1920s - The search for Internationalism Flashcards Preview

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General context - Hopes and aims for the League

  • League of Nations an organization to promote INTERNATIONALISM after the trauma of WWI (Wilson's vision)
  • All members to sign the COVENANT
  • All committed to COLLECTIVE SECURITY

How you judge the League depends on how well it succeeded in the aims above.


The Covenant

  • 15 Terms member states agreed to; broadly speaking Not to go to war against each other
  • Engage in open diplomacy
  • Uphold international agreements


Organisation (simple)

  • Council Assembly
  • Court of International
  • Justice
  • Secretariat
  • Special Commissions


Court of International Justice

  • Would arbitrate between nations when a dispute occurred.
  • Weakness: Had no way of enforcing its rulings



  • The main decision making body of the league.
  • Four permanent members (GB,Fr,Italy, Japan) &; 5 non-permanent.
  • Met 5 times a year
  • Permanent members had a VETO



  • League's Parliament
  • Everyone a member
  • Voted on budget and membership issues
  • Decision making to be unanimous 


Special Commissions

  • Mainly responsible for important humanitarian work
  • ILO - International Labour Organisation
  • HO - Health Organisation
  • Refugees Commission
  • Anti-slavery



  • 1. Warning (for breaking the Covenant)
  • 2. Economic trade embargo
  • 3. Military


Sanctions: weakness

  • Warning - pointless against a determined aggressor.
  • Economic sanction - no USA
  • Military - League didn't have a standing army!


General League weakness.

  • USA not a member.
  • Decision making - unanimous (Difficult to get everyone to agree)
  • No standing army.
  • Had to uphold the Treaty of Versailles - Treaty increasingly difficult to justify
  • Nations reluctant to impose economic sanctions (May damage their own economies)


Why the USA did not join.

  • US Congress opted for a policy of 'isolationism'


League humanitarian success

  • Repatriation of prisoners of war after WWI.
  • Health commissions to deal with malaria and leprosy.
  • Freeing of 200,00 slaves in Africa.


League 'failures' - VILNA (1921)

  • The Poles invaded Vilna (the capital of Lithuania).
  • The League ordered Poland to withdraw.
  • Poland refused; the League could do nothing


League Failure - Corfu (1923)


  • Italian General killed working on the Greece / Albanian border. (For Conference of Ambassadors)
  • Mussolini furious - demanded compensation from Greeks - Greeks refused.
  • In retaliation - Italy bombed and occupied Corfu. (Violating the covenant)
  • League condemned Italy but urged Greece to pay compensation.
  • Referred back to the Conference of Ambassadors - they ordered Greec to apologize and pay up!
  • Major 'embarrassment - Italy was a Permanent Member of the league Council! (Should be setting an example not acting unilaterally in its own interests, thus ignoring the COVENANT)

NB: This information would help you answer an 'outline' question for 5 marks. (e.g Outline what happened in the Corfu incident of 1923)


League 'failures' - Disarmament

  • A key aim of the League:
  • 1921 - organised a commission on armaments - failed as Britain objected in 1923.
  • 1926 - organised another commission - but progress was slow (so countries met outside the league: e.g 1928 Kellogg Briand Pact)
  • League did not meet until 1932 (then it failed miserably)


Bulgaria and Greece 1925 - The dispute (War of the stray Dog) Success

  • Some Greek soldiers were killed in a small fight on the border between Greece and Bulgaria. The Greeks were angry. They invaded Bulgaria. Bulgaria asked the League to help.
  • The Council of the League met. It condemned the Greeks, and told them to leave Bulgaria.
  • The Bulgarian government told its army not to fight back. The Greeks did as the League said. They left Bulgaria.


Overall 'judgement' on the League in the 1920s - The critic's view

  • 1. Corfu a major failure as it involved a permanent member.
  • 2. Disarmament a great disappointment - it was a key League aim.
  • 3. Some key agreements were made outside the League - (e.g Kellog-Briand Pact) did member states have faith in the League?
  • 4. Permanent members of the League remained self-interested. e.g. France occupied the Ruhr in 1923, Britain rejected early disarmament, Italy bullied the League over Corfu!.


Overall 'judgement' on the League in the 1920s - The supporters view

  • 1. League members did send representatives to the meetings throughout the 20s - so they 'wanted' it to succeed.
  • 2. It could not be expected to solve ALL disputes - it did solve some.
  • 3. Its humanitarian work was very good - e.g refugees and anti-slavery.
  • 4. It provided 'another' mechanism to help create peace between nations - the world was better off because of it.


International Agreements between the Wars


  • Washington Conference, 1921
  • Rapallo Treaty, 1922
  • Dawes Plan, 1924
  • Locarno Treaty, 1925
  • Kellog-Briand Pact, 1925


Rapallo Treaty, 1922

(Internationalism or nationalism?)

  • Germany and Russia 
  • Each renounced (gave up) all territorial and financial claims against the other following the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk and World War I.
  • The two governments also agreed to normalise their diplomatic relations and to "co-operate in a spirit of mutual goodwill in meeting the economic needs of both countries".
  • Secretly the two sides established elaborate military cooperation, while publicly denying it - so impression of Internationalism, but mainly self-interest


Washington Naval Conference, 1921

(Internationalism or Nationalism?)

  • 9 Power Conference including USA, GB,  Japna, China, France, Italy
  • Agreed to fixe the ratio of battleships at 5:5:3 (USA, GB & Japan)
  • Helped prevent another naval race.



Locarno Treaty, 1925

(Internationalism or Nationalism?)

  • German to accept its western borders - improves relations with France
  • Paved way for Germany to join the League of Nations
  • No such guarantees from Germany on her Eastern borders! (Poland and Czecholslovakia)


Kellog-Briand Pact 1928

(Internationalism or Nationalism?)

  • Renounce war as an instrument of national policy
  • Signed by 65 nations, including USA, Germany, GB, Fr
  • Represented a mood for co-operation
  • BUT - little more than a statement of intent (Did not prevent the militarism of the 1930s)



How far had internationalism succeeded in the 1920s? [10]


How far questions need at least TWO parts.

Examples which support the statement /

examples which might challenge the statement.

A concise conclusion - weighing up (clear statement of 'how far'

ALL in about 10 minutes or so!

(part 1) In many respects, there were a number of examples of success with regards to internationalism in the 1920s.

  • Firstly, the general mood after WWI was that of international co-operation to replace nationalist agendas. Many nations joined and looked to the League of Nations and the League had some success in promoting this.
  • For example - Political success - Aland Islands 1921  (Finland and Sweden) War of the Stray Dog 1925 (Greece and Bulgaria) / Economic assistance to Austria and Hungary / Humanitarian co-operation over refugees, anti-slavery, tackling drugs and poverty.
  • Outside the League, there were also a number of agreements that suggested a willingness to co-operate. The Washington Conference, 1921 was important limits on the size of US, British and Japanese navies (preventing another naval race).
  • Moreover, in 1925 Germany agreed to accept their western borders as laid down in the Treaty of Versailles, paving the way for Germany to join the League of Nations. In 1928 65 nations even renounced war as an instrument of national government when the agreed to the Kellog-Briand Pact. This included the USA, Germany, and China.
  • Overall then there were examples of international co-operation in this period.

(Part 2) Nonetheless, nationalism had not disappeared altogether in the 1920s.

  • The USA had rejected the Peace Treaties and the League of Nations as Congress opted for a policy of isolation - this was a serious blow to the League especially.
  • Whilst the League had successes, it also had notable failures as countries ignored the spirit of internationalism - Poland invade Lithuania to seize Vilna and Italy bullied Corfu in 1923. The Corfu incident was significant as Italy was a permanent member of the League and therefore violating the League covenant! The French, another permanent League member, occupied the Ruhr in 1923 when Germany defaulted on reparation payments.
  • Other Treaties outside the League also followed nationalist agendas - such as the Rapallo treaty between Germany and Russia - this was all about remilitarizing their countries.
  • Moreover, there had been no progress by the League to organize a disarmament conference which was a major failure in internationalism.

(Conclude) On balance then, the legacy of WWI created a mood in which internationalism could flourish and there were examples of it at work, however, the examples involved smaller nations and larger nations seemed to pursue their own interests when it suited them.