League of Nations
The League of Nations was an international organization founded after the First World War with goals of reducing armaments, settling disputes between countries and maintaining living conditions, but The League proved incapable of preventing aggression by the Fascist powers. The United Nations effectively replaced it after the Second World War.
The idea appears to have originated with British Foreign Secretary Edward Grey, but was enthusiastically adopted by American President Woodrow Wilson and his advisor, Colonel Edward House , as a means of avoiding future bloodshed as had been seen during World War I. Wilson was a strong advocate of including the League in the Treaty of Versailles, and it was established on January 25, 1919 by part I of that treaty.
The League held its first meeting on January 10, 1920 and on the same day ratified the Treaty of Versailles thus officially ending World War I. The first general assembly of the League was held in Geneva on November 15, 1920.
In 1922 it introduced the Nansen passport, an internationally recognized identity card for stateless refugees.
The League was successful in dealing with minor conflicts throughout the 1920s. However, it proved unable to prevent the larger crises of the 30s, or World War II. The League formally dissolved itself on April 18, 1946 and transferred its mission to the United Nations.
Structure of the League
The League had a Council, which began with four permanent members, United Kingdom, France, Italy and Japan and non-permanent members. It had an Assembly in which each member was represented. Both of these required unanimous votes for any action to be taken; the members were not always represented in Geneva. The League was also involved in many other agencies and the Permanent Court of International Justice which later became the International Court of Justice.
Eamon de Valera was the President of Council of the League of Nations at its 68th and Special Sessions, September and October 1932 and President of the Assembly of the League of Nations, 1938.
General Secretaries of the League
- Sir James Eric Drummond (U.K.) 1920 - 1933
- Joseph Avenol (France) 1933 - 1940
- Seán Lester (Ireland) 1940 - 1946
Reasons for perceiving the League as a failure
- It lacked any armed forces.
- Unanimous vote was required.
- A number of major countries were not included:
- Even though president Woodrow Wilson had been a driving force behind the League of Nations, the United States never joined, after its Senate refused to ratify the Treaty of Versailles and on January 19, 1919 voted not to join the League.
- Germany was a member only between 1926 and 1933.
- Japan and Italy began as permanent members, but left in 1932 and 1937, respectively.
- The USSR joined only in 1934, and was expelled on December 14, 1939 for aggression, after it invaded Finland.
- Ineffectuality in specific situations, notably the mid-1930s crisis over Italy's invasion of Abyssinia.
- A non-permanent council and assembly made for slow decisions.
- The most important members protected their respective self-interests.
- Covenant of the League of Nations
- League of Nations Photo archive
- League of Nations: Successes and Failures