League of Nations
• The League of Nations started at the end of World War One.
• It was set up to prevent war in the future.
• President Woodrow Wilson of U.S.A. suggested creating an
international organization whose purpose was to keep world
• It would sort out arguments between countries.
• It was called the League of Nations.
• BUT the United States never joined the League of Nations.
• Others joined but later left the organization:
– Japan (1933),
– Italy (1937).
– Germany was only a member from 1926 to 1933,
– Soviet Union was only a member from 1934 to 1940.
• The League of Nations had no armed forces to
• It had to rely on boycotts (sanctions) to control the
behaviour of member states.
• If an argument between countries occurred, the
League, could do three things - these were known as
• It could ask the countries to sit down and discuss the
problem in a peaceful manner. This would be done in
the League’s Assembly.
– If a country was seen to be in the wrong the League could
introduce verbal sanctions – saying that country should
leave the other country alone or face the consequences.
• If the countries in dispute did not listen to
the League, it could introduce economic
• The League could order League members
not to do any trade with the aggressive
• If this failed, the League could introduce
physical sanctions. This meant that
military force would be used to enforce the
the League’s decision.
– However, the League had no army – (unlike
the United Nations nowadays). Therefore, it
could not carry out any threats.
– Any country defying its authority was aware of
The League also had other weaknesses :
1. America, (whose president, Woodrow Wilson, had
dreamt up the idea of the League) refused to join
• As America was the world’s most powerful
nation, this was a serious blow.
• America’s refusal to join the League, fitted in
with her desire to have an isolationist policy
throughout the world.
How useful is the picture in
explaining America’s view of the
League of Nations?
Punch Cartoon, 1920 How useful is the source in showing the
“The Gap in the Bridge” weaknesses of the League of Nations during
1. Germany was not allowed to join the
League in 1919.
• As Germany had started the war, (according to
the Treaty of Versailles), one of the
punishments was that she could not join.
2. Russia was also not allowed to join as in
1917 she had a revolution and communists
took control. This scared Western Europe.
• Therefore, three of the world’s most powerful
nations (potentially for Russia and Germany)
played no part in supporting the League.
• The two most powerful members (Britain and
France) did not want to get involved in disputes
which did not affect Western Europe
– (both had suffered financially and militarily during
• The League was a good idea - to end war for
– However, if an aggressive country ignored the
League’s verbal warnings, all the League could do
was enforce economic sanctions and hope that these
The League experienced success in:
The Aaland Islands (1921)
• These islands are near enough equal
distant between Finland and Sweden.
• They had traditionally belonged to Finland
but most of the islanders wanted to be
governed by Sweden.
• The League decided should remain with
• Both countries accepted the decision.
• The League failed to stop a bloody war in
Turkey but it did help the ordinary people
affected by this war.
• There were 1,400,000 refugees from this war.
• Typhoid and cholera were everywhere.
• The League sent doctors from the Health
Organisation to stop the spread of disease and it
spent money on building farms, homes etc for
• A member of the League called this work "the
greatest work of mercy which mankind has
Greece and Bulgaria (1925)
• Both these countries shared a border.
• In 1925, sentries patrolling this border fired on
one another and a Greek soldier was killed.
• As a result the Greek army invaded Bulgaria.
• The Bulgarians asked the League for help and
the League ordered both armies to stop fighting
and the Greeks to pull out of Bulgaria.
• The League decided Greece was to blame and
fined her £45,000.
• Both nations accepted the decision.
The social successes of the League of Nations
• Teams were sent to the Third World to dig fresh water wells.
• The Health Organisation started a campaign to wipe out
• Work was done in Third World countries to improve the status
of women and tackle child slave labour.
• Drug addiction and drug smuggling were also attacked.
• The greatest success the League had with these social
issues, was to show the world that these problems did exist.
• These social problems may have continued but the fact that
they were actively investigated by the League must be
viewed as a success.
Successes of the League of Nations
• Popular with many people
• Did settle some disputes
• Promoted co-operation between countries
• Helped more than 400,000 prisoners of war return
• Helped more than 1.5 million refugees in Europe.
• International Health Organisation helped improve
knowledge of killer diseases like malaria.
• Slavery made illegal world wide in 1927
• International Labour Organisation campaigned for
better working conditions
– It wrote an international agreement on the hours children
The failures of the League of
Article 11 of the League’s Covenant stated:
"Any war or threat of war is a matter of
concern to the whole League and the
League shall take action that may safe
War between Russia and Poland (1920 to
• In 1920, Poland invaded land held by the
• By 1921, the Russians had no choice but
to sign the Treaty of Riga which handed
over land to Poland.
• This doubled the size of Poland.
• The League did nothing.
• Russia by 1919 was communist and this
was greatly feared by the West.
France and the Ruhr, 1923
• In January 1923 France occupied the Ruhr
area of Germany.
• When the League of Nations told France
to withdraw from this land, the government
of France threatened to withdraw from the
• As a result, the League of Nations decided
to do nothing.
Italy and Albania (1923)
(The Corfu Crisis)
• The border between Greece, (occupied by Italy) and Albania was not
clear. This was a problem between both countries.
• In 1923, a mixed nationality survey team was sent out to settle
• Whilst travelling to the area, Italians in the team became separated.
• The five Italians were shot by gunmen.
• Italy accused Greece of planning the whole incident and
demanded payment of a large fine.
• Greece refused to pay up.
• In response, Italy sent its navy to the Greek island of Corfu and
bombed the coast.
• Greece asked the League to help but Italy persuaded the
League, to fine Greece 50 million lire.
Weaknesses of the League
• The League did not include all nations as
• For much of the 1920s, Britain and France
dominated the League; neither nation
agreed about what the League should do.
• One of the League's main aims was to
oversee disarmament but it failed in this.
• The League failed in its aim to resolve
disputes between countries peacefully.
• In 1946 the responsibilities of the League
of Nations was handed over to the United
• Many of the groups that work for the
United Nations now, grew out of what was
established by the League.
• Write three paragraphs to answer the question:
How successful was the League of
Nations in the 1920s?
• Your first paragraph should be about the
• Your second paragraph should be about the
• Your third paragraph should directly answer the
question, and give reasons for your answer.
What do you think was the main
reason why the League of
How fully does the source show the
weaknesses of the League of Nations?