THE TREATY OF VERSAILLES

Was the League of Nations A Success?

Was the League of Nations A Success?

What was the League of Nations?

League of NationsYou’ve probably heard all about the United Nations. The League of Nations was the world’s attempt at creating a similar organization after World War One. Only it failed horribly.

The League of Nations was the brainchild of Woodrow Wilson, the US President. His vision for it was an organization that would prevent war by tying all countries to peaceful negotiations in the event of disputes. The League was set up as part of the terms of the Treaty of Versailles. To achieve its aims, it had the following bodies:

The Assembly: Delegates from all member countries, which was supposed to meet every September.

The Council: The executive body of the League, responsible for directing its activities. It had 4 permanent members – Britain, France, Italy and Japan (ie. the world’s biggest powers, excluding of course the USA, the Soviet Union and Germany, who were not members of the League) – and four more members who were elected to the Council for a period of three years.

The Permanent Court of Justice: Given the task of presiding over international legal disputes.

Committees: This and other bodies that dealt specifically with implementing the terms of the Treaty of Versailles and other treaties (such as disarmament and administering territories), and others that handled international questions such as labour rights and health.

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Powers to make Sanctions?

Theoretically, the Council and the Assembly had the power to impose economic sanctions on nations that broke the League’s rules, such as trade embargoes, or even declare war on countries that attacked other countries. Crucially, however, the League was very weak when situations came about that would have required sanctions.

Another big obstacle to the League using military sanctions was that it did not have a military force of its own. Instead, it would have to convince its members to go to war for it.

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The (Minor) Successes of the League

League Of NationsWith the outbreak of World War 2 in 1939, The League had unquestionably failed in its main aim of keeping international peace. However, we must recognise that the League also had some minor successes:

* The League organized the repatriation of prisoners of war from World War I – some estimates suggest that there were over 500,000 prisoners at the end of the War.

* The League successfully resolved some minor border disputes, between countries such as Sweden and Finland in 1921, and between Bulgaria and Greece in 1925.

* The League led efforts to end slavery across the world.

* The functions of some of the League’s committees that handled issues such as labour and health were transferred to the United Nations after World War 2, as were the functions of the Permanent Court.