“On balance the league of nations proved to be a failure in the 1920’s.” How far do you agree with this statement? Explain. 10 marks.
The League of Nations was the brainchild of USA’s president, Woodrow Wilson, and was one of his suggested 14 points that followed the Treaty of Versailles. The League was based on a covenant, a set of 26 articles, which all the members had to follow. The main structure of the League was set in the form of The Assembly and the Council, of which there were four permanent members, Britain, France, Italy and Japan. It was managed by mandates, and had many aims and duties, including the administration of plebiscites and the settlement of border disputes caused by new nations. The League believed in ensuring collective security, meaning the members would act collectively to prevent war and the causes of war, by defending nations both large and small. They hoped to discourage aggression and encourage countries to cooperate, especially in business and trade. The League also hoped to achieve disarmament, and improve living and working conditions of people in all parts of the world.
The League had many opportunities to meet its aims during the 1920’s. Despite cynics’ opinions of the League of Nations, many of its actions during this period were successful. For example, the Aaland Islands’ crisis. The Aaland Islands were two islands in the Baltic Sea, half way between Sweden and Finland. Both nations claimed to the islands, and in order to try and resolve the situation they invited the League to reach a judgement. The League decided to give islands to Finland, and though Sweden accepted this judgement grudgingly, it did accept it. This was, on the whole, a successful result, as the nations in the dispute accepted the League’s authority to make final decisions over the matter.
In addition to this, the League of Nations showed it could compromise in difficult circumstances, for example in the case of Upper Silesia, an area that contained both Poles and Germans. Poland and Germany were both determined to acquire the territory. The League arranged to hold a plebiscite so the people in Upper Silesia people could vote on which country should gain this territory. The plebiscite was held March 1921, and the people voted to become German. However, many League members felt this was rewarding Germany with too much too soon after the war and so the League decided to share area. This compromise caused bitterness with Germany, but the League did as best as it could in a difficult situation, and it was, overall, an effective decision.
The League dealt very effectively with smaller nations, and showed this during the Greek and Bulgaria dispute. The border between Greece and Bulgaria had become source of tension over the years. After a series of violent incidents, Greeks invaded Bulgaria in October 1925. The League intervened effectively, condemned the Greek action and pressurised them to withdraw. This action was very successful, as it brought a return to peace.
In another successful action during the 1920’s. the League helped with the economic reconstruction of Austria/Hungary, showing its ability to be fair. Austria/Hungary faced bankruptcy as its economy hadn’t recovered from the First World War, and was burdened with reparations payments. The League arranged international loans for the countries, and sent Commissioners to supervise how the money was spent, temporarily taking over the economic management of the two countries. Austria/Hungary were able to begin economic recovery.
The League of Nation’s successes weren’t just of a political or economic nature. The League dealt very effectively in commissions to sort out health, housing and slavery problems. The League did a tremendous amount of work in getting refugees and former prisoners of war back to their homelands after the war. returning about 400,000 prisoners in the first few years after the war.
In the refugee crisis in Turkey,...