If we understand the Berlin and Brussels Acts and the experience of the Congo Free State as representing the internationalization of the idea of trusteeship, then we might understand the League of Nations mandates system as representing its institutionalization in international society. The purpose of this chapter is to examine the current of ideas from which the institutionalization of trusteeship arose out of the debates concerning the disposal of German colonies conquered during the First World War, and the subsequent compromise that resulted in the creation of the mandates system. It will become evident, then, that the mandates system stands as a response to the problem of ordering relations of Europeans and non-Europeans by reconciling the obligations of trusteeship and the search for national security in a single institutional arrangement. The victorious Allied powers divided Germany's colonial possessions amongst themselves, in no small part for reasons of national security, but in assuming administrative responsibility for these territories they also accepted the oversight of 'international machinery' to ensure that the work of civilization was being done.
The founders of the League of Nations believed, at least outwardly, that they had broken with the 'discredited' principles of nineteenth century power politics by introducing into world affairs an entirely new way of ordering the relations of states. Critics of the League of Nations, such as E. H. Carr, denounced this claim of novelty as a foolish, though well-meaning, delusion. In his seminal volume, The Twenty Years' Crisis, Carr thoroughly ridiculed the great aspiration of the League's most ardent supporters: the attempt to realize perpetual peace by banishing power from the relations of states and substituting in its place the liberal virtues of discussion, persuasion, and consent. Power, he confidently asserted, would be neither absent nor incidental to the League of Nations, despite its commitment to the principles of legal