Aims of the League
Structure of the League
Agreements that helped the League
The Washington Conference 1921: Britain, France and the USA agreed to limit their naval sizes relative to each other
The Dawes Plan 1924: Put American loans into Germany. Boosted jobs and industry. The basis for Golden Era
Locarno Treaties 1925: 7 nations agreed on borders, including Germany: LON was ratified
The Kellog-Briand Pact 1925: 65 nations agreed that peaceful negotiations would settle disputes. Led by British and French foreign ministers
The League in the 1920s
Pictures courtesy ofsupakitmod, Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee, creativedoxfoto,
Poland and Lithuania both wanted the city of Vilna. Poland then marched their troops in. LON called for a plebiscite. Poland disagreed and it didn’t happen. Lithuania remained in a state of war with Poland until 1927! Not a successful piece of business by the League of Nations
Upper Silesia, 1921
Upper Silesia was a part of Germany that - after the First World War - was split ethnically between Germans and Poles. Some clamoured for Polish rule, others for German. The debate was taken to the League of Nations, who decided to hold a plebiscite (vote). It was a close run vote, and no majority answer was given. As a result, since the areas who wanted Polish rule were closer to Poland, the area was split along regional lines, thus placating both sides.
The Aaland Islands 1921
Quite why Sweden decided that they wanted these tiny islands is a little confusing, but for some reason Sweden demanded this collection of Scandinavian islands in 1921, even though they officially belonged to Finland. Finland appealed to the LON. The League delved into its history books and discussed the situation with both countries, before deciding it should remain with Finland. However, the Islands are allowed to retain their culture and heritage, which is more Swedish
The League of nations received many complaints of slave labour on the American Firestone plantation, in Liberia. THe LON sent out investigators who agreed but who also claimed that the government was corrupt and so nothing could be done. The President of Liberia resigned. The League did nothing more.
Italy and Greece came close to war over Corfu.
Albania and Greece were having a border dispute. Both claimed the same land. Italian LON representatives were sent out to solve the case.
When one –Tellini—was murdered in Greek territory, Italy retaliated by bombing Greek Corfu! Italy demanded compensation. LON agreed and Greece was punished
Geneva Protocol 1924
This was an agreement which all countries would sign, promising to take any international dispute to the LON. This came after Italy had taken matters into their own hands with Corfu. Britain and France created it but a general election in Britain meant there was a change in government and so the treaty was never passed! It was a hollow agreement.
Skirmishes broke out between Greek and Bulgarian troops at their mutual border. Bulgaria evacuated its troops and complained directly to the LON. The LON acted quicly; Greece was forced to pay compensation and left Bulgaria.
This was the biggest test - and failure -for the League. It all started in 1931 when the Japanese government claimed that the South Manchurian Railway (a Japanese used railway in semi-independent Manchuria) had been sabotaged by the Chinese.
Stage 1: Action
The Japanese sent in ground and air troops and soldiers used brutal tactics - such as at the infamous 'rape of Nan King'. They quickly set up a puppet government and claimed they were 'restoring order' to a chaotic region.
But the Japanese generals pressed on, seeing an advantage, despite their government's instructions to stop. They bombed Shanghai and when China appealed to the League, told the League it was simply a local dispute.
The League had to act. Unfortunately, they sent Lord Lytton as their reporter.... on a boat. It took him a year to get to Manchuria; September 1932.
Stage 2: Reaction
Lord Lytton quickly concluded that Japan had been in the wrong and that Manchuria was rightfully Japanese. The League decided to take it to a vote, whilst Japane just pressed on deeper into China.
The vote came out in favour of China. Disgusted, the Japanese government - ruled by the Divine Emperor - just stormed out of the League.
The League had to plan action; sanctions were discussed, but this was a time of hardship and no one wanted to lose valuable markets after the Great Depression. Everyone volunteered each other for sanctions, no one did it. Military action was also not taken up; it would take a whole year just to get near Japan, by which time they would be ready, whilst only the USA and USSR had the might to take on Japan... and they weren't in the League.
Instead, the LON decided to argue it was a 'special' case, that Japan deserved differential treatment as it was bringing civilisation to a chaotic region. Mussolini and Hitler watched on with glee.
If the Japanese got away with murder (literally) in Manchuria, the Italians went one better (or worse) in Abyssinia. Abyssinia - modern day Ethiopia - was a country with a rich cultural heritage, dating back to BC and the Queen of Sheeba. In the twentieth century it was ruled by Haile Selassie.
Over in Italy, Mussolini was building a 'New Rome', and needed raw materials and an empire to fund his ever-growing military. But he knew he couldn't just invade any old country: he needed an excuse.
Which was when he remembered that Abyssinia had 'humiliated' Italy in 1896 when the Italians had tried to conquer the country. Here was a perfect opportunity to avenge that defeate.
The excuse came with a dispute at Wal-Wal when some Ethiopian and Italian forces clashed. Mussolini readied his army, Selassie went straight to the League of Nations.
The League of Nations called Mussolini in, and he played their game... all the meanwhile dispatching his forces to Africa. Britain and France pretended not to notice... after all they wanted an ally against the increasingly militaristic Hitler. In fact, they even signed the Stressa Pact between them all promising to stand up to German agression. Abyssinia was not mentioned.
When the British and French public found out, there was a great outcry for Selassie. Pressurized, Britain and France offer Mussolini part of Abyssinia. He rejects it and launches a full scale invasion.
The League discusses sanctions and bans all arms sales to Italy. But this is far, far too late. They also failed to close the Suez Canal which would have forced Italy right round Africa. Without sanctions from the USA - where Italy got most of their supplies - these were all useless though.
Meanwhile, Hoare and Laval (the British and French foreign ministers) plead with Mussolini behind the scenes, promising to give him 2/3rds of it in exchange for calling off the invasion. The Plan is leaked, the governments are disgraced and poor Selassie could do nothing but watch as he became the last living Emperor of his country.
Since no action is taken, th US increased oil sales to Italy. The League just resigns itself to defeat. On 2 May 1936 Selassi was forced into exile