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Table of Contents
The League of Nations was an international organization created as a result of US President Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points. The allies agreed to establish an organization that could solve disputes between nations to prevent the possibility of another war.
See the fact file below for more information on the League of Nations or alternatively, you can download our 23-page The League of Nations worksheet pack to utilize within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
BACKGROUND, FORMATION, AND THE COVENANT
- In January 1918, President Wilson delivered his Fourteen Points speech to the US Congress stating ways to achieve peace after WWI. Among the agenda was the creation of an organization which could resolve international disputes and conflicts. By December, Wilson presented his Fourteen Points in Paris which became the root of the Treaty of Versailles.
- The idea of establishing the League became more popular in other countries compared to the US. The treaty per se was opposed by the Republicans as they worried about American autonomy in international matters. As a result, the treaty was not ratified by the US Congress and Americans refused to join the League of Nations.
- On April 29, 1919, the Covenant of the League of Nations was adopted, which became the initial part of the Treaty of Versailles. The ideals of the Covenant reflected those of the Chairman of the Committee, President Wilson. The Covenant specifically outlined the following: (1) to ensure collective security, (2) to assure functional cooperation, (3) and to execute mandates of the treaty.
- The league was then inaugurated on January 10, 1920, after the Peace Treaty of Versailles took effect. The Covenant consists of 26 articles that made up the first part of the peace treaty. Many observers believed that the Covenant was the most important international treaty ever made. The Preamble was written as follows: “In order to promote international cooperation and to secure international peace and security by the acceptance of obligations not to resort to war, by the prescription of open, just and honorable relations between nations, by the term establishment of the understandings of international law as the actual rule of conduct among governments, and by the maintenance of justice and peoples with one another, the Powers signatory to this Covenant adopt this constitution of the League of Nations.”
STRUCTURE AND ORGANISATION
- The Council had 4 permanent members, including Italy, France, Japan, and the UK, while temporary members could be voted in. It was responsible for matters regarding world peace. They met 5 times a year and in emergencies.
- The League’s civil service section responsible for preparing agenda and keeping records. It was headed by a Secretary-General.
- The Assembly was composed of representatives from each member country. They met in a session held once a year. Each member had one vote to recommend an action to the council and accept a country in.
- The PCIJ was intended to manage the peaceful settlement of international disputes. Also known as the World Court, it could provide judgment or advisory on issues. The ILO worked to end child labor and increased women’s rights in the workplace. Moreover, they convinced many countries to adopt an eight-hour workday/40 hour workweek. The RC oversaw the repatriation and settlement of over 400,000 refugees affected by WWI, especially those stranded in Russia. The Health Committee aimed to end diseases like malaria, leprosy, and yellow fever. Campaigns were conducted to end such epidemics. The SC sought to eradicate slavery in any form around the world. The agenda also included drug trafficking, prostitution, and forced labor. DC aimed to limit the size of the navies in order to avoid future wars. It also halted further military powers in Italy, Japan, and Germany. The PCOB mediated the production, manufacture, trade, and retail of opium by establishing a board that managed legal certificates and trading of narcotics.
- In 1920, Geneva became the permanent headquarters of the League of Nations primarily because of Switzerland’s neutrality. When the Covenant took effect on January 10, 1920, there were 23 founding members of the league, excluding the United States. The number increased to 33 by March 10, 1920. By the First Assembly, on November 15, 1920, members grew to 42 and by December, 6 more countries became members.
- By the Second Assembly in 1921, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania became members. Three more members were accepted until the Fourth Assembly. Egypt was the last to join in 1937.
SUCCESSES AND FAILURES
- ALAND ISLANDS. In 1921, the League was able to mediate territorial conflict between Sweden and Finland over the Aland Islands located midway between the two countries. Despite being an exclusively Swedish-speaking territory, the islands remained part of Finland, honoring its sovereignty since the early 1900s.
- UPPER SILESIA. Before their entrance to the League, Upper Silesia was set to determine whether to join Germany or Poland through a plebiscite as stated under the Treaty of Versailles. The votes cast favoring Germany resulted in the Third Silesian Uprising. In 1922, the League intervened and conducted an investigation which resulted in a split. Both countries as well as the majority of Upper Silesians agreed.
- GREECE AND BULGARIA. In 1925, Greek soldiers invaded Bulgaria after an incident between the border of both countries. Bulgaria asked the League to settle the dispute. As a result, the League ordered Greece to withdraw its troops and provide the necessary compensation to Bulgaria. The Greeks complied but resented the unfair treatment.
- MOSUL. In 1926, the former Ottoman province of Mosul was assigned to Iraq despite the Turkish claim of the ancestral domain. The League was able to resolve the dispute between the two countries through an A-mandate over Iraq.
- LIBERIA. In 1930, after an investigation conducted by the League on rumors of forced labor in Liberia, President Charles D.B. King, along with his vice president and a number of government officials resigned upon implication. The League then suggested trusteeship over Liberia if reforms were not carried out.
- VILNA. After WWI, the city of Vilna, dominated by a Polish population, was made the capital of Lithuania. In 1920, during the Polish-Soviet War, Polish troops invaded the city. The League condemned it, but the Poles refused to withdraw. Instead, they made a Unification Act which included Vilna in Poland (as Wilno). With Poland being a buffer zone for the possibilities of war against Russia, Britain and France did not send troops to back up the League. As a result, Wilno was recognized in 1923 as a Polish town and remained as it was until 1939.
- INVASION OF THE RUHR. When Germany failed to pay reparations under the Treaty of Versailles, France and Belgium invaded the industrial region of the Ruhr in Germany, which was a direct violation of the League’s purpose. The League did nothing as France was a major member of the association, while Britain did not want to tap a close ally. This act eventually led to the breakdown of the League’s own rules.
- CORFU. Brought by the murder of Enrico Tellini, an Italian general, and his staff while examining the Greek side of the border, Benito Mussolini demanded the Greeks pay for reparations and eventually invaded the island of Corfu in Greece. The invasion caused 15 deaths. As a result, the League condemned Mussolini’s action and obliged him to pay the Greeks. After initially agreeing to the terms, Mussolini was able to manipulate the League and change its decision. In the end, Greece was forced to apologize and made immediate payment to Italy.
- MANCHURIAN INCIDENT. In 1931, Japan held control of Manchuria, a part of China, and bombarded the Chinese city of Shanghai. Despite the Chinese plead for help from the League of Nations, members did not respond out of self-interest. As a result, control of Manchuria remained under the Japanese until the Soviet invasion of the region and returned it to China at the end of WWII in 1945.
- Among others, were the Chaco War between Paraguay and Bolivia in 1932 until 1935, the Italian invasion of Abyssinia in 1935, the Spanish Civil War between 1936 and 1939, and the rearmament of the Axis powers.
COLLAPSE OF THE LEAGUE
- The Manchurian and Abyssinian crises both contributed to the collapse of the League of Nations. The crises implied the following: A strong nation had the power to ignore orders from the League. The delayed response of the League showed uncertainty and weakness. Members could not agree on definite sanctions. Major members of Japan, France, Italy, and Britain, all betrayed the League. The League was unable to protect smaller nations.
- In addition, the League also failed to avert war preceding the Second World War.
- 1933 – Germany, led by Hitler left the League.
- 1935 – Hitler publicly denounced the League and the Treaty of Versailles and began the rearmament of the German army.
- 1936 – The League’s Disarmament Committee obviously failed.
- Germany invaded the Rhineland again.
- 1937 – Italy left the League.
- 1938 – Germany reunited with Austria which disobeyed the peace treaty.
- Following the policy of appeasement and ignoring the League, Britain and France granted Sudetenland to Hitler through the Munich Agreement.
- 1939 – After their defeat in the Spanish Civil War, Spain left the League. World War II began.
The League of Nations Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle that includes everything you need to know about The League of Nations across 23 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use The League of Nations worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about the League of Nations which was an international organization created as a result of US President Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points. The allies agreed to establish an organization which could solve disputes between nations to prevent the possibility of another war.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- The League of Nations Facts
- Mapping Members of the League
- Structure and Function
- Permanent Four
- The League
- World Leaders
- Binaries of the League
- The League & United Nations
- Truths and Lies
- Wilson and his 14 Points
- Peacekeeping Today
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Use With Any Curriculum
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