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date: 18 August 2017

The United States and the League of Nations

Summary and Keywords

Although the League of Nations was the first permanent organization established with the purpose of maintaining international peace, it built on the work of a series of 19th-century intergovernmental institutions. The destructiveness of World War I led American and British statesmen to champion a league as a means of maintaining postwar global order. In the United States, Woodrow Wilson followed his predecessors, Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, in advocating American membership of an international peace league, although Wilson’s vision for reforming global affairs was more radical. In Britain, public opinion had begun to coalesce in favor of a league from the outset of the war, though David Lloyd George and many of his Cabinet colleagues were initially skeptical of its benefits. However, Lloyd George was determined to establish an alliance with the United States and warmed to the league idea when Jan Christian Smuts presented a blueprint for an organization that served that end.

The creation of the League was a predominantly British and American affair. Yet Wilson was unable to convince Americans to commit themselves to membership in the new organization. The Franco-British-dominated League enjoyed some early successes. Its high point was reached when Europe was infused with the “Spirit of Locarno” in the mid-1920s and the United States played an economically crucial, if politically constrained, role in advancing Continental peace. This tenuous basis for international order collapsed as a result of the economic chaos of the early 1930s, as the League proved incapable of containing the ambitions of revisionist powers in Europe and Asia. Despite its ultimate limitations as a peacekeeping body, recent scholarship has emphasized the League’s relative successes in stabilizing new states, safeguarding minorities, managing the evolution of colonies into notionally sovereign states, and policing transnational trafficking; in doing so, it paved the way for the creation of the United Nations.

Keywords: League of Nations, international organization, World War I, Woodrow Wilson, David Lloyd George, Theodore Roosevelt, Locarno Treaties, mandate system, minority rights, transnationalism

Woodrow Wilson and the American Origins of the League

The establishment of the League of Nations after World War I marked a watershed in the development of international government. After the Napoleonic wars, while European statesmen constructed a Great Power Concert to maintain Continental stability, 19th-century internationalists had floated alternative programs for peace leagues, arbitration, international law, and disarmament. As the roles of governments expanded throughout the century, states had set up intergovernmental organizations to ensure cooperation across borders on particular issues. Notable examples were the International Telegraph Union and the Universal Postal Union, both established in the late 19th century. At the turn of the 20th century, the International Peace Conference was convened at The Hague and created the Permanent Court of Arbitration. This became the first instrument for resolving interstate conflict when it began work in 1902. However, its limitations as a tool for preventing great-power conflict were exposed when proposals for compulsory arbitration were defeated at the Second Hague Conference in 1907. Plans for a third conference in 1914 were shattered by the outbreak of global war that same year. Over the next four years, more than 20 million people died. Europe’s first major conflict in almost a century marked the collapse of the Concert of Europe system. Furthermore, what was initially an inter-European conflict had sucked in a series of extra-European states and had been decided by the intervention of the United States. As a result, calls grew throughout the war for the construction of a new, permanent international organization to prevent war’s occurring on such a scale again. The most powerful advocate, and the figure on whom the hopes of millions of people for its realization came to rest, was U.S. President Woodrow Wilson.

At the war’s outset, it was by no means obvious that Wilson would emerge as the League’s standard bearer. For a start, he presided over a country that had stood aloof from Europe, the main arena of power politics, for much of the 19th century. His immediate predecessors, Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, had begun to involve the United States as an arbitrator in international affairs in the first decades of the 20th century. Roosevelt had won the Nobel Peace Prize for his mediation of the Russo-Japanese War, and had played a significant role in resolving the First Moroccan Crisis between France and Germany. Taft had pursued treaties of arbitration with Britain and Canada but had failed to convince the Senate to ratify them. Nevertheless, when the First World War broke out, Wilson’s insistence on American neutrality was in keeping with its dominant foreign policy tradition of political noninvolvement in European affairs. In 1914 there was no question of the United States involving itself in the war; the American people had no desire to become entangled in a European conflict, particularly when no American interests appeared to be at stake. However, the extent of the destruction, and the growing possibility that the United States might be drawn into the conflict, soon convinced Wilson that his country must take the lead in establishing a reformed international system. Consequently, he sought to educate an isolationist American general public in its global responsibilities, while simultaneously positioning his country as a potential mediator.

It was not Wilson, however, who introduced the idea of an international organization to ensure peace onto the American political scene. In his speech accepting the Nobel Prize for Peace in May 1910, Roosevelt had expressed a wish that “those great powers honestly bent on peace would form a League of Peace, not only to keep the peace among themselves, but to prevent, by force if necessary, its being broken by others.”1

Roosevelt did not develop that idea publicly again until shortly after the outbreak of the war. In a series of magazine articles, he called for the “great civilized nations which do possess force [to] combine by solemn agreement in a great World League for the Peace of Righteousness” and he insisted that the United States “become one of the joint guarantors of world peace under such a plan.” Roosevelt’s vision for an international organization rested on an “international police power” that ensured force backed up the League’s pronouncements.2 Its jurisdiction would be limited to commitments that the signatory states agreed to abide by. Other Republicans soon took up Roosevelt’s theme. In June 1915, a group of lawyers, publicists, and academics founded an organization called the League to Enforce Peace (LEP). Former President Taft was elected as its presiding officer. Its program rested on a more legalistic paradigm than Roosevelt’s league. The LEP platform urged the creation of a “league of nations” as a medium for states to resolve conflicts peacefully through international adjudication. If a member state went to war without submitting its case for arbitration, then the other states would commit to using economic and military force against it.3 The LEP quickly emerged as the most prominent and popular group advocating the league idea.

Although Wilson had begun to privately sketch out his own thoughts on the structure of the post-war world, he refrained from publicly discussing the league concept until May 27, 1916, when he delivered a speech to Taft’s LEP. In this address, Wilson outlined a more far-reaching transformation of international affairs than that proposed by Roosevelt or the LEP. The extent of the carnage had convinced Wilson that the establishment of “a new and more wholesome diplomacy” was necessary. He urged open diplomacy between nations, the right of peoples to select their own sovereignty, respect for the territorial integrity of all nations, and nonaggression. Furthermore, Wilson expressed confidence that Americans were prepared to join in “any feasible association of nations formed in order to realize these objects and make them secure against violation.”4 He wrote a similar commitment into the Democrats’ 1916 election platform. For the first time, the sitting president of the United States had publicly dedicated himself and his party to the league idea.

Following his narrow re-election victory, Wilson stepped up his efforts to mediate the war. After the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915, Wilson had pressured Germany into issuing a pledge renouncing unrestricted submarine warfare. However, in late 1916, reports had reached Wilson that Germany might soon reverse course. Determined to end the war before German submarines prompted U.S. intervention, Wilson privately urged both sides to state their peace terms and proposed American membership in a league of nations to help maintain post-war order. He followed this up in January 1917 with a speech to the Senate that called for a “peace without victory.” This concord would be based on a “covenant of cooperative peace” and backed up by “a force … so much greater than the force of any nation.” Wilson’s allusion to a league of nations was less explicit than in previous pronouncements. He recognized that his advocacy of American membership of the league had attracted the ire of isolationists. Furthermore, he was aware that his use of the concept to mediate the conflict had provoked scorn from erstwhile Republican supporters of an international organization, such as Roosevelt and Massachusetts Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, both pro-Allied partisans who initially favored a league but now regarded its promotion as untimely. Seeking to combat these critics, Wilson concluded his Senate address with a peroration that “the nations should with one accord adopt the doctrine of President Monroe as the doctrine of the world” and “that all nations henceforth avoid entangling alliance … [as] there is no entangling alliance in a concert of power.” In appealing to two of the most revered shibboleths in U.S. diplomacy, Wilson asserted that he was espousing “American principles, American policies.” Nor were these values purely the preserve of Americans; they were “the principles of mankind and must prevail.”5

The German response to Wilson’s message was an announcement that it would resume unrestricted submarine warfare. When this was followed by the interception of the Zimmerman telegram, in which Germany’s foreign minister proposed an alliance with Mexico in the event of a German-American conflict, and the sinking of three American merchant vessels by German U-boats, Wilson recognized that he had no alternative but to declare war. On April 2, 1917, Wilson addressed Congress. He claimed Germany’s submarine campaign constituted an act of “war against all nations,” that peace and justice were threatened by autocratic governments, in particular the Kaiser’s, and that the United States would fight “for the ultimate peace of the world and for the liberation of its peoples, the German people included.” Wilson professed that American aims were utterly selfless, seeking no material gain. The United States would fight for its ideals—democracy, the right of all people to have a voice in how they are governed, the protection of small nations, and “a universal dominion of right by such a concert of free peoples as shall bring peace and safety to all nations and make the world itself at last free.”6 The establishment of a reformed international system was integral to America’s war objectives.

Even while entering the war, Wilson revealed his determination to keep the United States apart from the intrigues of the Old World and the political ambitions of the Europeans. This resolve was strengthened after the Russian Bolsheviks seized power in November 1917 and published copies of secret Allied treaties, distributing war spoils, which they found in the tsarist archives. Wilson was convinced that he needed to set out a competing vision of what the conflict was being fought for, enhancing public morale in the United States and Allied nations, and appealing to the subjects of the Central Powers over the heads of their governments. Wilson had asked his closest adviser, Colonel House, to establish the Inquiry, a group of experts principally comprised of academics, to develop American plans for a future peace conference. The president now drew on their recommendations to outline a detailed program for the post-war world. The “Fourteen Points Address,” which Wilson delivered before Congress on January 8, 1918, is the most famous and concise expression of Wilson’s post-war peace plans. He called for open diplomacy rather than entangling alliances and secret treaties. American adherence to the Open Door would extend to a global pledge for “the establishment of equality of trade conditions among all nations.” Arms control and “freedom of navigation upon the seas” would help prevent future conflicts. Moreover, territorial adjustments would be based on the concept of national self-determination, derived from Wilson’s democratic ideal that all people were free to govern their own destiny. At the heart of Wilson’s post-war world would be a league of nations, affording “mutual guarantees of political independence and territorial integrity to great and small states alike.” In presenting the Fourteen Points to Congress, Wilson argued this was a “programme of the world’s peace [that] is our programme” and also “the only possible programme.”7 However, across the Atlantic, the British government was developing its own program.

The League as an Anglo-American Alliance

Ever since the outbreak of the war, British civil society groups had called for the establishment of an organization to manage international peace. An early proponent was the Union of Democratic Control, whose leaders included the noted Congo reform activist E. D. Morel, the future Labour prime minister Ramsay Macdonald, the economist J. A. Hobson, and the philosopher Bertrand Russell. They advocated an end to secret diplomacy, substantial international disarmament, greater democratic accountability in foreign policy, and the establishment of an “international council” to safeguard the peace.8 One of its members, the Cambridge classicist G. Lowes Dickinson, coined the term “league of nations” and then developed the idea further as the convenor of a separate association, the “Bryce Group,” named after its chairman, the Liberal peer James Bryce. Practical plans for a post-war international organization were also drawn up the former civil servant Leonard Woolf, on behalf of the Fabian Society, and published in the New Statesman in July 1915. Woolf asserted that the 19th-century institutions established to ensure intergovernmental cooperation in communications, trade, finance, and a range of other areas already provided a functional bureaucratic foundation for an international government.9 The League of Nations Society, established in 1916, built on Woolf’s work and published forty-two pamphlets over the next two years, laying out plans for the postwar international order. Throughout the war, a broad popular constituency emerged in favor of an international organization that would prevent bloodshed on the same scale ever occurring again. Consequently, demands grew for the British government to commit itself to the creation of a League of Nations after the war.

Some British politicians had begun thinking of international governance at around the time it became a public concern. Foreign Secretary Edward Grey was convinced that a great-powers conference could have averted war in July 1914. As he learned of Wilson’s sympathy for the league idea, Grey pushed the concept in his diplomatic cables with the administration as a means of bring the United States into the war on the Allied side. Another devotee was his deputy Lord Robert Cecil, who soon emerged as the most ardent supporter of the League in the British government. Other members of the Imperial War Cabinet were more skeptical and initially favored a Concert system based on that established after the Napoleonic Wars. In order to explore the subject in greater depth, British Prime Minister David Lloyd George established a committee chaired by Lord Phillimore. It produced a report that called for a “council of nations,” in which members foreswore war with one another, supported sanctions against nations that upset the peace, and committed themselves to arbitration. It also drew up a draft constitution containing principles that would ultimately match those in the League of Nations Covenant.10

Lloyd George was not particularly enthusiastic about the League, but he recognized its popular appeal. As a result, on January 5, 1918, in a speech to the Trades Union Congress outlining British war aims, he called for the “creation of some international organisation to limit the burden of armaments and diminish the probability of war.”11 Lloyd George’s terms for peace were very similar in tone and content to those articulated by Wilson in his “Fourteen Points Address,” delivered three days later. Both men were adherents to the liberal political philosophy espoused by the 19th-century British Prime Minister William Gladstone and drew on his legacy to combat the challenges posed by the World War. Lloyd George was keen to use this common heritage of Anglo-American liberalism to strengthen the relationship between the United States and the British Empire. The potential attraction of the League of Nations was that it could offer a mechanism, if designed correctly, for converting the wartime Anglo-American association into a post-war alliance.

Consequently, Lloyd George arranged for the Phillimore Report to be transmitted confidentially to the White House. However, British leaders were frustrated by Wilson’s refusal to allow the Report to be published and by his unwillingness to go beyond vague generalities in his proposals for the League. Nevertheless, British plans continued to develop. Just before the post-war Paris Peace Conference was due to convene, Wilson received an updated draft for the League from British authorities. The principal author of this proposal was the South African politician Jan Christian Smuts, a guerrilla commander who had fought against Britain in the Boer War but was now part of the British and Imperial War Cabinets. Soon after the end of the war, Smuts had written a pamphlet entitled The League of Nations: A Practical Suggestion, which called for extensive disarmament and outlined a blueprint for an executive council, assembly, and secretariat. Most radically, Smuts argued that the new international organization should assume responsibility for administering the former German colonies and new states that had emerged after the collapse of the Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian, and Russian empires.12 Privately, Smuts informed his Cabinet colleagues that he hoped that the United States would assume a protectorate over one of the European territories. This would ensure that the United States became an active player in European politics and help forge the Anglo-American alliance that was so important to many British policymakers.13 It was Smuts’s proposal for an international organization that received Lloyd George’s backing. Just as crucially, Smuts’s ideas appealed to Wilson, who read the pamphlet on his voyage to Paris and incorporated them into his own draft “Covenant.”14

Although Lloyd George was aware that the bulk of his cabinet still preferred the Concert of Vienna model to a permanent League of Nations, his decision to appoint Cecil and Smuts to serve as Britain’s representatives on the League Commission provided the basis for British and American cooperation. While in Paris, the British delegates interpreted their instructions liberally and used Wilson’s support to develop a more substantive League than their prime minister had intended. An amalgamated draft was drawn up by the two delegations that combined the ideas of Smuts, Cecil, and Wilson. This draft formed the basis for discussions that took place in the Commission over an eleven-day period in early February. The Commission, chaired by Wilson, included two representatives from each of the five major powers—the United States, Britain, France, Italy, and Japan—and one from each of nine smaller nations. Despite the Commission’s size, and although the French delegate Leon Bourgeois had developed his own ideas while chairing France’s committee on the League concept, the proceedings were dominated by Wilson and Cecil.

On February 14, Wilson presented the draft Covenant to a plenary session of the Conference, declaring “a living thing is born.” The Covenant reflected the ideals of its principal progenitors. A political rather than legalist organization, it was based on the tripartite division of powers in a parliamentary system. The Council, consisting of the great powers and four rotating smaller powers chosen by election, and an Assembly, in which all members were represented, served as the two chambers of the legislature. The League’s secretary-general presided as a weak executive. The Permanent Court of International Justice would eventually become the judicial branch when it was established in 1922. There were limitations to transplanting this democratic model to the international arena. The Assembly had no legislative capacity, and Council members could obstruct concerted action by their use of the veto. The feebleness of the secretariat was an indication that national sovereignty remained paramount. The Court’s jurisdiction was limited, and there was no means of compelling member states to submit their disputes to arbitration. Most critically, French demands for the League to have its own armed forces and general staff were rejected. Boycotts and sanctions were the League’s principal weapons. Furthermore, while the Council could recommend action against any nation that violated the Covenant, it relied on the will of its most powerful member states to enforce it. Nevertheless, for all its imperfections, the League’s creation signaled a new dawn in international politics. Perhaps most significantly, it contained the promise of the United States adopting a new role on the world stage, as the leader of a new, reformed international system.15

To Guarantee Civilization or to Abandon It

Commenting on Wilson’s bargaining position at Paris, the British economist John Maynard Keynes observed that, in addition to the president’s preeminent moral status, the Allies were militarily and financially dependent upon America: “Never had a philosopher held such weapons wherewith to bind the princes of the world.”16 In fact, Wilson was not as powerful as he appeared. The Allies no longer required American military assistance. The armistice was signed with the defeated Germany at the mercy of the Allies. American economic resources could not be brought to bear in Paris as Congress exercised fiscal control and believed the Allied war loans were “good and should be collected.”17 Wilson’s claim to speak on behalf of “world public opinion” was also undermined. The Republicans had won the midterm congressional elections, while in Europe, too, politicians calling for revenge against Germany achieved overwhelming electoral success. If Wilson withdrew from the conference, France would impose a Carthaginian peace. These obstacles meant Wilson was forced to make concessions. Rather than granting Germany a “place of equality among the peoples of the world,” as the Fourteen Points stipulated, a harsh settlement was dictated to it.18 Wilson conceded on reparations, Germany was held responsible for initiating the war, and self-determination was applied in a manner detrimental to it. Wilson’s opposition to “secret treaties” deprived Italy of territory, and Italian nationalism was inflamed. Similarly, Japanese nationalism was aroused when a proposal to include the principle of racial equality in the League Covenant was dismissed to placate British imperial leaders, most notably Australian Prime Minister William Hughes, and pro-segregation elements in Wilson’s own Democratic Party.

However, Wilson did realize a number of the Fourteen Points: Belgium was restored, France regained Alsace-Lorraine, an independent Poland was created, and a number of new nations were established in eastern Europe, based on national self-determination. A mandate system was devised, based on Smuts’s proposal; this served as a compromise between Wilson’s insistence that territories not be distributed as spoils and general consensus that these nations were not yet capable of standing alone. Under British and French pressure, Wilson agreed to recommend to Congress that the United States would aid in the reconstruction of the former Ottoman Empire by taking mandates for Armenia and Constantinople. The mandate system was enshrined under Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations, the organization that would police the postwar world. In Wilson’s view, the League would ensure “a definite guarantee of peace by word against aggression.” World order would no longer be dependent on balances of power, imperialism and arms races. While military force would be “in the background,” peace would depend “primarily and chiefly upon the moral force of the public opinion of the world.”19 Most importantly, American membership of the League would encourage the United States to assume a leadership role in world politics. Wilson believed that if the United States led the League, then the treaty’s defects could be amended “out of the atmosphere of war.”20

In making the League an indispensable feature of the treaty, Wilson was also conscious of ensuring Senate approval at home. Henry Cabot Lodge, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and responsible for mobilizing Republicans against Wilson in the Senate, was not irreconcilably opposed to the treaty. However, he would accept it only with certain reservations. Wilson was aware that compromise was necessary to prevent political failure and to save the treaty. In Paris, to appease domestic opposition, he inserted an escape clause into the League charter, removed domestic issues from the League’s remit, and secured exceptional status for the Monroe Doctrine. Despite Wilson’s efforts, Lodge would not support Article 10 of the League Covenant, a clause that came to be known as “collective security.” Unless Congress was given explicit approval, Lodge would not agree “to preserve as against external aggression the territorial integrity and existing political independence” of all League members.21 While Wilson was willing to compromise, he could accept no alteration to Article 10, which was “the very heart and life of the Covenant itself.” Wilson believed Lodge’s reservations did “not provide for the ratification but, rather, the nullification of the treaty.”22 Without unqualified American commitment to Article 10, he could not attain his fundamental objective, that of American emergence from isolationism to play the leading role in preserving a democratic world order. For Wilson, the United States was faced with a stark choice: “Either we are going to guarantee civilization or we are going to abandon it.” Wilson, for his part, “wanted to go in and accept what is offered to us—the leadership of the world.” However, the United States could not lead the world if it wished to “get the benefits of the League but share none of its burdens and responsibilities.”23

Wilson ultimately failed to convince his countrymen to undertake these responsibilities. Despite two votes, the Senate refused to ratify the Treaty of Versailles, and the United States did not join the League of Nations. Wilson’s separate request for an Armenian mandate was also rejected by the Senate, which feared that this would serve as a back door to League entry. Furthermore, Wilson’s belief that “the overwhelming majority of the people of this country desire the ratification of the treaty” was disproved with the overwhelming Republican victory in the 1920 presidential election.24 Ultimately, Wilson had not convinced the United States to fulfil the leading international role that he had envisaged for it.

A Parliament of Nations or a Modified Concert of Europe?

On January 20, 1920, just eight weeks after the U.S. Senate rejected the Versailles Treaty for the first time, the League of Nations held its opening session. A chair at the Council was left vacant to signify the absence of the United States. It remained empty throughout the League’s existence. Thirty-two nations had initially joined the League, and more than half of them were from outside Europe. Nevertheless, the dominant powers in the League were the European powers that were its co-founders, Britain and France. The League was designed as the vehicle through which the Paris peace treaties would be enforced and the stability of Europe ensured. In its early years, the League achieved some notable successes. Danzig was established as a free city between Germany and Poland. The League Council prevented the outbreak of war between Sweden and Finland by resolving their dispute over the Aaland Islands. It also intervened when Poland and Lithuania clashed over possession of Vilna, bringing an end to open hostilities and then policing the referendum that was called to resolve the dispute. German–Polish and Yugoslav–Albanian territorial disputes were settled through the intervention of the League, helping to strengthen its authority. Agreement was also reached at the first session of the League Assembly for the powers to commit to limiting their arms expenditure; this was to remain a preoccupation of the organization for the next decade. However, Britain, France, and Italy continued their association in the immediate post-war period through the Supreme Allied Council, and it was their combined military power that provided the principal insurance against any breach of the peace.

Rather than the fundamental departure from great-power politics that Wilson had intended, the League, at its most successful, operated as a modified Concert of Europe. The zenith of the League’s influence was in the mid-1920s, when it served as a forum for repairing relations among France, Germany, and Britain. A German shortfall in reparation payments was followed by a joint French and Belgian occupation of the Ruhr region in 1923. The German government responded with a policy of “passive resistance,” hoping that acts of civil disobedience would frustrate the occupiers, but it resulted in economic collapse, hyperinflation, and widespread deprivation. The diplomatic and economic consequences led France to rethink its interventionist policies, Germany’s Weimar government to decide that the country’s security and economic interests required a larger European settlement, and British politicians to work for greater Franco-German harmony. The statesmen responsible for directing the diplomacy of France, Germany, and Britain were, respectively, Aristide Briand, Gustav Streseman, and Austen Chamberlain. While none of these figures was particularly enthusiastic about the League and its collective security provisions, each discovered that the organization could help them advance their nation’s interests.

This was most evident around the time of the signing of the Treaty of Locarno in October 1925. This treaty committed its signatories to upholding the frontiers of western Europe that had been established after Germany’s defeat in 1918. Critics of the agreement claimed that it posed a challenge to the League; it was not signed in Geneva and its terms undercut the authority of the Covenant, which already guaranteed these borders and, indeed, Germany’s eastern boundaries. Worryingly, the Locarno Treaty made no mention of Germany’s borders with Czechoslovakia or Poland. However, the wording of the treaty emphasized that its aims were “within the framework of the Covenant” and made clear that it was the Council of the League that would decide whether the treaty had been violated.25 Furthermore, the agreement only came into force once Germany entered the League, which it did the following year. The hope, expressed by Chamberlain in numerous speeches, was that Locarno would serve as a precursor to the establishment of other regional pacts, all underwritten by the Council of the League as part of a general system of global security.26

In fact, Locarno was only a single component in a larger British and American effort to stabilize Europe in the postwar period. The Republican administrations that shaped American foreign policy in the 1920s adopted a policy of economic interventionism, called the “diplomacy of the dollar.” The Allies, who had borrowed heavily from Washington during the war, claimed that they could not honor these loans until they received the reparations that Germany owed them. Republican statesmen recognized that Allied repayment was dependent on the stabilization of the German economy, which required a huge influx of American wealth. However, the U.S. government was determined to avoid political commitments in Europe, and it was particularly resistant to working with the League, fearing that this would arouse domestic opposition. Instead, it encouraged American businessmen to take the initiative. A group of bankers, led by Charles Dawes, proposed a revised schedule for the repayment for Germany’s reparations. An Allied-supervised plan for stabilizing the German currency was established, and Germany provided access to American credits, stabilizing its economy and enabling it to pay its reparations to the Allies, who could then meet their own loan repayments. By 1926, the United States and the major European nations had resumed normal commercial relations for the first time since the war, and this provided the basis for the Locarno agreement. Although the United States was not a member of the League, Republican internationalists helped create the economic conditions that enabled the organization to function in the 1920s.

Although the “Spirit of Locarno” offered hope for a new order in Europe, French statesmen remained determined to secure an open American commitment to guarantee France’s security. Briand pressured U.S. Secretary of State Frank B. Kellogg to sign a bilateral treaty to this end. Aware that a political commitment to protect a European state would be resolutely opposed by the U.S. Senate, Kellogg converted the proposal into a multilateral pact. Thirty-three nations, including the United States and the Soviet Union, ultimately signed a declaration renouncing war as an instrument of national policy. The Kellogg-Briand Pact was a neat way of escaping a more definite commitment to European security. Yet its popularity in the United States demonstrated that Americans were prepared to contribute to international order, as long as the price was not too high.

The pact came into force in 1929, the same year that the League celebrated its tenth anniversary. Expectations that the United States would now adopt a more active international role were raised when new U.S. President Herbert Hoover, who had overseen American humanitarian aid to Belgium during World War I and directed the American Relief Administration’s work across Europe and in the Soviet Union after the war, suggested that his country was now prepared to assume greater global responsibilities.27 Although still not a member of the League, its citizens had long been active in the work of the organization, helping to address health, culture, and other global issues. In 1919, Arthur Sweetser became the first American appointee to the secretariat and helped to establish the League’s press office. The Rockefeller Foundation paid for the League’s library, and Raymond Fosdick, one of its members, served in an unofficial capacity as U.S. representative on the League’s Committee on Intellectual Cooperation, established in 1922 to promote cultural and intellectual exchanges among nations.28 The Rockefeller Foundation also subsidized the work of the League of Nations Health Organization (LNHO), allowing it to pursue an innovative international health program. Although it has been criticized for its Eurocentrism, gender biases, and exaggerated faith in the power of scientific strategies to address social problems, the LNHO oversaw some notable achievements, including pioneering relief work in alleviating the famine in the Soviet Union between 1921 and 1924, setting international standards for drugs and vaccines, and undertaking initiatives to address infant mortality, maternity protection, and sanitation in the mandatory territories.29 Throughout this period, Americans were prominent in the League’s work to advance the cause of international cooperation. Indeed, according to the records kept by League officials to monitor who visited the Palais in Geneva to witness the organization’s proceedings, more Americans were in attendance than any other nationality group.

Congress continued to put constraints on official American involvement with the League. This was encapsulated by the struggle over American membership of the Permanent Court of International Justice, also called the World Court. Although two American lawyer-statesmen, Elihu Root and James Brown Scott, had helped to draft the World Court Statute, successive administrations in the 1920s and 1930s were unsuccessful in convincing the Senate to ratify the Court’s protocol.30 Under Hoover, however, U.S. official engagement did expand. It contributed actively to a Preparatory Commission for a multinational disarmament conference that aimed to ensure a universal reduction of armaments. The year 1929 also saw the announcement of a new plan for the payment of German reparations, arranged by the American banker Owen Young. The Young Plan was the high point of interwar economic cooperation. It epitomized the financial interdependence that had developed between the United States and Europe, and that served as the basis for international order.31

The Collapse of European Security and the End of the League

The flow of American capital was vital to a system that rested on the recognition by the major players that their continued security and prosperity were dependent on the stability of the other powers. However, the Wall Street crash of October 1929 deprived the European nations of the American credit on which international economic relations depended. The ensuing worldwide economic depression undermined the fragile framework on which peace rested. Revisionist powers soon revealed their willingness to use force to advance their ambitions, beginning with Japan’s military assault on China’s Manchurian province. The League proved completely ill-equipped to deal with the challenge. Its commitment to open diplomacy and its Covenant’s provision for consensus in its main institutions only revealed its impotence. After its calls for an end to fighting in Manchuria went unheeded, the League turned to the United States to help provide a resolution. U.S. General Frank R. McCoy served on the League’s commission, headed by Lord Lytton, which was assembled to investigate the background to the Japanese invasion, and Secretary of State Henry Stimson made it clear that the United States would not abide by any agreement that violated China’s territorial integrity or equal economic opportunities in the Republic. While an indication of Hoover’s continued commitment to working with the League, and to maintaining a framework of international cooperation, neither the United States nor any major European power was prepared to provide any credible check on Japanese aggression. After the Lytton Report condemned Tokyo and appealed for it to withdraw from Manchuria, Japan left the League but not the territory, without the United States or the League acting.

The entrance of the Soviet Union bolstered the League in 1934 but, by this time, Nazi Germany had joined Japan in withdrawing from the organization and had also stormed out of the Geneva Disarmament Conference. Shortly afterward, Italian aggression against Abyssinia, another League member state, prompted the Abyssinian government to invoke the collective security provision of the League’s Covenant. However, despite British Foreign Secretary Samuel Hoare’s publicly declaration that the “League machinery [was] working well” in sanctioning Italy, he was secretly colluding with his French counterpart, Pierre Laval, to support a “peace plan” that served Italian interests.32 Both Britain and France wished to maintain good relations with Italy as a balance against German ambitions. However, details of the Hoare-Laval pact were leaked to the press, appalling those nations that had supported the League’s strong stand against Italy. The pact invited nothing but scorn from the Italians, who were already committed to seizing Abyssinia (Ethiopia) and would soon ally with Germany and Japan in the Anti-Comintern Pact. As the belligerence of the dictatorships grew, the League could do little but waste time in long-winded conferences and issue toothless resolutions. Nor could the League rely on even the limited American support that it had received from the Hoover administration. Hoover’s successor, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, focused his administration’s energies on domestic recovery. He was determined not to jeopardize this by adopting an assertive foreign policy, which risked antagonizing isolationist elements in the U.S. Congress who were seeking to insulate the country from the growing disorder in Europe. By the time the Roosevelt administration engaged more actively in foreign affairs after FDR’s re-election in 1937 and sent an American representative to a conference to discuss the Sino-Japanese War that broke out that year, it found an international organization devoid of authority and potency.

At the time of the Abyssinian crisis, a British member of Parliament, Colonel Josiah Wedgwood, had warned his colleagues that if the League failed to counter the Italian invasion, then “Locarno vanishes, the Covenant of the League of Nations vanishes,” leading to the collapse of “not merely the League of Nations, but all security in Europe.”33 Wedgwood’s words proved prescient, as the League was rendered powerless to prevent the Continent again descending into total war. An organization established to preserve global peace had utterly failed in its core mission. Worse, it was irrelevant to the final drama. As the American political scientist Nicholas Spykman observed, in its early years the League had witnessed major institutional struggles as nations jockeyed for position in what they thought would become a significant agency of international government. However, when it became clear the League was only a medium for deliberation and debate, interest declined, major politicians stayed away and “the edifice that was to house the parliament of nations became an expensive symbol of a forlorn hope.”34

Yet this hope did not die with the outbreak of war. In 1940, a year before the United States entered the war, the Rockefeller Foundation underwrote the cost of moving a number of the League secretariat’s economists and statisticians to the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. Along with the International Labour Organisation (ILO), now based in Montreal, they served as the only active parts of the League organization during the war. These technical experts contributed to a broader American inquiry, led by the Roosevelt administration, the Council of Foreign Relations, and a number of nongovernmental organizations, into how best to organize the postwar world, maintain international peace, and ensure that the United States continued to play an active role in global affairs after the war. In 1945, following the defeat of the Axis powers, these plans came to fruition with the establishment of the United Nations. The composition and structure of this new organization more accurately reflected the global power balance than that of the League; most critically, the United States was a founding member. Unlike the League Council, where every member enjoyed veto-wielding power, the new Security Council was controlled by the “Big Five” permanent members: the United States, the Soviet Union, Great Britain, France, and China, who were the only nations that possessed a veto. The UN’s Economic and Security Council enjoyed greater jurisdiction to regulate international capitalism than the League had ever commanded. Conversely, although the UN Charter declared the organization’s commitment to upholding “fundamental human rights,” it lacked the provisions to enforce these rights in even the limited manner provided by the League’s minority treaties. The UN was, therefore, designed with the aim of guaranteeing continued cooperation among the wartime great powers and thus making sure it did not suffer the same fate as its predecessor.

Nevertheless, in many ways the UN organization represented an evolution rather than an eradication of the League. Like the League, the UN was founded on a tripartite structure of legislature, executive, and judiciary. Many of the League’s institutions, and those who had served in them, migrated to the new organization after 1945. The League’s Health Organization became the World Health Organization, the League’s Committee on Intellectual Cooperation was transformed into UNESCO, and the Mandates Commission passed on its work to the UN’s Trusteeship Council. Even the League’s former home, the Palais des Nations in Geneva, became the UN’s European Office. As that longtime British champion of international organization, Robert Cecil, proclaimed in 1946, in wrapping up the League’s final session: “The League is dead, long live the United Nations.”

Discussion of the Literature

During the twenty-five years that it operated, the League of Nations attracted extensive attention from scholars. Some of the most influential American academics of the interwar years dedicated the majority of their careers to analyzing the organization, including Thomas Parker Moon, Pittman Potter, Quincy Wright, and James Shotwell.35 However, the collapse of the League led to a waning of scholarly interest. Of the more than three thousand works that have been published about different aspects of the League, the majority were produced prior to 1950.36 Furthermore, most of the accounts written in the five years after World War II were by former officials seeking to inform the workings of the new United Nations.37 From 1950 to the late 1980s, those who did research the League, for the most part, focused on the story of its descent and demise. “Realist” scholars used the narrative of the League’s failure to support their argument that the nation-state was the principal actor in international relations and “power” was the fundamental factor.38 E. H. Carr, writing on the eve of the second World War, provided the most influential critique from this perspective. He derided the League’s “utopianism” and scornfully remarked that “the whole conception of the League of Nations was from the first closely bound up with the twin belief that public opinion was bound to prevail and that public opinion was the voice of reason.”39 This remained the dominant perspective among international-relations scholars and policymakers throughout the Cold War.

However, the implosion of the Soviet Union and the search for a new basis for international stability encouraged scholars to return to studying the League.40 As policymakers in the post-Cold War period attempted to balance order with the need to accommodate new claims to sovereignty, a similar challenge to that which confronted statesmen after World War I, fresh accounts were published of the League’s origins. Notably, Thomas Knock and John Milton Cooper Jr., reexamined Wilson’s role in the League’s foundation, while Peter Yearwood and Mark Mazower cast new light on the British role in the organization’s development.41

Rather than concentrating on reasons for the League’s failure, as “decline and fall” histories of the organization had done previously, recent scholars have sought to explain how the League functioned and what it did during its lifespan. From a security perspective, scholarly attention has moved away from exploring the League as a nascent “Parliament of Man” and instead examined how innovative politicians used the League to help construct a modified concert system during the 1920s. France’s Aristide Briand, Germany’s Gustav Streseman, and Britain’s Austen Chamberlain worked toward European stabilization by using the League to supplement their national diplomacy; this has been illustrated by Gérard Unger, Jonathan Wright, and Richard Grayson in their biographies of the respective statesman, and by Patrick Cohrs and Zara Steiner in their revisionist studies of the era’s diplomatic relations.42

These studies also reveal how the League’s effectiveness was intimately tied to the personalities of these policymakers and was dependent on the powers’ recognizing their essential interdependence. When the economic climate worsened in the 1930s and nationalist leaders emerged to challenge the status quo, the League was incapable of deterring them.43 In fact, some scholars have emphasized that the Covenant’s commitment to open diplomacy, founded on Wilson’s faith in the pacific character of public opinion, actually made it more difficult for the League to deal with the challenges it faced.44

The League’s work was not confined to peacekeeping. A growing body of work has highlighted its role in defining and administering sovereignty in newly emerging states, deciding their boundaries, and pressuring them to protect the rights of their citizens.45 Carole Fink has demonstrated how eastern European Jews and their coreligionists in western Europe and North America worked with sympathetic statesmen to draw up treaties protecting minority rights in the successor states of the former Habsburg and tsarist Russian empires and then strived to hold those governments accountable for their treatment of their Jewish minorities.46 Although Fink claims that the League was too committed to upholding state sovereignty to intervene effectively, other scholars have argued that its officials exhibited genuine concern for the plight of minorities and worked to alleviate their condition, despite the limited tools at their disposal.47 These revisionist accounts point to the defense of ethnic Ukrainians in Poland, Albanian populations in Greece, and Jews in Hungary as achievements for the League’s minorities sections.48

Previously, the League’s mandate system was merely dismissed as an elaborate ruse to disguise the expansion of traditional empires, an elaborate fig leaf to cover the powers’ imperial nakedness.49 The manner in which Britain and France attempted to use mandates to placate revanchist Germany’s territorial ambitions was regarded as further evidence of its basis in great-power politics.50 However, recent research has revealed the critical role played by the League in the evolution of former colonies and dependent territories into notionally independent states.51 Anthony Angie has argued that the mandate system was essential to the evolution from a world of formal empires to one in which international organizations, like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank, infringe on the sovereignty of states in the developing world.52 Susan Pedersen has suggested that this may be a slight exaggeration, as the League’s limited potency restricted its capacity to transform the colonial system. Nevertheless, Pedersen’s landmark study of the mandatory system illustrates how the League’s petition process enabled inhabitants of the mandate to build up their own power bases. Pedersen also reveals how various empires were affected by international oversight procedures in their new territories in different ways, comparing French intransigence in Syria with Britain’s establishment of a nominally independent Iraq while retaining informal control. Above all, Pedersen suggests that the mandate system, albeit somewhat unintentionally, helped establish the principle that sovereignty that rests on aggressive acquisition is illegitimate.53

Still others have emphasized the League’s role in addressing humanitarian catastrophes and advancing multilateral cooperation between states on issues that cross national boundaries. The League’s humanitarian activism grew out of its work to coordinate the response to humanitarian crises across Europe after the war. Recent works have shown how League agencies stepped into the vacuum left by reluctant great powers, working with ad hoc voluntary organizations to combat epidemics, resettle refugees, rebuild economies, and regulate the trafficking of drugs and people.54 As many of these institutions outlived the League’s demise and were integrated into the United Nations, scholars have suggested that the League was responsible for developing many of the norms and institutions that still regulate international life today.55

Primary Sources

The published Papers of Woodrow Wilson contain the majority of Wilson’s personal correspondence, speeches, and private papers, and also letters he received, extracts from the diaries of his senior advisers, and detailed records of his meetings. This allows for a thorough reading of the American role in the founding of the League. The editors of the Wilson Papers uncovered a great deal of previously unknown material. Primarily responsible for the Papers was Arthur S. Link, widely recognized as the leading modern authority on Wilson. Theodore Roosevelt’s ideas on international organization are contained in his unpublished papers at the Library of Congress and in the Theodore Roosevelt Collection at the Houghton Library, Harvard University, as well as the published eight-volume The Letters of Theodore Roosevelt, and Roosevelt in the Kansas City Star, which contains his wartime editorials. The entire records of the League to Enforce Peace are not consolidated in one collection, but a considerable portion is housed at the Houghton Library, Harvard University. For other presidential papers, speeches, and documents relating to American interaction with the League of Nations, the American Presidency Project is a good place to start. The Foreign Relations of the United States series is also a rich source of material on U.S. diplomacy towards the League. The Congressional Record is a good place to begin when exploring the relationship between the U.S. Congress and the League.

The League of Nations Union Archives, held at the British Library of Political and Economic Science, provides important insights into the League’s origins. There are thousands of records on the League of Nations at the U.K. National Archives. Many other member states also house extensive records of their League activity in their government archives.

The United Nations Office at Geneva holds the League of Nations Archives and the papers of a number of individuals involved in running the organization. Largely neglected by scholars between the 1950s and the 1990s, the League Archives were registered on UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register in 2009, and in 2012 a new reading room was opened, providing seating for twenty-four researchers. The League’s archives “are a unique source of information not only about the League (1919–1946), but also about peace movements and international relations in general from the end of the nineteenth century.” The League’s commitment to publicity also means that a number of key sources, including the Reports and Minutes of the Permanent Mandates Commission and the Annual Reports drafted by each mandatory power on the administration of their territories, were published and can be accessed in libraries around the world. For example, Yale University Library holds a 555-reel microfilm collection, including documents and serial publications of the League of Nations. Yale’s library also houses a printed guide to the collection, League of Nations Documents, 1919–1946: A Descriptive Guide and Key to the Microfilm Collection.

Further Reading

Carr, E. H.The Twenty Years’ Crisis, 1919–1939: An Introduction to the Study of International Relations. London: Harper Perennial, 1939.Find this resource:

Clavin, Patricia. Securing the World Economy: The Reinvention of the League of Nations, 1920–1946. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.Find this resource:

Cohrs, Patrick. The Unfinished Peace after World War One: America, Britain and the Stabilisation of Europe, 1919–1932. Cambridge, U.K., and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006.Find this resource:

Cooper, John Milton, Jr.Breaking the Heart of the World: Woodrow Wilson and the Fight for the League of Nations. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001.Find this resource:

Egerton, George W.Great Britain and the Creation of the League of Nations: Strategy, Politics and International Organization, 1914–1919. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1978.Find this resource:

Macmillan, Margaret. Peacemakers: The Paris Conference of 1919 and its Attempt To End War. New York: Random House, 2001.Find this resource:

Mazower, Mark. Governing the World: The History of an Idea. New York: Penguin, 2012.Find this resource:

Pedersen, Susan. “Back to the League of Nations.” American Historical Review 112 (2007): 1091–1117.Find this resource:

Pedersen, Susan. The Guardians: The League of Nations and the Crisis of Empire. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015.Find this resource:

Tooze, Adam. The Deluge: The Great War and the Remaking of Global Order, 1916–1931. London: Viking, 2014.Find this resource:

Steiner, Zara. The Lights That Failed: European International History, 1919–1933. New York: Oxford, 2007.Find this resource:

Steiner, Zara. The Triumph of the Dark: European International History, 1933–1939. New York: Oxford, 2011.Find this resource:

Notes:

(1.) Theodore Roosevelt, Nobel Prize address, May 5, 1910, in The Works of Theodore Roosevelt (National Edition), edited by Hermann Hagedorn (New York: C. Scribner’s Sons, 1906–1910), vol. 16, 308–309.

(2.) Theodore Roosevelt, “How to Strive for World Peace,” New York Times, Oct. 18, 1914, ibid., 53; “An International Posse Comitatus,” New York Times, November 8, 1914, ibid., 83.

(3.) League to Enforce Peace, “Warrant from History,” June 17 1915, quoted in Ruhl J. Bartlett, The League to Enforce Peace (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1944), 40–41.

(4.) Wilson speech to LEP, May 27, 1916, in The Papers of Woodrow Wilson, edited by Arthur Link (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1966–1994), vol. 37, pp. 113–116.

(5.) Wilson, Address to the Senate, January 22, 1917, ibid., vol. 40, 533–539.

(6.) Wilson, Address to Congress, April 2, 1917, ibid., vol. 41, 519–527.

(7.) Wilson, speech of January 8, ibid., vol. 45, 536–538.

(8.) Cited in Marvin Swartz, The Union of Democratic Control in British Politics During the First World War (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1970), 42.

(9.) Woolf’s work appeared as supplements to the New Statesman on July 10 and July 17, 1915. It was subsequently published as Leonard S. Woolf, International Government (London: Fabian Society and Allen Y & Unwin, 1916).

(10.) Peter Raffo, “The Anglo-American Preliminary Negotiations for a League of Nations,” Journal of Contemporary History 9.4 (1974): 153–176.

(11.) David Lloyd George, War Memoirs (Boston: Little, Brown, 1937), vol. 5, 63–73.

(12.) Jan Christian Smuts, The League of Nations: A Practical Suggestion (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1918).

(13.) Charlie Laderman, “Sharing the Burden? The American Solution to the Armenian Question, 1918–1920,” Diplomatic History, 40.4, 664–694.

(14.) John Milton Cooper Jr., Breaking the Heart of the World: Woodrow Wilson and the fight for the League of Nations, (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 47–48.

(15.) Mark Mazower, Governing the World: The History of an Idea (New York: Penguin, 2012), 135–136.

(16.) John Maynard Keynes, The Economic Consequences of the Peace (London: Macmillan, 1919), 24.

(17.) Carter Glass to Wilson, February 28, 1919, in Papers of Woodrow Wilson, vol. 55, 332–333.

(18.) Wilson speech of January 8, ibid., vol. 45, 536–538.

(19.) Address to the third Plenary Session of the Peace Conference, February 14, 1919, ibid., vol. 55, 173–178.

(20.) R. S. Baker diary, 3 June 1919, ibid., vol. 60, 80.

(21.) Covenant of the League of Nations, April 28, 1919, ibid., vol. 59, 191.

(22.) Wilson to Gilbert Hitchcock, March 8, 1920, ibid., vol. 65, 67–72.

(23.) Address in Salt Lake City, September 23, 1919, ibid., vol. 63, 451–456.

(24.) Grayson memorandum, November 17, 1919, ibid., vol. 63, 43.

(26.) Douglas Johnson, “Austen Chamberlain and the Locarno Agreements,” University of Birmingham Historical Journal 8 (1961): 62–81.

(27.) For more on Hoover’s international humanitarian work see Bruno Cabanes, The Great War and the Origins of Humanitarianism, 1918–1924 (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 189–258.

(28.) Akira Iriye, The Cambridge History of American Foreign Relations, Volume III: The Globalizing of America, 1913–1945 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 103–116.

(29.) Paul Weindling, ed., International Health Organizations and Movements, 1918–1939 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995).

(30.) Michael Dunne, “Isolationism of a Kind: Two Generations of World Court Historiography in the United States,” Journal of American Studies 21.3 (1987): 327–351.

(31.) Iriye, Globalizing of America, 88–102.

(32.) Martin Gilbert, Descent into Barbarism: The History of the Twentieth Century, 1933–1951 (London: HarperCollins, 1999), 70.

(33.) “International Situation,” 1 August 1935, Parliamentary Debates: Official Report, vol. 304, 2937–2938.

(34.) Nicholas Spykman, America’s Strategy in World Politics: The United States and the Balance of Power (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1942), 17–18.

(35.) For example, see James T. Shotwell, Samuel M. Lindsay, and Thomas Parker Moon, eds., International Problems and Relations: National Conference on International Problems and Relations, Briarcliff Manor, N.Y., 1926 (New York: Academy of Political Science, Columbia University, 1926); James T. Shotwell, War as an Instrument of National Policy and its Renunciation in the Pact of Paris (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1929); Pittman Potter, “Origin of the System of Mandates under the League of Nations,” American Political Science Review 16.4 (1922): 563–583; Quincy Wright, Mandates under the League of Nations (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1930).

(37.) For an expansive account by a former official see that of former Deputy Secretary-General Francis P. Walters, A History of the League of Nations (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1952).

(38.) For examples see F. S. Northedge, The League of Nations: Its Life and Times, 1920–1946 (Leicester: Leicester University Press, 1986); John Mearsheimer, “The False Promise of International Institutions,” International Security 19.3 (1994/1995): 5–49.

(39.) E. H. Carr, The Twenty Years’ Crisis: An Introduction to the Study of International Relations (London: Macmillan, 1939), 32–34.

(40.) The best historiographical overview of works on the League of Nations is Susan Pedersen, “Review Essay: Back to the League of Nations,” American Historical Review 112.4 (2007): 1091–1117.

(41.) Thomas J. Knock, To End All Wars: Woodrow Wilson and the Quest for a New World Order (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1992); John Milton Cooper, Breaking the Heart of the World: Woodrow Wilson and the Fight for the League of Nations (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2001); Peter Yearwood, Guarantee of Peace: The League of Nations in British Policy, 1914–1925 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009); Mark Mazower, Governing the World: The History of an Idea (New York: Penguin, 2012), 116–141.

(42.) Gérard Unger, Aristide Briand: Le ferme conciliateur (Paris: Fayard, 2005); Jonathan Wright, Gustave Stresemann: Weimar’s Greatest Statesman (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002); Richard S. Grayson, Austen Chamberlain and the Commitment to Europe: British Foreign Policy, 1924–29 (London: Frank Cass, 1997); Patrick Cohrs, The Unfinished Peace after World War I: America, Britain, and the Stabilisation of Europe, 1919–1932 (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2006); Zara Steiner, The Lights That Failed: European International History, 1919–1933 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007).

(43.) Zara Steiner, The Triumph of the Dark: European International History, 1933–1939 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011).

(44.) For example, see Carolyn Kitching, Britain and the Geneva Disarmament Conference (Basingstoke, U.K.: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003). For an earlier account see Pittman Potter, “League Publicity: Cause or Effect of League Failure?,” Public Opinion Quarterly 2.3 (1938): 399–412.

(45.) For background see Margaret Macmillan, Peacemakers: The Paris Conference of 1919 and its Attempt To End War (New York: J. Murray, 2001).

(46.) Carole Fink, Defending the Rights of Others: The Great Powers, the Jews, and International Minority Protection, 1878–1938 (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2006).

(47.) Christian Raitz von Frentz, A Lesson Forgotten: Minority Protection under the League of Nations—The Case of the German Minority in Poland, 1920–1934 (New York: St. Martin’s, 1999).

(48.) Martin Scheuermann, Minderheitenschutz contra Konfliktverhütung? Die Minderheitenpolitik des Völkerbundes in den zwanziger Jahren (Marburg: Verlag Herder-Institut, 2000). See also Samuel Salzborn, “The Concept of Ethnic Minorities: International Law and the German-Austrian Response,” Behemoth: A Journal on Civilisation 3 (2009): 63–79.

(49.) Peter A. Dumbuya, Tanganyika under International Mandate, 1919–1946 (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 1995), vii; John H. Morrow Jr., The Great War: An Imperial History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 307.

(50.) Michael D. Callahan, A Sacred Trust: The League of Nations and Africa, 1929–1946 (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 2004), 57.

(51.) See especially William Roger Louis’s articles, collated in his Ends of British Imperialism: The Scramble for Empire, Suez and Decolonization (London: I. B. Tauris, 2006).

(52.) Anthony Anghie, Imperialism, Sovereignty and the Making of International Law (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2004).

(53.) Susan Pedersen, The Guardians: The League of Nations and the Crisis of Empire (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015). See also Nadine Méouchy and Peter Sluglett, eds., British and French Mandates in Comparative Perspective (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2004); Ralph A. Austen, “Varieties of Trusteeship: African Territories under British and French Mandate, 1919–1939,” in France and Britain in Africa, edited by Prosser Gifford and William Roger Louis (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1971), 515–542; Kevin Grant, “Trust and Self-determination: Anglo-American Ethics of Empire and International Government,” in Critiques of Capital in Modern Britain and America: Transatlantic Exchanges, edited by Mark Bevir and Frank Trentmann (London: Palgrave, 2002), 151–173; Charlie Laderman, “Sharing the Burden? The American Solution to the Armenian Question, 1918–1920” Diplomatic History 40.4, 664–694.

(54.) The new history of the League of Nations in these areas is extremely rich, and one can cite only a few sources here, with an emphasis on those that cover American involvement in these areas: Weindling, International Health Organizations and Movements, 1918–1939, on health policy; Patricia Clavin, Securing the World Economy: The Reinvention of the League of Nations, 1920–1946 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), and Anthony M. Endres and Grant A. Fleming, International Organizations and the Analysis of Economic Policy, 1919–1950 (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2002), on economic policy; William B. McAllister, Drug Diplomacy in the Twentieth Century: An International History (London: Routledge, 2000), on drug trafficking policy; Jean Jacques Renoliet, L’UNESCO oublié: l’Organisation de Coopération Intellectuelle (1921–1946) (Paris: Publications de la Sorbonne, 1999), on cultural exchange. On refugees,humanitarianism, and human rights, see Claudena M. Skran, Refugees in Inter-War Europe: The Emergence of a Regime (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995); Keith David Watenpaugh, Bread from Stones: The Middle East and the Making of Modern Humanitarianism (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2015), Barbara Metzger, “Towards an International Human Rights Regime during the Inter-War Years: The League of Nations’ Combat of Traffic in Women and Children,” in Beyond Sovereignty: Britain, Empire and Transnationalism, c. 1880–1950, edited by Kevin Grant, Phillippa Levine, and Frank Trentmann (Basingstoke, U.K.: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), 54–79; Dominique Marshall, “The Rise of Coordinated Action for Children in War and Peace: Experts at the League of Nations, 1924–1945,” in Shaping the Transnational Sphere, edited by D. Rodogno, B. Struck, and J. Vogel; Davide Rodogno, Bernard Struck, and Jakob Vogel, eds., Shaping the Transnational Sphere: Experts, Networks and Issues from the 1840s to the 1930s (New York: Berghahn, 2014), 82–109; Emily Baughan, “‘Every Citizen of Empire Implored To Save the Children!’: Empire, Internationalism and the Save the Children Fund in Inter-war Britain,” Historical Research 86.231 (2013): 116–137; Bronwen Everill, “The Italo-Abyssian Crisis and the Rhetorical Shift from Slave to Refugee,” Slavery & Abolition 35.2 (2014): 349–365.

(55.) Akira Iriye, Global Community: The Role of International Organizations in the Making of the Contemporary World (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002); Pedersen, “Review Essay: Back to the League of Nations.”.