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

By F. S. Northedge | Go to book overview

12 Was failure inevitable?

I

When the victor Powers began to reorganise the world in 1945 after the final surrender of Axis forces, they had no doubt that something similar to the League of Nations must be formed again to maintain peace and act as an umbrella for international cooperation. It was all too obvious that the League had failed to prevent the outbreak of war in September 1939 and that the new world organisation would need to be created on vastly different fines. The League system and its history seem to have been examined in detail by none of the victorious governments. Nevertheless, it was felt that its basic faults must be corrected in the new United Nations Organisation.

One of the most serious of these was the League's lack of universality, those menacing empty chairs marked with the names of Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States for all or part of the League's history. The Soviet Union, on the other hand, had played an opposite role in the League from the first three of these absentee states. Its communist revolution in November 1917 created a rift between itself and the Entente Powers, who dominated the Geneva system, and Russia remained outside and highly suspicious of the League and its activities. When that country joined the League in 1934, however, it became one of its most enthusiastic supporters until expelled for its attack on Finland in the Winter War of 1939-40. Hence, there was no question that the ideological division, which sprang into existence between East and West almost from the moment that the Second World War ended, should not interfere with the formation of a United Nations Security Council in which the core would be provided by the five great victor states, Britain, China, France, the Soviet Union and the United States. As though to underline the essentiality of these

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

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Foreword vi
  • Preface ix
  • 1 - The World before the League 1
  • 2 - Framing the Covenant 25
  • 3 - The Covenant Reviewed 46
  • 4 - Beginnings and Setbacks 70
  • 5 - The System Takes Shape 98
  • 6 - The Lure of Disarmament 113
  • 7 - Manchuria: the Covenant Defied 137
  • 8 - The Betterment of Life 165
  • 9 - The Mandates System 192
  • 10 - The Abyssinian Disaster 221
  • 11 - The Final Years 255
  • 12 - Was Failure Inevitable? 278
  • Abbreviations 293
  • Notes 294
  • Bibliography 311
  • Appendix A 317
  • Appendix B 328
  • Appendix C 329
  • Index 330
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