The Japanese conquest of Manchuria in 1931-32 and the League's inability to prevent or reverse it seriously undermined its standing as an instrument for the maintenance of peace. 1 There were, however, circumstances which helped to explain, if not excuse, the League's failure, especially the distance of Manchuria from the European great Powers which dominated the League, the ambiguity of the issues from which the Manchurian conflict arose and the elements of justification in the Japanese case, the distraction confronting the world at the time in the shape of the Great Depression. If Japan 'got away with it', it need not be taken for granted that the next aggressor would do the same. Nevertheless, precisely this was to happen in May 1936, when the Italian army made its entry into Addis Ababa, capital of the East African state of Abyssinia, which it had invaded on 3 October the previous year, and the Abyssinian Emperor, Haile Selassie, made his way to the French port of Djibuti on the Gulf of Aden and thence, by way of the Middle East, to London. There he was practically ignored by a British government which, only the previous November, had won a general election on a pledge to defend his kingdom against the invader. The League was compelled to call off the sanctions it had imposed on Italy under Article 16 of the Covenant, and this on the initiative of the British Foreign Secretary, Anthony Eden, who had led the sanctions movement at Geneva.
The blow suffered by the League was instant and fatal. It departed from the struggle to maintain the peace, being ignored in the Czechoslovak and Polish crises of 1938 and 1939 respectively, which raised the curtain on the Second World War. It was convened, shamefacedly, in the winter of 1939-40 to condemn the