Effect of the League of Nations on Disarmament and Peacekeeping

To what extent was the League of Nations successful in achieving its aims of disarmament and international peacekeeping?

Focus Questions:

  • What was the structure and aims of the League of Nations?
  • What did the League do to achieve these aims and what was the result?
  • What lasting legacy has the League’s actions left on modern international relations?

The former president of the United States, Woodrow Wilson, advocated the need in his Fourteen Points of 1918 for a League of Nations to restore world peace. Draft statutes of the League’s Covenant were formulated at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, where there was a mutual goal in international peacekeeping and disarmament. It was inaugurated on the 10th January 1920, simultaneously with the Treaty of Versailles. The organisation was mostly successful in its dealings in the 1920s, but historians argue that there are a number of causes which resulted in the League’s dissolving into the United Nations in 1945, including the ineffectiveness during specific disputes due to the self-interest of nations, and its poor administration with unclear authority and peacekeeping force. Despite this, the League was quite successful in resolving some conflicts and built the philosophy of internationalism for which the UN is built upon. Hence, there are many factors that must be considered in judging the extent of success of the League in achieving its aims, but it is the enduring impact that the League has left through the work of internal non-political agencies to enhance modern international relations that accentuate the organisation’s significance.

One of the factors that contributed to the League’s failure was its ineffectiveness during specific disputes. In particular, the Abyssinia crisis of 1935 was a key illustration of the reluctance from the major powers to act decisively in response to aggression. Fascist leader of Italy, Benito Mussolini, idealised a restoration of a Roman Empire, and justified his 1935 invasion of Abyssinia among other African states as he felt his people deserved a better life with more territory, which could not be achieved through the restrictions imposed by the League (Dennett & Dixon, 2008, p553). The League Council’s decision to impose economic sanctions on Italy was inadequate, as it did not restrict the use of oil, and the expansion regime of Mussolini that continued exemplifies a weakness of the League in appeasement exercised in an effort to deter nations from disturbing the peace, rather than forcefully enacting the articles of the Covenant and protecting the minorities who were more vulnerable to superior domination (United Nations, 2009). The reluctance of the power of Britain and France to challenge Mussolini may have resulted from their desire to retain him as an ally against Germany’s Hitler rather than to incite more violence and disorder, as the League was criticized for their sanctions and level of authority over these smaller states (Lowe, 1982). However, it was only when Mussolini forced Britain and France to war that the powers acted so that Ethiopia could finally reclaim their rightful territory and maintain self-governance (United Nations, 2009). Theoretically, the League should have responded by imposing forceful penalties on Italy to force their surrender of their regime, as Ethiopia was a member state, but the League’s own objective of collective security that it was built upon was outweighed by the interests of France and Britain in maintaining the Treaty of Versailles (Merriman, 1996, p1221). Thus a flaw in the League was exposed through this notion of collective security, that although there was a call to act against Italy, the consequences for the Powers hesitating to act had to be equally taken into consideration with the various possibilities of what could eventuate. For instance, supporting collective security could force Mussolini to join Hitler, yet the rise of Japan and Hitler to dominate Asia and Europe respectively was inevitable, but the humanitarian responsibility to prevent aggression was disregarded, the prime concern in global peace (Murray, 1948, p192). Traynor explains (1988) A. J. P. Taylor’s statement cited in The Origins of the Second World War of 1961 that the German movement into the Rhineland “marked the end of the devices for security which had been set up after the First World War,” with the League “a shadow,” as the Locarno Pact was destroyed and Germany was able to rebuild their army. The only possible solution to this would be sending in forces to retake control of Rhineland, as sanctions as previously seen were ineffective, and a nonchalant approach as seen here inspired Hitler to continue his regime (Traynor, 1988, p32). The Manchuria crisis of 1931 expresses a further reluctance to hold liable and impose restrictions on powers, as Japan continued conflict and failed to withdraw their invasion despite Chinese appeals (United Nations, 2009). The establishment of the Lytton Commission to investigate was meaningless as Japan eventually withdrew from the League, and invaded China again in 1937 (League of Nations, 1937), with no intervention from  Britain or France because a trade boycott would undoubtedly result in war and increase devastation in their own countries (Lowe, 1982, p143). Conflict intensified in 1937 with the Japanese invasion of China, and the League of Nations was asked to intervene with Ecuador’s delegate Quevedo arguing (1937), “What hope can there be in similar cases in the future of help from the League of Nations for other weaker and less wealthy countries, in which other States do not stand to lose anything and have no special interests at stake?” The report delivered by the League’s Far East Advisory Committee to the Assembly condemned Japan’s occupation and promoted humanitarian support to China in restoring peace and independence (League of Nations, 1937), however as Japan was now a non-member, it had no overarching influence on them, and the Japanese Empire continued their aggression in their quest to dominate over Asia, taking over Hong Kong, Singapore and Indochina, and threatening the peace of Australia. Thus the League was seen somewhat as unsuccessful in achieving its aims due to the unclear methods of conflict resolution among powers that took into account the interest of all nations.

Get help with your essay today, from our professional essay writers!

Qualified writers in the subject of history are ready and waiting to help you with your studies.

Order a Unique Copy of this Paper

Essay Creek is an academic writing service provided to you by, a London-based company.

  • Experience
    Helping students successfully for 11 years.
  • Confidentiality & Security
    Be sure your information will be kept confidential due to our secure service.
  • Quality & Reliability
    8.5 out of 10 average quality score according to our customers' feedback. 97.45% of orders delivered on time.
  • Versatility
    478 active writers in 68 disciplines.
  • 100% money back guarantee
    You can always request a refund if you are not satisfied with the result.

Read more about us

Our team of writers is comprised of people with necessary academic writing skills and experience in various fields of study.

  • Skilled writers only
    We carefully choose writers to employ, paying attention to their skills and abilities.
  • Competence
    Your order will be assigned to a competent writer who specializes in your field of study.
  • In-depth knowledge
    Our writers know both peculiarities of academic writing and paper formatting rules.
  • Motivation
    We keep updated on results our writers show, motivating them to constantly improve their performance.

Read more about our writers

  • Testimonials
    Our clients' testimonials prove we're doing everything right.

Check for yourself

  • Sample essays
    The best way to understand how well our writers do their work is to view sample essays written by them.

View samples

  • Our Free Essay Tools
    Even more opportunities to improve your academic papers.

Bibliography Generator
Words to Pages Converter
Words to Minutes Converter
College GPA Calculator
Thesis statement generator