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International Relations League of Nations
by
Christopher Seely

Introduction

The League of Nations was designed and authorized during the 1919 Paris Peace Conference in the aftermath of World War I. The leaders of the victorious powers, particularly US president Woodrow Wilson, hoped to create an international organization and permanent conference that would serve to peacefully resolve future conflicts and prevent another war. Although they managed to found the League of Nations to those declared ends, this experiment in international security is generally regarded as a failure, especially in light of the outbreak of World War II. After World War II, the victors attempted to improve on the League by creating the United Nations, but they kept the League’s bicameral structure as a model. During its formal existence from January 1920 until April 1946, the League faced a variety of violent conflicts that it usually failed to prevent. However, at levels below that of international security, the League advanced a number of important areas and issues in international relations, including the way states approached emergent global issues such as human rights, post–World War II revision of international law, and ongoing efforts to provide some form of collective security to the international community.

General Overviews

Many authors have attempted to paint a generalized portrait of the League of Nations. One of the most respected of these efforts is Walters 1952, which is a penetrating two-volume history of the League. Many scholars point to this work as the most definitive overview on the subject. Northedge 1986 complements Walters’s work in its attempt to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the League and may provide a less intimidating introduction to the League for students. Gill 1996 is a more recent and shorter publication on the League’s history, but it only covers the second half of the League’s existence. Scott 1973 is a colorful narrative of the highlights of the League’s history but it does not break any new ground in terms of historical analysis. For an even shorter overview of the League, see Raffo 1974. League of Nations Information Section 1939 is a league publication and overview of all things related to the League. Aufricht 1951 and Henig 1973 each offer guidance through different sets of league documents that would be helpful to researchers.

Reference Resources

Online resources offer an easily accessible resource. Many websites relating to the League of Nations provide good overviews and serve as informative and easily digested introductions to the subject. Examples of these types of online resources include Spiritus Temporis and The United Nations Office at Geneva. Online resources are also valuable because they contain images and photographs. Several websites feature a wealth of images relating to the League of Nations, including Flags of the World and the League of Nations Photo Archive. Other online resources, such as the Avalon Project and Société des Nations, contain important League documents. The League of Nations Chronology offers a valuable timeline for researchers and students studying the League.

Journals

Only one journal has been solely dedicated to the topic of the League of Nations, and that was the journal the League published itself, titled The League of Nations. Other journals have published various articles and other materials relating to the League. The Carnegie Endowment focused much of its attention on the League of Nations in its journal titled International Conciliation. Other publications such as the International History Review and the Journal of International Law and International Relations take a broader approach but focus primarily on topics relating to international affairs. Similarly journals like Diplomatic History and Diplomacy and Statecraft examine topics within international history including, but not exclusive to, the League of Nations, collective security, and international organizations. Other journals such as the American Historical Review take an even broader approach and include articles and book reviews in many different periods and areas of history.

Origins and Creation

The idea to create an international organization for collective security can be traced all the way back to Immanuel Kant’s 1795 essay titled “Perpetual Peace.” Later groups such as the Inter-Parliamentary Union, founded in 1889, also espoused similar goals. Woodrow Wilson’s declaration of his Fourteen Points is usually cited as the most important document in the origin of the League. However, Jan Smuts also made similar proposals in the early 20th century (see Curry 1961). Knock 1995 offers a historical interpretation of the ideological origins of progressive internationalism and how these ideas helped to shape the League. As the delegates at the Paris Peace Conference worked out the details of the League, various participants had concerns. Kawamura 1997 analyzes the objections of Japanese leaders. Egerton 1974 describes the reluctance on the part of the British. Other works, such as Shotwell 1937 and Miller 1928 present firsthand accounts of the creation of the League.

America’s Refusal to Join

The US Senate’s decision not to ratify the League Covenant was a dramatic gesture that kept the United States out of the League and sent a strong signal of isolationism. Various authors have tried to understand the exact reasons why America did not join the League. Cooper 2001 offers a good summary of the various criticisms of Wilson’s fight to get America into the League. Hamilton Foley compiled a book in defense of Wilson, countering some of the criticisms that Cooper and others have articulated (see Wilson 1923). Other works, such as Margulies 1989 and Stone 1970, analyze the different groups within the Senate and their reasons for keeping America out of the League. Hewes 1970 singles out Henry Cabot Lodge for his leading role against the League. Lodge also wrote his own historical narrative and firsthand account of the fight (see Lodge 1925). Dawley 2003 offers a broader prospective of the social and political attitudes that shaped the progressive atmosphere during the League fight in America.

  • Cooper, John Milton, Jr. Breaking the Heart of the World: Woodrow Wilson and the Fight for the League of Nations. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

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    Emphasizes Wilson’s failed health as reason for his failure to compromise with the Senate; traditional approach, but with meticulous and sharp analysis of important details.

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  • Dawley, Alan. Changing the World: American Progressives in War and Revolution. Politics and Society in Twentieth Century America. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2003.

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    Background to the progressive movement; argues that the attitudes of American progressives were shaped by their internationalist sentiments; asserts that the Senate’s decision represented the failure of American international progressivism; innovative approach; well received.

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  • Hewes, James E., Jr. “Henry Cabot Lodge and the League of Nations.” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 114.4 (1970): 245–255.

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    Brief retelling of the political fight over the League of Nations; criticized for ignoring the use of underhanded political maneuvering to kill the League proposal.

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  • Kuehl, Warren F., and Lynne K. Dunn. Keeping the Covenant: American Internationalists and the League of Nations, 1920–1939. American Diplomatic History. Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 1997.

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    Well received; focuses on American intellectual elites and internationalists; looks most specifically at how these groups dealt with the defeat of the League and its aftermath.

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  • Lodge, Henry Cabot. The Senate and the League of Nations. New York: Scribner, 1925.

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    Firsthand account; articulates the sincere concerns of senators who opposed Wilson’s scheme; tries to dispel the myth that they simply played politics; contains several important speeches and conversations that took place during the debate.

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  • Margulies, Herbert F. The Mild Reservationists and the League of Nations Controversy in the Senate. Columbia: University of Missouri Press. 1989.

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    Sympathetic treatment of the mild reservationists as a group of thoughtful moderates with sincere concerns about American sovereignty.

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  • Stone, Ralph. The Irreconcilables: The Fight Against the League of Nations. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1970.

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    Compact but detailed analysis of the hard-line American opponents to the ratification of the League; praises Lodge’s use of reservations as a way to keep the Senate from ratifying.

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  • Wilson, Woodrow. Woodrow Wilson’s Case for the League of Nations. Compiled by Hamilton Foley. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1923.

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    Defense of Wilson; criticized for side-stepping criticisms, rather than addressing them directly.

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Membership

Forty-two original members joined the League at its inception. Fifty-eight member states belonged to the organization at its height in 1934 and 1935. A total of seven nations left the organization. Germany and the Soviet Union were originally banned from membership, but they were later allowed to join. Schwabe 1975 analyzes the reasons for banning Germany, and Kimmich 1976 addresses the decision to eventually let Germany join. Mahaney 1940 looks at similar issues of banning and admitting the Soviet Union. Gross 1945 addresses questions regarding the Soviet Union’s departure from the League in 1939. Jones 1939 documents the actions and motivations of Scandinavian member states in their efforts to change league rules regarding membership. Iadarola 1975 offers insights into the racial and imperial resistance to Ethiopia’s application to join the League. Burns 1935 analyzes the legal aspects surrounding the questions of withdrawal and expulsion from the League. Magliveras 1999 offers a broad overview of the legal history relating to the issues of membership in international organizations.

  • Burns, Josephine Joan. “Conditions of Withdrawal from the League of Nations.” American Journal of International Law 29.1 (1935): 40–50.

    DOI: 10.2307/2191048Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Discusses the reasons and procedure for nations to withdraw from the League, Costa Rica being the first, followed by Brazil and eventually Japan and Germany.

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  • Gross, Leo. “Was the Soviet Union Expelled from the League of Nations?” American Journal of International Law 39.1 (1945): 35–44.

    DOI: 10.2307/2192308Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Offers insightful debate about the legal and political calculations behind the decision to remove the Soviet Union from membership in the League.

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  • Iadarola, Antoinette. “Ethiopia’s Admission into the League of Nations: An Assessment of Motives.” International Journal of African Historical Studies 8.4 (1975): 601–622.

    DOI: 10.2307/216698Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Analyzes the mixture of racism, imperialism, and political calculations in the discussions allowing Ethiopia to join.

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  • Jones, S. Shepard. The Scandinavian States and the League of Nations. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1939.

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    Shows the role played by second-tier powers Denmark, Norway, and Sweden; suspicious of Great Power diplomacy; end labels such as victors, vanquished, and neutrals; tried to bring Germany and the Soviet Union into the League.

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  • Kimmich, Christoph M. Germany and the League of Nations. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1976.

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    Solid interpretive survey of Germany’s relations to the League, its decision to join, and decision to renounce its membership.

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  • Magliveras, Konstantinos D. Exclusion from Participation in International Organizations: The Law and Practice Behind Member States’ Expulsion and Suspension of Membership. Studies and Materials on the Settlement of International Disputes 5. Boston: Martinus Nijhoff, 1999.

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    Well-received analysis of rules relating to membership within international organizations; highlights several legal and regulatory issues.

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  • Mahaney, Wilbur Lee, Jr. “The Soviet Union, the League of Nations and Disarmament: 1917–1935.” PhD diss., University of Pennsylvania, 1940.

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    Discusses Soviet responses to the League and Russia’s decision to join; lacks access to Soviet sources; relies heavily on league documents.

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  • Schwabe, Klaus. “Woodrow Wilson and Germany’s Membership in the League of Nations, 1918–19.” Central European History 8.1 (1975): 3–22.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0008938900017726Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Explains the symbolic importance of the decision to keep Germany out; a “Victor’s League” rather than a broad coalition.

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International Law

One area in which the League of Nations broke new ground is related to the codification of international law. The creation of the League brought up questions about sovereignty, minority rights, enforcement, diplomatic immunity, and other issues. One of the League’s greatest successes came in the area of regulating the international flow of drugs (see Renborg 1947). The league often failed to protect populations that consisted of ethnic minorities. Azcárarte 1945 explains Germany’s efforts to protect ethnic Germans living outside of the homeland. Zimmern 1936 and Ralston 1929 offer firsthand accounts of the authors’ efforts to codify and enforce different types of laws under league jurisdiction. Rosenne 1972 is an edited volume about the Committee for the Progressive Codification of International Law that offers various interpretations of the League’s groundbreaking effort to revamp the international system of law. In preparation for the newly created United Nations, Hill 1947 describes league innovations in the area of diplomatic immunity and privilege. Redman 1994 provides a brief overview about ways in which the League helped forge a connection between issues of international law and those of human rights.

  • Azcárarte, Pablo de. The League of Nations and National Minorities: An Experiment. Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1945.

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    Protection of minority rights was meant to prevent discrimination leading to violence against minorities from provoking international conflicts; it resulted in a reluctance to redraw national boundaries based on ethnic-minority populations.

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  • Friedmann, Wolfgang. “Half a Century of International Law.” Virginia Law Review 50.8 (1964): 1333–1358.

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    Brief overview of the developments within the field of international law from 1914 to 1964; good background.

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  • Hill, Martin. Immunities and Privileges of International Officials: The Experience of the League of Nations. Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1947.

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    Addresses the legal and political issues of diplomatic immunity and the legal privileges of international officials; instructive but old.

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  • Ralston, Jackson H. International Arbitration: From Athens to Locarno. ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science September 1929. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1929.

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    Benchmark work; first attempt to chronicle and analyze the developments in subfield of international law, international arbitration, and judicial settlement; good background.

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  • Redman, Renee C. “The League of Nations and the Right to Be Free from Enslavement: The First Human Right to Be Recognized as Customary International Law.” Chicago-Kent Law Review 70 (1994): 759–802.

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    Innovative legal approach to human rights; argues that league priorities promoted efforts to safeguard human rights internationally.

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  • Renborg, Bertil A. International Drug Control: A Study of International Administration by and through the League of Nations. Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1947.

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    Renborg headed the League’s Drug Control Service; explains the process of codifying and policing drug trafficking under international law.

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  • Rosenne, Shabtai, ed. League of Nations Committee of Experts for the Progressive Codification of International Law, 1925–1928. 2 vols. Dobbs Ferry, NY: Oceana, 1972.

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    Volume 1 contains minutes of meetings codifying international laws regarding extradition, nationality, oceanic resource and travel rights, diplomatic privileges, and treaties; Volume 2 contains draft reports and country replies to proposed international laws.

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  • Zimmern, Alfred. The League of Nations and the Rule of Law, 1918–1935. London: Macmillan, 1936.

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    Detailed analysis of the legal framework erected in conjunction with the inauguration and development of the League of Nations; shows connections between legal innovations and historical traditions of the Hague Conference and the Monroe Doctrine.

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Innovations in Human Rights

The League of Nations offered hope to many people who felt oppressed and violated under the prewar system of imperialism and lawlessness. Of course the League often ignored many of these hopeful groups, which led to feelings of disappointment. However, the League of Nations did make some early strides in the international human rights movement. Lauren 2003 is a textbook on the history of human rights. Mazower 2004 gives a brief overview of the League’s role in raising issues of human rights to an international level. Sohn and Buergenthal 1973 offers a broad interpretation that situates the League as one part of a larger movement toward international recognition of human rights. Miers 2003 gives a similar account but more narrowly focused on just the issue of slavery. Goodridge 1994 also addresses the League’s actions regarding the issue of slavery, but only as it relates specifically to the geographical area around Cameroon. Rappard 1946 addresses the question of whether league members protected human rights in their mandated territories. Fink 1972 shows how Germany’s effort to protect other ethnic Germans outside their borders contributed to the debate over human rights. Araujo and Lucal 2004 analyzes what role the Vatican played in the changing attitudes toward human rights and the League of Nations.

  • Araujo, Robert John, and John Lucal. Papal Diplomacy and the Quest for Peace: The Vatican and International Organizations from the Early Years to the League of Nations. Naples, Italy: Sapientia, 2004.

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    Insightful look into the religious and political aspects of the human rights movement; Vatican reactions to the League; innovative approach.

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  • Fink, Carole, “Defender of Minorities: Germany in the League of Nations, 1926–1933.” Central European History 5.4 (1972): 330–357.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0008938900015570Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Analyzes Weimar Germany’s Minderheitenpolitik (minority policy) relating to the protection of ethnic Germans outside of Germany; argues that this raised issues of human rights; well received.

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  • Goodridge, Richard A. “The Issue of Slavery in the Establishment of British Rule in Northern Cameroun to 1927.” African Economic History 22 (1994): 19–36.

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    Insightful look at the role of the League’s Permanent Mandates Commission and the specialized slavery commissions in dealing with the issue of slavery in Cameroon.

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  • Lauren, Paul Gordon. The Evolution of International Human Rights: Visions Seen. 2d ed. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2003.

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    Well-received textbook about the history of human rights; chapters three and four focus particularly on the League.

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  • Mazower, Mark. “The Strange Triumph of Human Rights, 1933–1950.” Historical Journal 47.2 (2004): 379–398.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0018246X04003723Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Concise analysis of national calculations leading to the acceptance of human rights as a viable issue; argues against the idea that powerful individuals shamed national leaders into this acceptance or that revulsion at Nazi atrocities led to the adoption of human rights as a global cause; revisionist and innovative.

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  • Miers, Suzanne. Slavery in the Twentieth Century: The Evolution of a Global Problem. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira, 2003.

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    Large, detailed, and well-received analysis of the evolution of 20th-century attitudes regarding slavery; centered on British role in the League promoting the movement to abolish slavery around the world.

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  • Rappard, William E. “Human Rights in Mandated Territories.” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 243 (1946): 118–123.

    DOI: 10.1177/000271624624300122Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Brief examination of whether the mandate system encouraged the protection of human rights; defends the mandates as helping promote human rights.

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  • Sohn, Louis B., and Thomas Buergenthal. International Protection of Human Rights. 2 vols. Contemporary Legal Education Series. Indianapolis, IN: Bobbs-Merrill, 1973.

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    Comprehensive two-volume work examining the historical background of human rights; looks at various international organizations; Volume 2 contains primary source documents.

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League Mandates

The League of Nations erected a mandate system to administer territories where political rule had collapsed during World War I. Mandate territories included former Ottoman areas of the Middle East and former German colonies in Africa and the Pacific. The league granted oversight of these mandated areas to imperial powers such as France, Britain, and Japan. Michael Callahan has written a great deal about the League mandates in Africa (see Callahan 1999). Sherman 2001 offers a firsthand account of his experience in the British mandate of Palestine. Kolinsky 1993 looks at the conflicts in the Palestine mandate resulting from the divisions between Jewish and Arab groups. Pool 1980 focuses on local political developments in the British mandate of Mesopotamia (Iraq). Longrigg 1958 addresses the issues that the French mandates of Syria and Lebanon faced. Fifield 1946 analyzes the decision to grant Japanese control over several strategic islands in the Pacific. Burns 1968 discusses the concerns of the United States regarding Japan’s fortification of these islands. Crozier 1979 takes a broader view in addressing the question of why the mandate system took the form that it did.

  • Burns, Richard Dean. “Inspection of the Mandates, 1919–1941.” Pacific Historical Review 37.4 (1968): 445–462.

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    Looks at the issue of Japanese building illegal fortifications on their former German-held, league-mandated Pacific islands of the Marianas, the Carolines, and the Marshalls; informative.

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  • Callahan, Michael D. Mandates and Empire: The League of Nations and Africa, 1914–1931. Brighton, UK: Sussex Academic Press, 1999.

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    Revisionist and well received; shows that the mandate system was more than just a rubber stamp for European colonialism; perpetuated a shift in the culture of imperialism.

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  • Crozier, Andrew J. “The Establishment of the Mandates System, 1919–1925: Some Problems Created by the Paris Peace Conference.” Journal of Contemporary History 14.3 (1979): 483–513.

    DOI: 10.1177/002200947901400307Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that the mandate system was a compromise between social progressives blaming World War I on imperialism and conservatives wanting to keep colonial possessions; well received.

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  • Fifield, Russell H. “Disposal of the Carolines, Marshalls, and Marianas at the Paris Peace Conference.” American Historical Review 51.3 (1946): 472–479.

    DOI: 10.2307/1840110Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Brief discussion of the strategic concerns making these islands Japanese Mandates; informative but outdated.

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  • Kolinsky, Marti. Law, Order, and Riots in Mandatory Palestine, 1928–1935. Studies in Military and Strategic History. London: St. Martin’s, 1993.

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    Examination of British policies and local unrest in Palestine; Arab Revolt and the Peel Commission; accused of a bias toward British and Zionist interpretations.

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  • Longrigg, Stephen Hemsley. Syria and Lebanon Under French Mandate. New York: Oxford University Press, 1958.

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    Comprehensive, detailed, and well received analysis of French mandates in the Middle East; lacking primary source documentation.

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  • Pool, David. “From Elite to Class: The Transformation of Iraqi Leadership, 1920–1939.” International Journal of Middle East Studies 12.3 (1980): 331–350.

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    Detailed analysis of the rise of Iraqi leadership under the British mandate in Mesopotamia.

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  • Sherman, A. J. Mandate Days: British Lives in Palestine, 1918–1948. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. 2001.

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    Memoir and social history of experiences under the Palestine mandate.

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Disputes

The league tried to resolve disputes between nations through arbitration and other peaceful means. Often the League was unsuccessful in its attempts to bring about negotiated solutions, but not always. Barros 1968 gives a detailed analysis of the successful arbitration of the Åland Islands dispute between Finland and Sweden. Kaeckenbeeck 1946 offers an analysis of the conflict over Upper Silesia, which hinged on the question of whether the region would become part of Germany or Poland after World War I. Barros 1964 is an article on the 1925 Greek-Bulgarian border conflict. Each of these accounts offers an example of peaceful resolutions to disputes. However, not all league decisions brought about peaceful resolutions. Baer 1976 offers a critical look at the controversial league decisions regarding the Italian invasion of Ethiopia. Burkman 2008 examines Japan’s troubled relationship with the League. On a similar but more specific topic, Nish 1993 provides a detailed analysis of the League’s failure to halt Japanese aggression in Manchuria. Wood 1966 offers an insightful look at the League’s role in attempting to end three different armed conflicts in Latin America. Mackenzie 1934 is a brief narrative of league actions concerning conflicts inside Liberia.

  • Baer, George W. Test Case: Italy, Ethiopia, and the League of Nations. Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, 1976.

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    Detailed study of the conflict in Ethiopia; focuses particularly on the reaction and inaction of league members and their motivations; well received and informative.

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  • Barros, James. “The Greek-Bulgarian Incident of 1925: The League of Nations and the Great Powers.” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 108.4 (1964): 354–385.

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    Balanced account of this incident; the first to access newly opened archival materials.

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  • Barros, James. The Åland Islands Question: Its Settlement by the League of Nations. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1968.

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    Thorough analysis of the dispute over ownership of the archipelago between Finland and Sweden; argues that this was an important early example of arbitration because it set a precedent for future conflicts.

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  • Burkman, Thomas W. Japan and the League of Nations: Empire and World Order, 1914–1938. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2008.

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    Comprehensive look at Japan’s relationship with the League; includes analysis of the racial equality amendment; Japan’s cooperative stance during the 1920s followed by conflicts in the 1930s. Well received.

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  • Kaeckenbeeck, Georges S. “Upper Silesia Under the League of Nations.” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 243 (1946): 129–133.

    DOI: 10.1177/000271624624300124Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Brief narrative of dividing Upper Silesia. Focuses on the delicate situation in balancing national sovereignty, individual rights, as well as economic and social continuity; informative but outdated.

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  • Mackenzie, M. D. “Liberia and the League of Nations.” Journal of the Royal African Society 33.133 (1934): 372–381.

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    Straightforward narrative of efforts to resolve conflicts in Liberia; reports of forced labor and slavery; the 1930 Christy Commission; informative but outdated.

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  • Nish, Ian. Japan’s Struggle with Internationalism: Japan, China, and the League of Nations, 1931–1933. New York: Kegan Paul International, 1993.

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    Penetrating and well-researched look at the Sino-Japanese conflict surrounding Manchuria, the “Mukden incident,” the Lytton Commission, and Japan’s decision to end its league membership.

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  • Wood, Bryce. The United States and Latin American Wars, 1932–1942. New York: Columbia University Press, 1966.

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    Analyzes three conflicts in Latin America: the Chaco War between Paraguay and Bolivia, the Leticia conflict between Peru and Columbia, and the Maraňón conflict between Peru and Ecuador, all of which involved varying levels of league arbitration; well received.

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Weaknesses and Collapse

The League of Nations had a variety of shortcomings. It fell short of its mission to prevent war, particularly World War II. During the 1940s, several American scholars wrote a series of articles critiquing the weaknesses of the League (see Davis 1944). Later another symposium brought together several articles analyzing the shortcomings of the League. (see United Nations Library and the Graduate Institute of International Studies 1983). Burton 1941 offers an analysis of the structure and organization within the League. Hill 1946 takes an economic approach to understanding the weaknesses and collapse of the League. Barros 1969 looks at the shortcomings of the League’s general secretary, Joseph Avenol, during the decade of the 1930s. Dunbabin 1975 analyzes this same period with regard to the British decision to turn away from the League and to begin rearming in preparation for war. Bell 2007 offers a broad look at the origins of World War II and what the League did and did not do to prevent the conflict. Ostrower 1979 analyzes cooperation and tensions between the United States and the League of Nations during the 1930s.

  • Barros, James. Betrayal from Within: Joseph Avenol, Secretary-General of the League of Nations, 1933–1940. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1969.

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    Detailed study of the leadership; conflicts include the rearmament of Germany, Italian aggression in Abyssinia, the Spanish Civil War, expulsion of the Soviet Union, and the beginning of World War II; argues that Avenol was ill prepared for such a monumental task.

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  • Bell, P. M. H. The Origins of the Second World War in Europe. 3d ed. Harlow, UK: Pearson Education, 2007.

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    Comprehensive and well-received study of the leadup to World War II; analyzes why league members did not prevent war.

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  • Burton, Margaret E. The Assembly of the League of Nations. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1941.

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    Burton explains the organization and committee structure within the League Assembly; the problem of the Unanimity Rule; uses case studies to examine how the League Assembly functioned and what its weaknesses were.

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  • Davis, Harriet Eager, ed. Pioneers in World Order: An American Appraisal of the League of Nations. New York: Columbia University Press, 1944.

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    Discusses the conflicting political and economic interests among league members; shows failures to regulate national activity in areas of security, disarmament, and economics; more success in drug enforcement, health problems, and social issues.

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  • Dunbabin, J. P. D. “British Rearmament in the 1930s: A Chronology and Review.” Historical Journal 18.3 (1975): 587–609.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0018246X00008463Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Well-written look at the marginalization of the League; why the British were initially reluctant to rearm during the 1930s; why they abandoned the League’s goal of peace.

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  • Hill, Martin. The Economic and Financial Organization of the League of Nations. Division of International Law. Studies in the Administration of International Law and Organization. Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1946.

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    Background, origins, and structure of the economic and financial components of the League; discusses the disruptions caused by the Great Depression; recommendations of the Bruce Committee; informative but outdated.

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  • Ostrower, Gary B. Collective Insecurity: The United States and the League of Nations during the Early Thirties. Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press, 1979.

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    Insightful look at the troubled relationship between the US and the League; criticized for focusing too much on the Manchurian conflict.

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  • The United Nations Library and the Graduate Institute of International Studies. The League of Nations in Retrospect. Proceedings of the Symposium held in Geneva, 6–9 November 1980. New York: de Gruyter, 1983.

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    Available in English and French; collection of twenty-one papers; document and analyze the troubled history of the League, focusing on the structural and historical weaknesses.

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From League to United Nations

The League of Nations served as the predecessor to the United Nations. Near the end of World War II, the victorious nations met in San Francisco in April 1945 to form this new international organization. The participants retained some features of the old league model such as the bicameral structure, but they also tried to improve upon the failed league experiment. Kunz 1958 offers a brief examination of the differences and similarities between the two organizations. Similarly, the Worldmark Encyclopedia of Nations offers a more systematic and detailed comparison of the two organizations. Morrison 1994 focuses on the issue of creating a standing army for the UN. This was something France had pressed for during the creation of the League, but British and American objections overruled French proposals for a standing league army.

LAST MODIFIED: 03/02/2011

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780199743292-0034

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