The First World War (1914-1918) caused horrible slaughter and destruction in the countries of Europe and Asia. It produced a horror of war and created an idea to set up an international organization which would prevent the outbreaks of wars in the future. As a result of such ideas, and as a result of such discussion in the Peace Conference in Paris, in 1919, an agreement was reached by the victorious governments to set up an international body to be called the League of Nations. An agreement was entered into for this purpose. It was called the covenant of League of Nations. The covenant described the purposes, the constitution and functions of the League of Nations. On January 10, 1920, the League of Nations was formally established, with Geneva, in Switzerland, as its headquarters.
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History of League of Nations:
The league did not live long. After a period of nearly 20 years, it ceased to exist, when the Second World War broke out. The membership of the League of Nations varied from time to time. At first it consisted of 42 member states, for example, England, France, Japan and other. Germany was excluded because she started the war. Russia was not allowed to join it, because it did not serve her isolationist policy. After the failure of the league to check Italian and Japanese aggressions and conquests in 1935 and in 1937, it was practically dead. The outbreak of the World War two put an end to the existence of the league.
Aims of the League:
The covenant of the league declared that the aims or purposes of the league were three: namely
To preserve peace in the world
To settle international disputes by peaceful methods and not by war
To promote cooperation among the peoples and nations of the world, so as to increase welfare and prosperity of these nations.
The machinery of the league consisted of an assembly, a council, and a secretariat. Before World War II (1939-1945), the assembly convened regularly at Geneva in September; it was composed of three representatives for every member state, each state having one vote. The council met at least three times each year to consider political disputes and reduction of armaments; it was composed of several permanent members, France, Britain, Italy, Japan, and later Germany and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and several nonpermanent members elected by the assembly. The decisions of the council had to be unanimous. The secretariat was the administrative branch of the league and consisted of a secretary general and a staff of 500 people. Several other bodies were allied with the league, such as the Permanent Court of International Justice, called the World Court, and the International Labor Organization.
Members of League of Nation:
The Countries Involved In The League of Nations Are As Follows:
British Empire separate membership for:
Union of South Africa
Irish Free State
Never truly effective as a peacekeeping organization, the lasting importance of the League of Nations lies in the fact that it provided the groundwork for the UN. This international alliance, formed after World War II, not only profited by the mistakes of the League of Nations but borrowed much of the organizational machinery of the league.
The Rise of League of Nation
When League of Nations came into being, it did so much work and rose day by day. Some of its achievements by rising are as following:
Settlement of Disputes:
The League quickly proved its value by settling the Swedish-Finnish dispute over the Åland Islands (1920-21), guaranteeing the security of Albania (1921), rescuing Austria from economic disaster, settling the division of Upper Silesia (1922), and preventing the outbreak of war in the Balkans between Greece and Bulgaria (1925). In addition, the League extended considerable aid to refugees; it helped to suppress white slave and opium traffic; it did pioneering work in surveys of health; it extended financial aid to needy states; and it furthered international cooperation in labor relations and many other fields.
Try to prevent the outbreak of another war:
The league tried to prevent the outbreak, by outlawing war as an instrument of national policy of the sovereign state. An agreement not to resort to war by all great powers of the world was entered into, called the Locarno pact.
Social and Humanitarian Achievemnt:
The league of nations had several social and humanitarian achievements to its credit. Its health committee endeavored to fight against such cruel diseases all over the world, as malaria, cancer, syphilis, T.B and others. Further, the league had also controlled the trade and sale of such injurious things as opium. The Geneva agreement of 1925 proved that the retail, sale, import and distribution of opism shall be the monopoly of the states. Another committee of the league, called the permanent committee on arts and letters, performed two services, namely, it conserved the masterpieces of arts and letters and promoted intellectual cooperation. The league dealt with the important questions of labor and of the relations between the workers and employers. These functions were performed by the international labor organization (I.L.O). It is one of the bodies which has survived the league.
The League grew in its membership, from 42 in 1920 to over 60 by 1929. More countries were showing commitment to the principle of peace-keeping.
During the first ten years of its existence, the league had several achievements to its credit. It settled several international disputes between states and nations and thus prevented the outbreak of war between them. During its twenty years of existence, the league settled thirteen political disputes. Among them the first important dispute was a quarrel between Italy and Greece over the island of Corfu in 1923. The quarrel was amicably settled by the intervention of the league. The second serious dispute was between Greece and Bulgaria over their boundaries in 1924. Both countries were about to fight but the dispute settled by the league peacefully.
Improved Relations with Germany:
League increasingly seen as a peace-keeping organization rather than a winner’s club, Germany was allowed to join the League in 1926.
Fall OF LEAGUE OF NATIONS
The success of League of Nations can be judge on the basis of its handling disputes and international conflicts incidents. The authenticity of any organization can be checked by its utility of solving political and social issues.
During 1920’s League provided a useful but modest addition to international diplomacy where round of negotiations and diplomatic relations develop. Stress was made on sitting together of nations for the settlement of disputes. Security was provided to frontiers and problems of Disarmaments were solved. but unfortunately League was helping and solving matters of minor states because of influence of BIG POWERS on world League failed to implement its will on them which gave a true picture of its contradiction of covenant.
League failed in its main object of maintaining peace in the world. In spite of its efforts for two decades , the whole world was involved in a war in 1939. By that time, the machinery of the League Of Nations had completely broken down.
The failure of League Of Nations can be attributed to many causes.
1. Absence Of Great Powers :
It was unfortunate that the covenant of the League of Nations was made a part parcel of the peace settlement. It would have been better if it had kept separate. There were many states which consider the Treaty Of Versailles as a treaty of revenge, and were not prepared to ratify the same. By not ratifying the treaty, they refused to be the members of the League. The absence of the great powers from the international organization weakened her and was partly responsible for its ultimate failure. Japan, Germany and Italy also left the League and their defection must have weakened the League.
2. Domination Of France and England:
It was felt that the League Of Nations was dominated by England and France and consequently the other states began to lose their confidence in that organization.
3. Rise of Dictatorship:
The rise of dictatorship in Italy, Japan and Germany also weakened the chances of success of the League of Nations. Japan was determined to acquire fresh territories and her unscrupulous patriotism threw to the winds of all principles of international law and morality. If the League was prepared to condone her fault of conquering Manchuria. She was prepared to give up her membership of the League and that is exactly what she actually did. When the League of Nations decided to take action against Italy on account for her aggression in Abyssinia, Italy left the league. In the wake up spreading dictatorship states continued to be the members of the League so long as their national interest were not in any way endangered and sacrificed.
4. Limitations of Legal Methods:
The League Of Nations demonstrated the limitations of the legal methods. The League was fairly efficient in structure and probably would have worked if there had existed a realization of a community of interest.
Law grows out of public opinion cannot operate in disjunction with it. In the case of League law proposed and opinion disposed.
According to Lincoln:
“Public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment nothing can be fail ; without it nothing can be succeed. “
5. Loss of Faith In League:
Small nations lost their faith in the effectiveness of The League to save them from any aggression. The principle of collective security was not applied in actual practice. Each state decided to follow her own policy, the principle of security weakened and thus there was nothing to check the aggressive policy of Hitler.
6. Constitutional Defect:
The League of Nations failed because of certain constitutional defects. In the cases of disputes brought before the council of the League under Article 11, decisions of the council had to be unanimous in order to adjudge a nation guilty of having violated the covenant by resort to war or unjustifiable aggression, In Article 15. If the decisions were not unanimous verdict under Article 11, the disputing parties were free to resume the hostilities after a period of 3 months. By allowing exceptions, the covenant seemed to assume that was remained the normal solution of international disputes.
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7. Narrow Nationalism:
Narrow nationalism was still the dominant among the peoples of the world. France was increasingly concerned with her national security, while Great Britain considered that problem less urgent than promoting commerce by fostering international trade. Japan intoxicated by her emergence as a world power, while Italy was desperate to redress her damage. Germany was indulged to retain her national prestige even at the cost of an aggressive military adventure.
8. Lack Of Mutual Co-Operation:
The member of the league lack mutual co-operation which is always essential for the success of an organization. For France the League was an instrument for providing her security from Germany. On the other hand Great Britain wanted League protecting her imperialist interest. Hitler found League a great hurdle on the way of rise of Germany.
9. Separate Lines of Thoughts:
The League was the offspring of a marriage of two separate lines of thoughts.
In one of these which were developed my Mr. Taft and others in the U.S. The stress was on organized forces. There has to be “League of enforced peace”
On the other hand the British attitude was extremely hesitant in its approach to the nation as enforced peace.
If the fourteen points of Woodrow Wilson are consulted we find that a general association of nation is projected “for the purpose of affording mutual guarantees of political independence and territorial integrity”
In its proposal the world peace is not mentioned and international co-operation is restricted to one limited object.
These two inconsistent principles were incorporated in the fabric of the League itself and no wonder it failed.
10. The Depression undermined the League:
The League was weakened by the Great Depression that swept the world after 1929. At a time of economic crisis governments were less interested in what happened in faraway places. Japan and Italy were able to invade other countries without being punished effectively by the League.
11. Manchurian Crisis:
On the night of Sep. 18-19, 1931 some Japanese soldiers making an attempt to blow off the railway line near Mukdan. Japan took full advantage of this minor incident and on the 18th Sep, 1931 she invaded Manchuria and also occupied all Japanese cities north of Mukdan. League of Nations failed to implement sanctions on Japan and on March 27, 1933 Japan decided to withdraw her membership of League of Nation.
According to most of the thinkers , existence of League Of Nations was at wrong time .Then , all the nations was indulge in the concept of narrow nationalism and sovereignty. Situation would have been much more different had except the concept of Internationalism.
It is wrong to believe League Of Nations done nothing, it paved the way of United Nations Organizations.
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