Why did the League of
Nations fail in its aim to keep the peace?
The role of the League of Nations
Structure of the League of Nations
The work of the League of Nations in the 1920's
The League of Nations and the invasion of Manchuria
Article Four of the Treaty of Versailles called for
the setting up an international organisation to prevent future wars. It
was the brainchild of the American President Woodrow Wilson. The organisation
and aims of the League were set out on a document called the Covenant.
A Summary of the Covenant of the League of Nations, 1919
ARTICLE 5 – All members must agree on any issue debated by the League
ARTICLE 8 – Disarmament declared to be necessary for future world
ARTICLE 9 – A permanent commission to be created to supervise international
ARTICLE 10 – all members to preserve the independence of states
and their borders
ARTICLE 11 – any war concerns the whole League
ARTICLE 12 – member states agree not to fight each other, but to
accept arbitration or the verdict of judges
ARTICLE 13 – member states will be bound by settlements made by
the League, and will stop fighting any country that has complied with
the League’s judgment
ARTICLE 14 – Court of International Justice created to judge all
disputes between countries
ARTICLE 16 – a country that goes to war in spite of the League’s
judgments will be at war with the entire League. All other member states
must cease any form of trade or cultural connection with the aggressor
country. If necessary, a member country may be expelled.
ARTICLE 18 – all treaties and alliances must be registered with
ARTICLE 23 -
Member states will:
- ensure humane working conditions for men, women and children
- guarantee just treatment of the local inhabitants of territories under
- allow the League to enforce laws against the trafficking of women,
children and drugs
- allow the League to regulate the arms trade
- allow free communications and travel
- take steps to prevent the spread of diseases
Membership of the League of Nations
42 members - by 1930’s 59
Defeated countries could not join e.g. Germany
Russia excluded because communist
USA did not join - isolation from world affairs
Each country one vote
Met several times a year
and in emergencies
5 permanent members
Each had right to veto any idea
Permanent court of
Based at The Hague
Settle disputes peacefully
No power of enforcement
Kept records - civil service
Powers of the League
If a country ignored the ruling of the League it could:
Put pressure on
Refuse to trade - sanctions
Send in troops - member countries join together
Strengths of the League
Many countries supported it in early days - they wanted peace
Had some early successes:
Settled some land disputes in 1920’s
helped refugees, dealt with spread of disease, fought for better conditions
Weaknesses of the League
USA didn’t join
No real power - relied on goodwill and persuasion
No permanent army
Disarmament not realistic
Structure a disaster - everyone had to agree before any action taken
Work of the League of Nations in the 1920's
Ruhr Valley Dispute
When Germany could not afford to make their payment of reparations to
France, the French invaded the Ruhr( a rich coal area). The Germans decided
to strike. When Germany purposely began to default on it’s reparation
payments to France, the League of Nations got involved. They managed to
persuade Germany to make smaller, short term payments. They also came
to an agreement of letting Germany pay over a longer period of time.
They may have solved the problem short term but it certainly flared up
old hatred between France and Germany and promoted bad feeling in Germany.
The Allies had promised Itlay land if they joined them in the Great War.
The ric town of Fiume was land that they were promised. However, it was
given to Yugoslavia. Italian Nationalists invaded Fiume and took over
rule. This was going against the Treaty of Versailles.The Italian government
were unhappy that Nationalists had invaded Fiume and so started fighting
them. After fierce fighting the government efeated the Nationalist army
an the League of Nations handed Fiume backto Yugoslavia.
The border between Greece and Albania needed some inspection to find out
where the line went. A team of Italians and Greeks went to the mountains
to investigate. The Italians were ambushed by a hidden gunman and shot
dead. The Italian government accused the Greeks of organising this and
demanded they pay a fine. Greece refused and so Italy sent their Navy
to bombard Corfu (Greek Island) Greece asked the League for help yet Italy
refused to accept the League’s authority and bullied the Ambassadors
into letting them fine Greece a huge amount of money.
Poland & Russia
Fighting broke out between Poland and Russia about the border between
the 2 countries. Poland thought they should have more land that they had
been given. Full scale war broke out between them and eventually the Poles
won, forcing Russia to give them all the land they wanted. Poland had
benefited by going against the Treaty of Versailles and by using war they
had managed to double their size. The League of Nations did nothing to
Turkey had been punished severely under the peace treaties. Turkish Nationals
decided to take revenge They drove the Greek people and army out of Turkey.
By using armed force they managed to secure a fairer treaty. However it
meant that thousands of Greek people who were no longer allowed to live
in Turkey, were left homeless and starving. The League helped out through
it’s Health Organisation who sent doctors and tried to find food
and homes for these people. They spent 10 million pounds trying to help.
They saved the lives of thousands, found them jobs and set up farms, workshops
Failures of the League of Nations:
Why did the Japanese invade Manchuria and how
did the League of Nations react?
1920’s boom era
1929 Wall St Crash leading to high unemployment, banks bankrupt , world
US in response put up a tariff (Trade barrier) to protect their own industries
Lead to high unemployment and depression in Japan
This gave the army leaders the chance to voice their opinions to a sympathetic
people (already angered by the fact they had gained little from the Treaty
of Versailles and thought they were being pushed around.)
The army said the only way to show Japan’s strength and solve its
economic problems was territorial conquest.
Japan already had influence here
Province of China
Raw materials such as iron ore and coal
China was weak and in chaos with no strong leader.
Sept 1931: There was some vandalism on the Manchurian railway at Mukden;
Japan claimed the Chinese had sabotaged the railway.
• They invaded Manchuria and set up the 'independent'
(i.e. Japanese-controlled) state of Manchukuo under the former Emperor
of China, Henry P'ui. This was a ‘puppet government’ completely
controlled by the Japanese.
• China appealed to the League. Dec 1931: the League
appointed a commission led by Lord Lytton to investigate.
• He did not go to Manchuria until April 1932 and did
not report until October.
• Oct 1932: Lytton's report stated that Japan was the
aggressor and should leave. (MORAL PRESSURE)
• 24 Feb 1933: The Assembly voted that Japan should
leave Manchuria Japan walked out of the meeting claiming as their defence
that they were taking over Manchuria because “the area was out of
hand and China had agreed to share the area with Japan.”
Japan stayed in Manchuria.
• The League could not agree economic sanctions or an
arms sales ban. This was mainly because Japan’s main trading partner
was the US, so they would barely be affected. Britain also wanted to protect
its trade interests in Asia.
• In 1933 Japan resigned from the League, and invaded/
conquered Jehol (next to Manchuria).
A SPECTACULAR failure:
1. The Japanese continued to expand:
• they kept Manchuria
• they invaded Jehol in 1933 and China in 1937.
2. The League was discredited/ Manchuria showed:
• It was slow (the Lytton Report took almost
• A country could get its own way if it ignored
• ‘Collective security' was useless against
big countries - especially during the Great Depression.
• Even the great powers within the League (Japan
was on the Council) were happy to ignore it.