Diplomacy. Respect for the League had fallen so far that the Gestapo invaded the home of the League high commissioner in Danzig the night before the war began, and when Britain and France sent in notifications of their declarations of war, they pointedly did not invoke the Covenant of the League of Nations–Part I of the Treaty of Versailles. Weak powers. It may be argued that this deserves only a couple of paragraphs in a book whose focus is elsewhere, but it may also be argued that those paragraphs could and should have been better. How did it change the way ordinary voters participated in politics, or expressed themselves politically? But US intervention had been important in last stage of WWI and the wishes of the american president couldn’t be ignored. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. The end of the cold war triggered an unprecedented upsurge in UN commitments. Another crucial function was the establishment of Mandates to bring all the territories that had been liberated from German and Turkish rule, at the end of the Great War, to eventual self-determination. Getting London to sign this provision for the compulsory jurisdiction of the International Court in justiciable disputes was seen as a key issue for the LNU in the second half of the 1920s. Lord Robert Cecil, the Chairman and effective leader of the Union throughout, in government or out, characteristically tried to contrast his zeal for the League with the alleged indifference of other Conservatives. The League managed to resolve some territorial disputes, and also to alleviate the illegal slave/opium trade, but it could not prevent some wars from starting or Germany from invading European countries. This was clearly an act of war in violation of the Covenant. The League of Nations was an international organization, headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, created after the First World War to provide a forum for resolving international disputes. The machinery of the League organisation grew more substantial, and the secretariat began to carve out the basis for a quasi-independent role, although this was unplanned and unlooked-for by the old great powers. (5) It did not challenge the idea of Great Britain’s central role in the development of a better world. Because the French were realists who had no use for lofty ideals of questionable practical value. President Wilson; America failed to ratify the League Covenant, A UN soldier on duty at Kigali Airport, Rwanda, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, founder of the Islamic group Hamas. In Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, the process seemed to be moving steadily forward. America Woodrow Wilson got the League of Nations, and new nation-states were set up in Eastern Europe but: Wilson thought the treaty was far too harsh. What appeared to have been the repudiation of the League with the Hoare-Laval Pact largely destroyed the credibility of Geneva. What were the consequences of this transformation for political life? These assertions have their value. Or, still more disastrously, in the case of Italian pressure on Abyssinia, the guilt was clear enough but the key powers, Britain and France, were unwilling to antagonise the guilty party because of their wider strategic fears. They allowed the dispute to be settled outside the League.! Polson-Newman, ‘The League of Nations Union’. In response to the first debate, the only members of the League that could, in theory, stand up to an aggressive nation such as Germany were Britain and France. If a nation was at odds with what the League did or said, they could simply leave and face few, or no, consequences. As McCarthy clearly shows, the League was both a popular cause and a national one. 3. Does the UN have the 'grip' to impose a common view? As stated above, the League did not have its own military force; thus, it had to rely on its member nations to provide the troops necessary. America was not a member. This is the official Web Site of the United Nations Office at Geneva. In her conclusion McCarthy quotes the reflection of a Branch Secretary: ‘Let us be honest with ourselves. What some have called the 'third world UN' emerged out of the shadow of the 'cold war UN', to the horror of conservative American opinion, which had expected the UN to function as a vehicle for US values - or in effect US policy. Before addressing some of his rather more critical comments on my account of this movement, I should perhaps explain how I came to the subject in the first place. As stated above, the League did not have its own military force; thus, it had to rely on its member nations to provide the troops necessary. I was (and remain) a historian of Britain – and of the British domestic social and political scene at that, rather than of British foreign policy. McCarthy is therefore misleading when she speaks of the LNU’s ‘appeasement’ of the right (p. 162) and its concessions to ‘popular militarism’(pp. Although Cecil was premature, and his political schemes came to nothing, the Union followed his centrist vision. Dismayed by the overall results, but hopeful that a strong League could prevent future wars, he returned to present the Treaty of Versailles … . My reply would be that diplomatic historians have dealt admirably with those problems in the recent literature, whereas no-one had bothered to ask the questions that pre-occupied me. The League, therefore, resembled a club of winners, with the largest force against the defeated countries. When the Allies finally began to prepare for the end of World War Two, they rejected any idea of restoring the League, and instead moved to establish a new organisation, the United Nations (UN). There seemed to me to be a disconnect between the burgeoning ‘new political history’ which dealt with political identities and cultural representations, and the existing standard works on the evolution of inter-war foreign policy in which the LNU traditionally featured. One of them is Germany, because we did not think that Germany was ready to come in, because we felt that she ought to go through a … 2) Germany was suffering greatly and turned to the Nazis. Revulsion against war and the desire for ‘Never Again’ undoubtedly did much to turn the LNU into a mass popular movement with a membership of more than 400,000 at its peak in 1931. 6. How did it reconfigure the dynamics of associational life, from local political parties and organised religion to the proliferating ranks of ‘non-party’ organisations like the Women’s Institutes, Rotary International, the British Legion and the Boy Scouts? I was intrigued to discover just how the LNU managed to recruit hundreds of thousands of subscribers, and to persuade millions of people to vote in its ‘Peace Ballot’ of 1934–5, when much of the secondary literature seemed to tell a story of mass political apathy, particularly in relation to foreign policy. Her own book is another valuable addition, along with Ruth Henig’s general survey, Daniel Laqua’s edited volume on interwar internationalism, and the 40-odd papers from some 15 countries presented at last August’s conference at the Graduate Institute at Geneva.(3). The development towards taking responsibility in countries at risk of disintegration, was due to a dramatic increase in the prestige and initiative of the UN Secretary-General. After the destruction of Europe during World War I , the world, especially European powers believed the League of Nations could prevent another great war (Trueman). His largely self-serving rhetoric has too often been taken at too close to face value by historians. The secret diplomacy of the old order would be replaced by...open discussion. Schools were a particular concern of the LNU, partly because of the involvement of the historian H. A. L. Fisher, a Liberal who had been President of the Board of Education in the Lloyd George Coalition. (6) It did establish links with the British Legion, and recruited heavily on Armistice Day. On the 19 th October 1935, the League of Nations voted to impose sanctions on Italy after it invaded Abyssinia. Commission on Armaments (1921) The League set up an independent commission, but it failed to get agreement on disarmament because Britain objected. She tends to see Conservative and traditional élite backing of the League as a concession to public opinion, and perhaps amounting to little more than lip-service. The League of Nations was an inter-governmental organization founded as a result of the Treaty of Versailles, in 1919–1920. Why did the League of Nations ultimately fail to achieve widespread disarmament, its most fundamental goal? The only problem with this was the fact that there were only two nations with sufficient manpower to supply this need, France and Great Britain – and they had been significantly weakened from World War I. The League of Nations did not have a policy of appeasement because it was powerless. This page has been archived and is no longer updated. This experience did not just demonstrate the failure of the League, but also, proved that a great power could commit an assault without fear of sanctions. These reasons include Italy being a threat to the rest of the world, having an alliance with Italy, Abyssinia meant nothing to the League of Nations and the League couldn’t afford to help Abyssinia. Wilson did gain approval for his proposal for a League of Nations. McCarthy’s strength is in her attempt to ask new questions and to try different approaches to the development of a popular movement, but other historians’ questions about issues and high politics are also still worth asking. The UN secretariat came to represent the apparent 'democratisation' of the organisation, as the General Assembly began to assert itself after a decade of US domination. However, the League did not have a military force at its disposal and no member of the League had to provide one under the terms of joining – unlike the current United Nations. Dealing with such internal conflict was a far more ambitious...task. In effect it showed that the UN might need to take governmental responsibility in some situations. She has the same problem herself. (2) The League of Nations remained totally inactive when Japan attacked Manchuria in 1931. The League of Nations Questions and Answers - Discover the eNotes.com community of teachers, mentors and students just like you that can answer any question you might have on The League of Nations The League of Nations Union saw its job as ‘fostering intelligent citizenship and developing enlightened patriotism’ (p. Start studying Explain why Britain joined the League of Nations in 1919. By 1939 its membership had halved, and only 9,000 still bothered with Headway. Socialists such as Philip Noel-Baker were prominent in its leadership, and trade unionists were actively encouraged to join. These states often denied the rights of their constituent nations to self-determination, and the breakdown of such states as Lebanon, Yugoslavia, and Somalia during the 1990s, revealed a maelstrom of elemental national forces. Italy was a great power willing to use force and as the League did not have an army it backed down.! No, my interest in the League of Nations Union (LNU) stemmed from a fascination with an entirely different problem altogether: the impact on British society of the franchise extensions of 1918 and 1928, which transformed Britain from a limited, property-based franchise into a genuinely mass democracy in which the working classes and women formed a majority of the electorate. This imbued ‘the grassroots movement with a distinctly religious flavour…’ (p. 3), but may well have been off-putting for working men. ... international organization of 50 nations led by US, Soviet Union, Britain, France, and China that maintains peace & cooperation in the international community. Although party politics eventually reasserted themselves, Baldwin succeeded because he offered the same moral leadership that Cecil had promised. She is particularly weak in outlining the origins of the League of Nations Union in the earlier League of Nations Society, which was very much an intellectual élite group initially unwilling to proselytise for fear of being seen as a stop-the-war movement, and the League of Free Nations Association organised by David Davies and several others connected with Great Britain’s 1918 propaganda offensive, who urged the immediate creation of a League among the Allied Powers which would control the world’s resources and force Germany to pay a high price for admission.  © Certainly Yearwood is right to suggest that as historians we should be working towards a synthesis of both perspectives in the future; but I hope I don’t speak out of turn when I say that, just as I might have failed to achieve this in The British People and the League of Nations, so has Peter Yearwood failed to do so in his own – excellent in its own terms – work on British League policy, which tells us very little about popular attitudes or mentalities. The League of Nations was an international organization, headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, created after the First World War to provide a forum for resolving international disputes. Interested in reviewing for us? Methods of investigating disputes, and helping to keep the peace, were regularised. World Depression made nations less cooperative. She sees this as an important part of ‘the larger history of the democratisation of Britain’s political culture between the wars’ (p. 2). The proliferation of League activity, however, carried risks: as one of its founders, Lloyd George, put it, 'it had weak links spreading everywhere and no grip anywhere'. Complex Assembly I have argued that British political leaders and senior officials wanted a League not out of subservience to popular pressures, but because they believed that it would provide the desired basis for post-war stability. This page looks at its failure in Abyssinia. The title 'nation' had always been (for both League and UN) a polite fiction for a club of sovereign states, who often contained within them various ethnically diverse minority groups, sometimes with a claim to nationhood in their own right. The League of Nations, born of the destruction and disillusionment arising from World War One, was the most ambitious attempt that had ever been made to construct a peaceful global order. The wider circumstances of that time were unpropitious, but the basic problem persists: as President Assad of Egypt told Tony Blair, in the wake of the attack on New York on September 11 2001, labelling is inescapably a political act. The Nonconformists, of course, had been one of the mainstays of pre-war Liberalism. For the league to function properly, the countries that made it up would have needed to act in unison but they tended to act in their own self-interest. Partly this was to avoid alarming US isolationist opinion, but in any case, when the League Covenant was agreed at the Paris peace conference in 1919, the US Senate refused to ratify it. (1) To this she adds my own 2009 book (2), which came out in time for her to notice, but not to use. Kennedy, John. His most recent book is Terrorism: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford, 2002). The effect of this was to make the League seem less binding. The LNU was not intended to ‘shore up middle class anti-socialism’ (p. 157). The lack of the U.S's support meant that these two state's armies were no where near the scale that the Fascist nations were amassing. Proposal for a League of Nations. McCarthy pushes this further in arguing that ‘the wider diffusion of those values, in part accomplished by the diaspora of Liberal personnel into new institutional homes, was integral to the political realignment of the interwar years’ (p. 55). Helen McCarthy writes of a ‘recent groundswell of scholarly interest in the League [of Nations]’, which was surveyed by Susan Pedersen in a 2007 review essay. The imposition of a peaceful world order was a key objective for the League of Nations, established in the aftermath of World War One. Wilson did gain approval for his proposal for a League of Nations. Germany had been a League mem­ber since 1926. The editor of the Union’s journal Headway, which had a circulation of some 100,000 at its peak, saw its purpose as ‘primarily to instruct, and only secondarily to entertain’; reading its more difficult articles was ‘a duty any man or woman of serious purpose ought to be ready to carry out’ (p. 25). University of North Carolina Press Chapel Hill. Origins of the League of Nation: It is wrong to say that President Wilson alone was the author of the … Most French people did not think the League of Nations would protect them against Germany. A league for all nations? Very few of us who were in the Union heart and soul considered the Covenant absorbingly interesting. Particularly shocking is the complete absence of any discussion of the Optional Clause. The League of Nations (French: La Société des Nations) was the predecessor to the United Nations.The League was founded in 1920, after World War I, but failed to maintain peace during World War II.The League had a Council of the great powers and an Assembly of all the member countries.. As you can see, the League of Nations was quite fluid in terms of who joined and who left (or was removed!). Charles Townshend assesses its chances. I confess that I was not aware of Lorna Lloyd’s book on the International Court; one is human, after all, and cannot read everything. At its height in 1934 and 1935, the League had 58 member countries. Yearwood belatedly recognises that I have tried to ‘ask different questions’ and pursue ‘different approaches’, but insists that the more familiar problems of explaining British policy at the highest levels must not be neglected. The League of Nations did not have a policy of appeasement because it was powerless. I describe my point of departure at such length because it goes some way, I think, to explaining the differences of outlook between myself and Peter Yearwood, who – from the standpoint of a diplomatic historian – takes issue with what he sees as the insufficient attention paid in the book to the substantive ‘issues’ confronting the League. When bad things happened, they would condemn them but this was pretty much all they could do on their own. The structure of the United Nations was to give a much stronger position to the traditional great powers through the UN Security Council; the most significant thing about its creation, perhaps, is that this time the USA did not back away. Only two nations are for the time being left out. Surely we can recognise that we are each contributing in different ways to a broader and deeper understanding of the place of the League in British politics and society between the wars? (1919: founding members) * Argentina (left in 1921 on rejection of an Argentine resolution that all sovereign states be admitted to the League [1]. How the League would have worked with American participation remains one of the great 'what ifs' of modern history. The centrist policy of the LNU was to a large degree abandoned as Cecil moved the organisation sharply to the left, aligning it with the International Peace Campaign and functioning as part of the Popular Front. One trade unionist on an LNU deputation to Downing Street found his colleagues ‘a poor babbling crowd with all the traditional courtesies, gratitudes and sophistication, so that I felt quite out of place and unhappy’ (p. 169). As my book tries to show, there is a huge amount more to be said about the LNU as a presence in inter-war associational life and as an interlocutor in debates about the quality of British democracy, the meanings attached to ‘good citizenship’, and the educability of the mass electorate. No provisions were made to end secret diplomacy or preserve freedom of the seas. Why do you think the air strike was important to Germanys plan to invade Britain? Yet, middle-class dominance at the grass roots was a matter of fact rather than aspiration. Last updated 2011-02-17. Address by the President to the nation, 1962. It is certainly right for her to try to go ‘beyond the Senior Combination Room or the steps of the Foreign Office’ (p. 7), but those places remained important, and usually decisive. Gradually this came to include the defence of human rights as well as the resolution of territorial conflict. It was rooted in a comprehensive liberal critique of the pre-war international system, which was widely believed to have been the cause of the carnage of 1914-18. Nor was it from a firm training in diplomatic or international history. He hoped that once the League was established, it could … 137–41). It does not challenge the main conclusions of Donald Birn’s pioneering 1981 study (4), but does broaden and deepen it. Great Britain and the Creation of the League of Nations. The LNU was not asking them to go in a direction where they did not want to go.  © He said that the Soviet Union fully understands the idea of uniting the nations since the Soviet Union itself is a sort of a League of Nations, housing 185 nationalities. Education was a key liberal value, seen as a means of socialising mass democracy. (A vivid insight into how this American pressure operated can be found in Conor Cruise O'Brien's To Katanga and Back. Viscount Cecil Robert. Yet the League of Nations did work surprisingly well, at least for a decade after the war. When the crucial concept of collective security was put to the acid test in the 1930s, it dissolved.  © The United Nations: Sacred Drama by Conor Cruise O'Brien and Feliks Topolski (Simon & Schuster, 1968), The Rise of the International Organisation. The United States was one of five permanent members of the Supreme Council, with the other four countries the USSR, France, Nationalist China, and Britain. Displaying the UN flag, New York, 1949 The early sections of his review provide a very succinct and accurate account of some of the key findings of my research, which began life as a doctoral thesis. All writers on the LNU have stressed the degree to which it carried on the traditions of liberalism at a time when the Liberal Party became fragmented and marginalised. In 1920, the League of Nations organised the Conference on Passports, Customs Formalities and Through Tickets in Paris. Leading the opposition were Senators Henry Cabot Lodge and William Borah. When bad things happened, they would condemn them but this was pretty much all they could do on their own. Therefore, it could not carry out any threats and any country defying its … It was founded on 10 January 1920 following the Paris Peace Conference that ended the First World War, and ceased operations on 20 April 1946. Some, like the observer force in Kashmir, have remained active for 50 years: not evidence of brilliant success, admittedly, but evidence of hard necessity and a degree of usefulness at least. The causes may be summed up as follows: (1) it was due to the selfish policy pursued by the big Powers that the international organization could not effectively enforce peace in the world. Defeating the League of Nations (13) This contrasts sharply with the bland, almost feel-good statement with which McCarthy ends her book: the League of Nations Union ‘succeeded … in persuading Britain’s quiet citizens to recognise foreign affairs as their own intimate concern and international government as a cause which deserved their support, and perhaps even, on occasion to break their silence in order to say as much’ (p. 253). While not all of Wilson's points were implemented, they did result in the Treaty of Versailles being less harsh than it would have been without his input. President Wilson; America failed to ratify the League Covenant House, Edward. The American absence in the League of Nations did not prevent the nation from becoming an official member of the United Nations, formed at the conclusion of the Second World War. CAUSE OF FAILURE| MANCHURIAN CRISIS| FAILURE OF DISARMAMENT| ABYSSINIAN CRISIS| The self-interest of leading membersThe League depended on the firm support of Britain and France. a. Among these were not only such low-key but effective institutions as the International Court and the International Labour Organisation, but also the working assumptions of the secretariat, and some key operations - including those that would soon come to be called 'peacekeeping' operations. Certainly, as a critic pungently put it, the Union’s leadership did include a surprising number of military figures, ‘disgruntled generals, and disappointed admirals’. Forty-two countries joined the League at the start. 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