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.
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
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.
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
League hoped that it could influence countries to 'do the right thing' by:
'moral power' of the League lay in the
10-17, in which members promised
to keep the peace.
writers have pointed out that this is hardly a very effective deterrent against
a powerful country which was determined to disobey the League.
If these moral influences failed, the League had
three powers it could use to make countries do as it
the League was able to use military force, but the
League did not have an army of its own – so if a country ignored it,
in the end, there was nothing the League could do.
Assembly (the League's main meeting
– all members met once a year. Decisions had to be
Council (a small group of the more
important nations – inc. Britain, France, Italy & Japan – met 4–5 times a year).
Agencies (committees of
• Permanent Court
of International Justice.
Commission (looked after former German colonies).
Secretariat (was supposed to organise the League).
(the League could tell a
country it was doing wrong).
(the League could offer to
decide between two countries).
3. Sanctions (stopping trade).
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 with that country. They will advise the
Council of the League about any armed action that should be taken.
from the Covenant of the League of Nations (1919).
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.
by PJ Larkin, European History for Certificate Classes (1965).
Larkin was a teacher of secondary school pupils, and this is a revision
Does Source C suggest that the League of Nations was
powerful when it came into existence?
Did the League of Nations
any chance of success?
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
the greatest weakness of the League was that, when Wilson got back home to the United States, the
American Senate refused to join the League.
did not want to get dragged into other countries’ problems.
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.
brilliant explanation by Ben Walsh of why America refused to
showing why America refused to join
by American politicians
Gap in the Bridge’ – a cartoon of 1919 by
Leonard Ravenhill in the
British magazine Punch.
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