(Really) Old News Presents: The League of Nations

by Teddy Walker

On November the 15, 1920, The League of Nations held its first general assembly in Geneva, Switzerland, ten months after its creation as part of the Treaty of Versailles. The League was to serve as a global coalition of nations dedicated to the advancing of peace and globalization. The League was eventually disbanded and was replaced by the United Nations after the second world war.

The League of Nations was initially proposed by Woodrow Wilson, the 28th president of the United States. Though,due to largely isolationist policies and opposition from congress on the grounds of “Europe is smelly”(politically complex and potentially very expensive) , the United States was never a member of the League. Multiple presidents tried to convince the nation to join, but despite significant public support, congress prevented the U.S. from joining. They also limited cooperation with the league fearing that regular participation would make the U.S. a member in everything but name.

At its founding, the League of nations consisted of 42 member states and a number of mandates. Mandates were former German colonies and areas of the former Ottoman Empire that were freed as part of the Treaty of Versailles. They were governed by members of the League until such repair and development could be made so the mandate could become a free standing, globalized nation (At least in theory, some became client states of other nations because imperialism is fun). Multiple other nations joined and left as the years went on and the League reached a peak membership of 58 in late 1934 after Ecuador entered. The League was not able to retain a large membership in part because of its lack of ability to enforce its decisions. While some of the world’s most powerful nations were members of the League, the League itself possessed no military and few resources, and largely depended on nations like Great Britain to enforce decisions. This ineffectiveness caused many nations to leave seeing as they were investing resources into an organization that depended on world powers agreeing. Many historians hold that the League would have been far more effective had the United States convinced itself to join. The lack of a major world power lead to an ineffective league that was unable to do what it set out to. As Benito Mussolini, former Italian dictator, said in response to a League accusation of Italian attacks on red cross tents: “The league is very well when sparrows shout, but no good when eagles fall out”.

The League was officially disbanded in April, 1946, shortly after the second world war. After the world realized that a global coalition of nations could prevent things such as world wars from happening, they decided to create League of Nations 2: The United Nations, now with political functionality (it’s just called the United Nations, but the other, VERY unofficial, name is more fun).

Sources:

https://history.state.gov/milestones/1914-1920/league

http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/modern-world-history-1918-to-1980/league-of-nations/

Article written by Teddy Walker, published on  February 10th, 2017

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