 1925.
The League also had a significant and positive impact with the Refugee
Organisation, the Health Organisation and the International Labour Organization.
In addition, the League also effectively administered the Saar region of Germany
and the city of Danzig, in Poland.
The Leagues inherent flaws undermined its authority; members did not always
agree, nationalism overshadowed the notion of internationalism, and the League
lacked a military force. In addition, some powerful countries were not members;
America was never a member; Germany was only a member from 1926-33; the
USSR was excluded until 1934; and Japan and Italy left the League in 1933 and
1937 respectively. Furthermore, in the absence of the United States the League
was dominated by Britain and France. France wanted a strong military alliance
while Britain refused to commit troops to conflicts and was more focused on
internal problems. Moreover, decisions were made by the League Council, which
was dominated by permanent members France, Britain, Italy and Japan. The rule
that Council decisions had to be unanimous made it extremely difficult for the
League to make decisions in response to indiscretions.
The 1931 Japanese invasion of fellow League member Manchuria was the first
major crisis to face the League but no action was taken, highlighting the
Leagues ineffectiveness and the collapse of collective security. The League
publicly criticised Japan, but Japan refused to accept such criticism and left the
League two years later.
Having formed an anti-German Stresa Front with Britain and France in 1935,
Mussolinis ambitions for a colonial empire and dominance of the Mediterranean
region were too great and resulted in an invasion of Abyssinia in 1935-36. The
League attempted to publicly condemn Italy and apply economic sanctions, but
oil was exempted because the Allies feared Italy would just purchase oil from
America, who was following its isolationist policy at this time. Britain and France
did not want to push Italy too hard because they wished to avoid upsetting
Mussolini, which could possibly push him towards an alliance with Germany. As
such, the League failed to protect Abyssinia, which was defeated and occupied.
Italy then joined with Germany and Japan to form an Anti-Comintern Pact and

withdrew from the League in 1937. The Leagues credibility was destroyed and
all confidence in its ability to settle disputes and avoid war was shattered.
When Civil war broke out in Spain in 1936 between elements of the Spanish army
led by General Franco and Spains Republican Socialist Government, Italy and
Germany intervened on the side of General Franco while the Soviet Union
intervened on the side of the Spanish Government. All three provided military
advice as well as supplies; Germanys generals used the experience to develop
and practise the devastating tactic of Blitzkrieg. Britain and France refused to get
involved which meant the League took no action; Francos Nationalist forces
claimed victory in 1939. For many, the Spanish Civil War is considered a dress
rehearsal for the war that was then considered to be inevitable.
Quite clearly, both the League of Nations and the concept of collective security
had failed dismally in their aims to solve major international disputes and avoid
the conflict which was now just around the corner. When war was declared in
September 1939, no one bothered to even inform the League