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Describe the Organisation of the League of Nations.

Summary The main meeting of the League was the Assembly of all the member states once a year, but it could only make decisions only by a unanimous vote (so it never decided anything). For times of crisis, the League also had a Council. This had 5 permanent members Britain, France, Italy, Japan and (after 1926) Germany. The League also had a number of Agencies, which tried improve peoples lives and jobs. The Court of International Justice gave decisions on things like shipping. The Health Committee worked to improve health (e.g. malaria). The International Labour Organisation tried to bring in a 48-hour week. The Mandates Commission ran the mandates, and League-controlled areas such as Danzig. The Refugees Committee and the Slavery Commission also tried to help people. Behind all this, worked the Secretariat, although it was always in a muddle. Because of this, the Conference of Ambassadors a meeting of the important countries in the League often made the decisions (e.g. the Corfu crisis of 1923).

The main meeting of the League was the Assembly the meeting of all the member states once a year. All nations which had signed the Covenant could attend, but it could only make decisions only by a unanimous vote (which made it virtually impossible for the League to decide anything). Because international affairs could not wait a year for the Assembly to meet, the League also had a Council. The Council had 5 permanent members Britain, France, Italy, Japan and (after 1926) Germany, but other countries joined it on a rota basis. The Council met 45 times a year and in times of crisis, when it tried to solve international disputes. The permanent members of the Council had a veto, which was a problem when one of the permanent members was involved in a dispute (e.g. Italy in Abyssinia in 1935, or Japan in Manchuria in 193133). The League also had a number of Agencies and Commissions, through which it tried to do its work to stop wars and improve peoples lives and jobs: The Court of International Justice consisted of 15 judges meeting at the Hague in the Netherlands, and it gave decisions on things like fishing and shipping disputes. It only made decisions when asked, and had no power to enforce decisions. The Health Committee worked to improve public health world-wide (for instance, killing mosquitoes to try to prevent malaria). The International Labour Organisation met once a year, when it invited governments, employers and workers to send representatives. It wanted to improve working conditions, and it achieved a lot in many countries, but it failed to persuade the League members to accept the 48-hour week.

The Refugees Committee worked to help refugees and disaster victims (e.g. Turkey, 1922). The Mandates Commission made sure that League countries were ruling the mandates properly, and administered League-controlled areas such as the Saar and Danzig. The Slavery Commission worked to try to abolish slavery (for instance, it organised the attacks on Burma and Sierra Leone which set free 200,000 slaves). Behind all this, worked the Secretariat although it did not have enough workers to do all the work, and was always in a terrible muddle. Because the Leagues organisation was such a muddle, another body, called the Conference of Ambassadors, worked close to the League. It was not a formal part of the League, but was an informal meeting of the more important countries in the League. Although it was not part of the League, it often made the decisions and because it consisted of the Leagues more important members, what it agreed happened (for instance, it was the Conference of Ambassadors which sorted out the Corfu crisis in Italys favour in 1923).

The Three Powers of the League

1. Condemnation (the League could tell a country it was doing wrong). 2. Arbitration (the League could offer to decide between two countries). 3. Sanctions (stopping trade).

How Strong was the League?

The League had no means of enforcing its decisions other than the effect of world opinion. If a power chose to be defiant, there was nothing effective that the League could do.
S Reed Brett, European History 1900-1960 (1967).

History Learning site Organisation Diagram Describe the organisation of the League of Nations. What were the strengths and weaknesses of the League of Nations in the 1920s?

Strengths and Weaknesses

The main strength of the League was that it had been set up by the Treaty of Versailles, and agreed by everybody at the conference. When,

later, many people started to criticise and attack the Treaty, this was also a major weakness.

1. Organisation
One of the biggest weaknesses was that the Organisation of the League was a muddle. The different parts of the League were supposed to act together; but in a crisis, no-one could agree.

The Organisation of the League

1. Assembly (the League's main meeting all members met once a year. Decisions had to be unanimous.) 2. Council (a small group of the more important nations inc. Britain, France, Italy & Japan met 45 times a year). 3. Agencies (committees of the League): Permanent Court of International Justice. Health. International Labour Organisation. Slavery Refugees Mandates Commission (looked after former German colonies). 4. Secretariat (was supposed to organise the League).

2. Membership
Forty-two countries joined the League at the start. In the 1930s about 60 countries were members . This made the League seem strong. Britain and France were the main members, helped by Italy and Japan; they were quite powerful countries.

A critical weakness was that the most powerful countries in the world were not members. The USA did not want to join. The Russians refused to join they were Communists and hated Britain and France. Germany was not allowed to join. Without these three big powers, the League was weak.

3. How the League kept peace

The League hoped that it could influence countries to 'do the right thing' by:

The Three Powers of the League

1. Condemnation (the League could tell a country it was doing wrong). 2. Arbitration (the League could offer to decide between two countries). 3. Sanctions (stopping trade).

The 'moral power' of the League lay in the League's Covenant, especially Articles 10-17, in which members promised to keep the peace. Many writers have pointed out that this is hardly a very effective deterrent against a powerful country which was determined to disobey the League.

1.Collective Security 2.Community of Power 3.Moral Persuasion

Source B

If any member of the League goes to war, all the other members will behave as if that member country had declared war on them. They will stop trading If these moral influences failed, the League had with that country. They will advise the Council of three powers it could use to make countries do the League about any armed action that should be as it wanted. Theoretically, the League was able taken.
to use military force, but the League did not

adapted from the Covenant of the League of Nations (1919).

have an army of its own so if a country ignored it, in the end, there was nothing the League could do.

Source A
One basic weakness of the League was that it was tied in people's minds to the Versailles settlement, and criticism thrown at Versailles fell on the League. The refusal of the USA to join the League and the fact that Britain and France were the only major nations of Europe who remained full members, severely handicapped its efforts.
Written by PJ Larkin, European History for Certificate Classes (1965). PJ Larkin was a teacher of secondary school pupils, and this is a revision book.

Source C

Moral Persuasion' a Punch cartoon of 1920. The rabbit is saying: "My offensive equipment being practically nil, it remains for me to fascinate him with the power of my eye." Click here for the interpretation

1. Does Source C suggest that the League of Nations was powerful when it came into existence? 2. Did the League of Nations have any chance of success?

America Pulls Out

Perhaps the greatest weakness of the League was that, when Wilson got back home to the

Timeline Basic narrative account A brilliant explanation by Ben Walsh of why America refused to

United States, the American Senate refused to join the League. Americans did not want to get dragged into other countries problems. This damaged the League a lot. It did not have access to the prestige, influence, wealth or military power of the United States. It was forced to rely on Britain and France, who had both been weakened by the First World War.

join Sources showing why America refused to join Speeches by American politicians

Source D

The Gap in the Bridge a cartoon of 1919 by Leonard Ravenhill in the British magazine Punch. This cartoon is critical of America. Although President Wilson had been the originator the the idea of a League (see the sign), now - although the USA is the 'keystone' (essential to stop the League collapsing) - America (represened by the sleeping figure of 'Uncle Sam') is refusing to join. Click here for the interpretation

The Organisation of the League

1. Assembly (the League's main meeting all members met once a year. Decisions had to be unanimous.) 2. Council (a small group of the more important nations inc. Britain, France, Italy & Japan met 45 times a year). 3. Agencies (committees of the League): Permanent Court of International Justice. Health. International Labour Organisation. Slavery Refugees Mandates Commission (looked after former German colonies).


Secretariat (was supposed to organise the League).

The Permanent Court of International Justice in the 1920s

One of the best, and longest-lasting, things to come out of the 1919 peace settlement was the Permanent Court of International Justice (PCIJ). The Court first sat on 30 January 1922 at the Peace Palace, The Hague. It had nine judges sat, along with three deputies. After some preliminary sessions to establish procedure and appoint officers, the court first sat to decide cases on 15 June. Looking back nearly a century, the modern student might be tempted to decide that the court seems to have dealt with very few cases (just 30 in the whole of the 1920s), and that many of the cases themselves seem concerned with minor matters (for example the Tunis-Morocco nationality question, 1923). DO NOT DO SO! 1. It is important to realize that there had never been anything like the PCIJ before; it was the first body to be internationally accepted as being able to make authoritative pronouncements on matters of international law (before, it had been a free-for-all). This was a major step forward in international relations. 2. Much of the work of the PCIJ in the 1920s was concerned with interpreting and enforcing the Treaty of Versailles. 3. Towards the end of the 1920s, however, the PCIJ began to be consulted on matters of international law BEYOND the peace treaties; this was an amazing development, and the start of true international law. 4. Some of the PCIJs decisions were of international and lasting significance they set precedents for other courts (e.g. the Lotus Case, 1927, is still cited today). The PCIJ did have limitations it could only judge between appellants when they were both countries (individuals could not come before the PCIJ), and only where both sides willingly put their case before the court. And it had one failure - the Eastern Carelia question (1923), because the Soviet Union refused to accept the authority of the Court. So what did the PCIJ do? It: 1. Enforced the peace treaties 2. Interpreted the peace treaties 3. Dealt with complaints 4. Protected minorities But also, towards the end of the 1920s, however, the PCIJ began to be consulted on 5. Matters of international law BEYOND the peace treaties

Why the League Failed

Source A

This cartoon by the British cartoonist David Low appeared in the Evening Standard newspaper, 11 November 1938. Two figures sit on a cracked stone, which carries the inscription: 'League of Nations. Foundation stone of a New Order, laid 1918. Peace hath her sacrifices.' Click here for the interpretation After the Abyssinian crisis, the League gradually died: 1. Italy left the League in 1937. Few other countries left the League, but all of them realised that it had failed - instead they began to re-arm as fast as possible. 2. During 1938, Britain and France tried a new policy - 'appeasement' (negotiating directly with Hitler); this failed in 1939 when Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia. 3. When war broke out in 1939, the League closed down; its headquarters in Geneva remained empty throughout the war. 4. In 1943 - at a Conference in Tehran - America, Britain and Russia agreed to set up a new international organisation (the 'United Nations') when the war finished. 5. On 12 April 1946, the League met in Geneva and formally abolished itself. The British delegate, Robert Cecil, said: 'The League is dead. Long live the United Nations'.

IGCSE History - Inter-War Period 1919 - 1939

This document originally appeared on the Westlock Internet Website at www.west-teq.net/~dmf/vers.htm This site went down in December 2004, so I have copied it here.

This document was written by and is therefore copyright Donna Frose, who appears to have been a student studying IGCSE in Canada.

League of Nations

Terms / Aims / Membership / Successes / Failures The League of Nations formally came into existence on January 10, 1920, the same day as the Treaty of Versailles. It had its headquarters in Geneva. One of its main aims was to settle international disputes and so prevent war from ever breaking out again. The League seemed to function successfully during the 1920's even without the participation of the United States. It solved a number of minor international disputes and excelled at economic and social work, such as helping thousands of refugees and former prisoners of war to find their way home again. During the 1930's the authority of the League was challenged several times. First with the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931 and then by the Italian invasion of Abyssinia in 1935. After December 1939 it did not meet again and was dissolved in 1946. It was a total failure at least as far as preventing war was concerned.

Aims of the League of Nations - The League was the brainchild of Woodrow Wilson of the United States. It was written into the Treaty of Versailles and its ideas were optimistic and noble. Its aims were : 1. to deal with disputes among nations 2. to prevent war 3. to protect the independence of countries and safeguard their borders 4. to encourage each country to reduce its armaments

Membership of the Great Powers

Britain France Italy Japan Germany USSR USA 1920 1920 1920- 1935 1920 - 1933 1926 - 1933 1934 never joined

Successes of the League 1. Commissions and Committees International Labour Organization was developed and worked to improve working conditions all over the world. They persuaded governments to set maximum working day and week, specify adequate minimum wages and introduce old age pensions, unemployment and sickness benefits. Refugee Organization - solved the problem of the thousands of prisoners of war marooned in Russia at the end of the war; about half a million were returned home. After 1933 valuable help was given to thousands fleeing from Nazi persecution in Germany.

Health Organization - did good work in investigating the causes of epidemics and was particularly successful in combating typhus in Russia which endangered the rest of Europe. Mandates - supervised the government of the territories taken from Germany and Turkey according to the terms of the Treaty of Versailles. (Another committee was responsible for the Saar, which worked very efficiently. The 1935 plebiscite had a large majority vote to return to Germany. 2. Political Disputes In the early 1920's all the Leagues decisions were accepted except two. It is significant to note that none of the settled disputes went against a major power which may have challenged the League's decision. Aaland Islands(1920) - Sweden and Finland quarreled over the islands and the League decided in favour of Finland. Upper Silesia(1921) - Germany and Poland quarreled over the industrial area. The League decided to partition the area between the two countries. Greece and Bulgaria (1925) - Greek troops invaded Bulgaria after some shooting incidents on the frontier. The League swiftly intervened. Greek troops were withdrawn and damages paid to Bulgaria. Province of Mosul - Turkey claimed the the province of Mosul which was part of the the British mandate of Iraq. The League ruled in favour of Iraq and therefore Britain. Other Disputes - Bolivia and Paraguay, Peru and Columbia

Failures of the League - Although the idea of the League was an excellent and noble idea, it was fatally flawed from the onset by the non participation by the United States. Other failures are outlined below. 1. Commissions and Committees Disarmament Commission - this committee made no progress in persuading the member states to reduce armaments, though all had agreed to do so when they agreed to the covenant of the League of Nations. 2. Political Disputes Poland and Lithuania - The two countries had rival claims to Vilna. The League of Nations was over ruled by the Conference of Ambassadors in Paris. The Conference of Ambassadors was formed to deal with problems arising out of the Versailles Treaty. Corfu Incident - A group of ambassadors was working on a boundary dispute between Greece and Albania. An Italian General was sent to investigate and he was shot in Greece. The reasons for the shooting were never clear, but Mussolini immediately ordered the shelling of Corfu, a Greek island and demanded heavy compensation. The League offered a solution, but the Conference of Ambassadors rejected it and rewrote one in favour of Italy upon heavy pressure from Italy and Mussolini.

Japanese Invasion of Manchuria 1931 In 1931 Japan controlled most of the economy of Manchuria. It owned the important mines, railroads, factories and ports. It kept a large army in the port city of Kwantung to protect these assets. The world wide depression had hit Japan hard and many people within Japan saw conquering new territory as a way out of the depression. During the night of September 18, Japanese soldiers blew up a section of the Japanese railroad and blamed the explosion on the Chinese and so had an excuse to occupied the city of Shenyang. China asked for the Leagues help. The League ordered the troops to withdraw. Japan agreed to order the withdrawal of the troops, but the Japanese government did not have control over their troops. The Japanese army continued to advance into Manchuria. By the end of 1931 the Japanese troops had control of the entire province of Manchuria which they renamed Manchukuo. The League of Nations was meant to keep the peace through 'collective security'. If persuasion did not work, the League could use economic sanctions (a ban on trade with the attacker) or military sanctions (a League army) against the attacker. Although these were options, none of the members of the League of Nations wanted to use sanctions against Japan. First, because the Depression had damaged the worlds economy no nation wanted to worsen the damage. Second, the powerful members of the League, Britain and France, did not think that they could enforce the sanctions. They believed that if they tried to enforce them that Japan would seize Hong Kong and Singapore. The solution that was reached was to set up a commission. In October of 1932 the Lytton Commission recommended that the Japanese should leave Manchuria and it should continue as a semi-independent country instead of returning to China. The League approved the Commissions recommendation, but by 1933 Japan left the League and went on to occupy the Chinese province of Jehol. The Japanese justified the invasion of this mountainous province because it was vital to the defence of Manchuria. The Manchuria affair damaged the reputation of the League. One of its leading members had gone to war with another member and the League had failed to stop it. By the end of the affair in 1933, even the League's strongest supporters had doubts about its ability to maintain world peace.

Italian Invasion of Abyssinia 1935 The most serious failure of the League of Nations was the Italian invasion

of Abyssinia. Italy wanted to expand its overseas colonies and in October 1935 invaded Abyssinia. The League condemned Italy and introduced economic sanctions which, however did not include a ban on exports of coal, oil and steel to Italy. (These are vital to modern warfare.) So halfhearted were the sanctions that Italy was able to complete the conquest of Abyssinia by May 1936. A few weeks later sanctions were abandoned and Mussolini had flouted the League. Britain and France had not wanted to antagonise Mussolini and had even tried to form a secret deal with him during the invasion to give him two thirds of Abyssinia. They did not want to push him into an alliance with Hitler. Mussolini was annoyed by the sanctions anyway and began to draw closer to Hitler; small states lost faith in the League; and Hitler himself was encouraged to break the Versailles Treaty. After 1935, the League was not taken seriously again. The League was only as strong as the determination of its leading members to stand up against aggression; unfortunately determination of that sort was sadly lacking during the 1930's.

A. Read the following letter the Japanese Prime Minister sent to the Japanese Emperor in 1927 and answer the questions that follow. It is an area of 192,000 square kilometers, having a population of 28 million people. The territory is more than three times as large as our own empire, not counting Korea and Formosa, but is inhabited by only one third as many people. The attractiveness of the land does not arise from the scarcity of the population alone; its wealth of forestry, minerals and agricultural products is also unrivalled elsewhere in the world. In order to exploit these resources . . . we created especially the South Manchuria Railway Company. The total investment involved in our undertakings in railways, shipping, mining, forestry, steel manufacture, agriculture, and in cattle raising . . . amount to no less than 440 million yen. 1. Bearing in mind who wrote the letter, and to whom it was written, how useful do you consider the above letter as evidence of Japan's intentions toward Manchuria? Explain your answer. 2. According to the letter, what attracted the Japanese towards Manchuria? B. Read the following speech Haile Selassie, Emperor of Abyssinia, made to the League of Nations in 1936 and answer the questions that follow. I, Haile Selassie, Emperor of Abyssinia, am here today to claim that justice which is due my people and the assistance promised to it eight months ago. I assert that the problem is a much wider one than the removal of sanctions. It is not merely a settlement of Italian aggression. It is

the very existence of the League of Nations. It is the value of promises made to small states that their independence be respected and ensured. God and history will remember your judgements. 1. Why does Haile Selassie think that the existence of the League is at stake? 2. Why would other small states be concerned over the Abyssinia issue?

IGCSE History - Inter-War Period was created and maintained by Donna Frose.

Last modified October 25, 1996.