Back    Describe the aims and work of the League of Nations in the 1920s.

 

 

Summary

 Firstly, the League of Nations aimed to stop war.   In Article 10 of the Covenant, members promised to defend other League members.   For example the League stopped the invasion of Bulgaria by Greece (1925), and it tried to stop the Italian invasion of Corfu (1923).

         The second aim of the League was to improve the life and jobs of people around the world – for instance, it repatriated 400,000 World War One prisoners of war, it worked to prevent leprosy, it closed down four Swiss drug companies, and it attacked slave owners.   Also, the International Labour Organisation tried to bring in a 48-hour week.

        A third aim of the League was disarmament.   It organised disarmament conferences in 1923 (which failed because Britain objected) and in 1931 (because Germany walked out).   However, in 1928, the League did arrange the Kellogg-Briand Pact, which outlawed war.

         Finally, the fourth aim of the League was to uphold and enforce the Treaty of Versailles, although it was not very successful in this (e.g., the Poles captured Vilna in 1920, and Lithuania seized Memel in 1923).

 

 

The League of Nations had four main aims.

 

Firstly, it aimed to stop war.   It aimed to discourage aggression and deal with disputes by negotiation.   The League planned to provide collective security by a community of power.   In Article 10 of the Covenant of the League, members promised to defend the territory and independence of League members and to take action ‘in case of danger’.   The League had mixed success in doing this, but during the 1920s, it worked to stop wars – examples are:

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Silesia, (where the League settled a dispute between Germany and Poland in 1921 by holding a plebiscite),

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the Aaland Islands (where a League investigation settled a dispute between Sweden and Finland in 1921),

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Mosul (where the League arbitrated in favour of British Iraq and against Turkey in 1924) and

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Bulgaria (where Greece stopped its invasion when condemned by the League in 1925),    

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and, even though it was unsuccessful, it also tried to stop a war in Corfu (but Italy refused a League order to leave in 1923).

 

The second aim of the League was to improve the life and jobs of people around the world – both by direct action to improve health and welfare, and also by encouraging trade and business – and it also worked to do this during the 1920s:

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it repatriated 400,000 World War One prisoners of war;

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it helped refugees in Turkish camps (1922);

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it worked to prevent leprosy, and took steps to kill mosquitoes to prevent malaria;

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it closed down four Swiss companies which were selling illegal drugs;

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it attacked slave owners in Sierra Leone and Burma at set free 200,000 slaves;

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its economics experts helped Austria (1922) and Hungary (1923).

Another League agency trying to improve people’s lives was the International Labour Organisation, but it could not persuade member countries to accept a 48-hour week.

 

A third aim of the League was disarmament and, although it failed in this, it organised one disarmament conference in 1923 (which failed because Britain objected) and another in 1931 (which was wrecked by Germany).   However, in 1928, the League did arrange the Kellogg-Briand Pact, which was an Act of the League Assembly, signed by 23 nations and supported by 65, and which outlawed war.

 

Finally, the fourth aim of the League was to uphold and enforce the Treaty of Versailles, although it was not very successful in this.   Over Vilna, the League ordered the Poles to leave in 1920, but was ignored and over Memel, the League tried unsuccessfully to make the Lithuanians leave in 1923.