The League of Nations: Its Life and Times, 1920-1946

By F. S. Northedge | Go to book overview
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Foreword

Was the 'failure' of the League of Nations inevitable? Was any general collective security system, under which many states unite their efforts to control any state anywhere which breaks the peace, bound to be an impracticable enterprise?

Professor Northedge, who completed the manuscript of this study only a few months before his sudden death in March 1985 which so shocked his colleagues and many friends throughout the world, concludes, perhaps somewhat reluctantly, that it was. In a brilliant analysis of the pre-1914 international system 'The World before the League' he looks back rather nostalgically to an era in which traditional balance-of-power practices made the use of force more tolerated but more limited. Practices such as these were, in his mind, more in 'accord with the psychology of those who have to operate them' than experiments for the collective maintenance of peace as embodied in the Covenant or the Charter of the United Nations. This is Northedge, the perceptive political analyst of The International Political System ( 1976) and the enthralling lecturer on the Psychological Aspects of International Relations. For him, pacifist though he was, the traditional international political system based upon the balance of power 'has its faults, but it may have fewer faults than any alternative upon which the world could agree' ( 1976, p. 323).

In the very nearly 40 years which Fred Northedge spent in the Department of International Relations at LSE, first as a student, then as Lecturer and from 1968 as Professor, he never substantially shifted from this position. It was a position rooted in the historical perspective from which he viewed international relations and reflected in his impressive volume on British foreign

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