How successful was the League of Nations in the 1920s?
The League of nations had a few successes, but also had many failures.
The League was made up of - the Council - who were a small group of permanent members (Japan, Italy, Britain and France) who had Vetos (which meant they could stop all actions even if everyone else agreed) and also some temporary members (who were re-elected every 3 years) and didn’t have a veto - The assembly - who recommended action to the Council and voted on: new members, deciding temporary members to the Council, and what to do with the budget (all decisions being made unanimously) - the Court of International Justice - who’s job it was to settle any border disputes fairly and peacefully, however they couldn’t actually enforce these ideas - the Secretariat - the administrative part of the League, who kept records, prepared reports, etc. - the International Labour Organisation - worked towards improving working conditions around the world, yet they couldn’t make the ideas happen - and many different committees and commissions. When there was an argument or disagreement, the League wanted to resolve disputes through co-operation, however if this did not work, the League would use powers to settle the disagreement, these being - Moral Condemnation - the League would decide who was the ‘aggressor’ and command it to stop taking further action. - Sanctions - Members of the League would refuse to trade with the ‘aggressor’ - and Military Force - countries who were members of the LoN could use their armed forces to against the ‘aggressor’.
The League succeeded in creating a better world. It had many committees that worked towards many different important issues in society, such as health and working conditions. The League achieved many successful outcomes, especially for refugees after WW1. 400,000 refugees were returned home, also housing thousands in camps in Turkey, as well as stopping cholera, smallpox and dysentery spreading within those camps. Slavery was also a major success, as 200,000 slaves were freed from Sierra Leone. The LoN also organised multiple raids against slave owners and traders in Burma, challenged the use of forced labour and miraculously brought the death rate of African workers from 50% to 4%. The Health committee managed to defeat leprosy and campaigned towards eliminating mosquitos which carried malaria, which was a huge success, other countries such as the USSR asked for health advice from the League. Although the League improved working conditions by banning poisonous lead paint and limiting child working hours, the League failed in reducing work hours, as only a small minority agreed to reduce work to a 48 hour week and an 8 hour day, meaning that workers still worked for extremely long hours for many days a week.
Disarmament on the other hand, was a complete failure. Although it was one of the key aims of the league, disarmament took little action, as all permanent members agreed to limit their navies, but that was all that was done in favour of disarmament. This was unsuccessful as it destroyed the League’s reputation in Germany, as Germany had disarmed and showed that the LoN was weak, as the representatives couldn’t give up their armies.
Settling disputes was both successful in some situations and unsuccessful in others. The majority of the time both countries accepted the decision. For example, Finland and Sweden threatened war over who got control of the Aaland islands. The LoN decides they should belong to Finland and both countries accept the decision. This was successful as both countries were happy with the end result, and no violence occurred. However, sometimes neither or one country doesn’t agree. An example of this is when Poland took control of the capital of Lithuania, Vilna. Lithuania asked the League for help, resulting in Poland ignoring the League’s protests and refusing to withdraw. The League didn’t use any further powers as they were supposed to do so (no military force or sanctions) as Britain and France weren’t prepared for another war, if America was part of the League, oral condemnation would’ve been enough to stop countries like Poland as they would feel threatened by America’s power. This was a failure as The League didn’t take any further action as they are required to do so, therefore Poland didn’t feel threatened enough to stop, resulting in a war. Another example of this would be when an Italian General, Tellini, was murdered whilst supervising the border between Albania and Greece. Mussolini (an Italian dictator) was furious about the murder. He believed it was the Greek Government’s fault, so Italy bombards and occupies the Greek island of Corfu. Greece appeals to the Council, which condemns Mussolini’s actions and suggest that Greece pays compensation, which would be held until Greece was proven guilty. Mussolini disagreed with this decision, resulting in the League giving in and forcing Greece to apologise and pay compensation. Italy withdrew and Greece got the land back, but still had to pay. This was a success in the fact they stopped a war from taking place but also failed as the League gave in to stronger powers (Italy) and was unfair. Overall, the aim of preventing aggression/conflict was mostly a failure as the League could not control the more powerful countries such as Italy.
Leaders of all countries were encouraged to cooperate with each other and collaborate instead of compete. Great and small powers felt it was worth sending their ministers to meetings, helping the aim of international cooperation.
In conclusion the League was successful in working towards a better world, helping refugees, slaves and etc. But wasn’t so successful in resolving disputes between countries and completely failed in world disarmament. Overall the League of Nations was mostly a failure due to the fact the League couldn’t control major powers (such as Italy) and failed to disarm the world.