What were the successes and failures of the League of Nations in the 1920s?
The League of Nations could stop small wars and improved some people’s lives. But it could not defend the Treaty of Versailles, get disarmament, or stop powerful countries. It stopped some wars – e.g. it arbitrated between Sweden and Finland over the Aaland Islands (1921) and stopped the invasion of Bulgaria by Greece (1925). In 1928, the League arranged the Kellogg-Briand Pact, which outlawed war. The League also took 400,000 Prisoners of War home and set up refugee camps. The Health Committee worked against leprosy. The League closed down four Swiss drugs companies, and attacked slave owners. However, there were also failures. The League sometimes failed to enforce the Treaty of Versailles (e.g., the Poles captured Vilna in 1920, and Lithuania seized Memel in 1923). The League could not stop powerful nations (e.g., in 1923, when France invaded the Ruhr, and Italy occupied Corfu). Also, the ILO failed to bring in a 48-hour week, and both disarmament conferences failed – in 1923 (because Britain objected) and in 1931 (because Germany walked out).
The League of Nations aimed to stop wars, improve people’s lives and jobs, encourage disarmament and enforce the Treaty of Versailles.
Judged against these aims, the League was quite successful in the 1920s. It stopped border disputes turning into wars. In Silesia in 1921 it held a plebiscite and suggested a partition, which stopped a war between Germany and Poland. It arbitrated between Sweden and Finland over the Aaland Islands in 1921 – its investigation showed that the islands belonged to Finland. When the League rejected Turkey’s claim to Mosul, a part of Iraq (a British mandate), Turkey agreed. Finally, when Greece invaded Bulgaria in 1925, the League ordered Greece to withdraw, which it did. The highest point of the League’s work was the...
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