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League of Nations

The League of Nations was an international organization established on January 25, 1919 by part I of the Treaty of Versailles, founded with the intentions of reducing armaments, settling disputes between countries and maintaining living conditions. This was largely motivated by the bloodshed during World War I. While the League failed to prevent World War II, it was successful in dealing with minor conflicts throughout the 1920s. 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 League formally dissolved itself on April 18, 1946 and transfered its mission to the United Nations.

Structure of the League The League had a Council, which began with four permanent members, Great Britain, 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.

Reasons for perceiving the League as a failure

  • It lacked any armed forces.
  • Unanimous vote was required.
  • Major countries 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. Italy and Japan began as permanent members, but left in 1937 and 1932, respectively. Germany was only a member between 1926 and 1933. The USSR joined in 1934, it was expelled for aggression in 1939 when it invaded Finland.
  • The exclusion of the Japanese proposed Racial Equality Clause from the League's Covenant which crippled the League's moral authority in the view of most historians.
  • Previous failures showed it to be ineffectual: Italy's invasion of Abyssinia was one of the most significant.
  • A non-permanent council and assembly made for slow decisions.
  • Self-interest of most-important members.

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