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The League of Nations

  • David Armstrong
Chapter
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Part of the The Making of the 20th Century book series (MACE)

Abstract

At one level, the history of the League of Nations is synonymous with the often-told story of the failure of the Western democracies to oppose the aggression of the Fascist regimes and prevent world war. The international order established at Versailles was inherently unstable because the temporary weakness of Germany and Russia meant that the balance of power upon which it was founded was essentially artificial and impermanent and would come under increasing strain as those two states regained their strength. In so far as the League was associated with that order, it too would come under threat. Since the founders of the League always saw it as, above all else, a provider of collective security, there can be no real objection to an assessment of the League in these terms. However, at another level — the one with which we are most concerned here — the League was also an episode in the history of international organisation. Viewed in this light, what is most remarkable is that, far from the disastrous failure of the League leading to a hiatus in the growth of international institutions, it was followed by an unparalleled increase in their number and range of functions. So, while an organisation was discredited between 1919 and 1939, international organisation as a significant process in the relations amongst states may be said to have become firmly established during the same period. To understand how and why this was the case, four distinct aspects of the League need to be considered: its collective security operations, its role as cornerstone of the international legal order, its function as overseer and co-ordinator of a variety of economic, social and technical activities, and the development of its principal institutions.

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Copyright information

© David Armstrong 1982

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  • David Armstrong

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