ENGLISHWorld History


Semi official flag of the League of Nations 1939. Author : Martin Grandjaen Source: creativecommons.org

The League of Nations was an international voluntary organization of nations founded in 1920, after the World War 1 in order to maintained peace and provide a conducive atmosphere that would ensure cordial relationship among nations in the international sphere.

The establishment of the League was made possible by the provision of the Treaty of Versailles, more specifically the idea of Woodrow Wilson, the American President. Because, President Wilson in his Fourteen Points during the Treaty, have argued and suggested that since the World War I have devastated the world and every nation was now tired of the war, then the best solution was to established an international organisation that would be a peacekeeper in the international scenes. Unfortunately, the United States who proactively ensured the establishment of the League have not became a member, because its Congress refused to allowed her to join.

Throughout the 26 years of the League existence, it have proven to be incapable and weak in maintaining the core principles of maintaining peace and cooperation among world nations. One of the most important thing that undermined the League’s effort of settling many conflicts was the fact that the League lacked standing armed force for peacekeeping.

The League of Nation’s incapability of to provide a required peace in the world was what helped the rise of aggressive nations of Germany, Italy, and Japan whose actions caused the World War II that lasted from 1939 to 1945. And in turn, the League of Nations was dissolved in 1946, and its place, the United Nations was established in the the same year 1946.


Historically, the idea of peaceful coexistence community of nations that would promote peace and prevent conflict between nations was said to have dated as far back as the 18th century, when Immanuel Kant suggested the idea in his book “Perpetual Peace : A Philosophical Sketch”.

However, the idea of of establishing the League of Nations was firstly conceived during the early stage of World War I, when Goldsworthy L. Dickinson, a British Political Scientist wrote a plan in 1914 under which an international organisation that would arbitrate and reconciled nations of the world could be created.

But the idea of establishing the League of Nations was not realized until 1919, during the Treaty of Versailles when the Covenant of the League which includes ideas and proposals of the Allied Powers more specifically the Fourteen Points of the American President Woodrow Wilson was ratified. After negotiations between the delegates during the Treaty of Versailles, the approval of establishing the organization was achieved on 25th January, 1919. While on 28th June, the delegates of 44 countries signed the Covenant of the League of Nations, which came into effect on 10 January, 1920.

Purpose and Body of the League of Nations

The League of Nations as an international voluntary organization of states, was established with the following as its core purposes :

  1. To maintained and provide peace and security on the basis of justice in the world.
  2. To promote cooperation and understanding among countries of the world in their diplomatic relations.
  3. To discourage and stop rearmament of among nations in the world.
  4. And to promote intellectual as well as cultural exchanges among its members and the rest of the world.

In its context, the League of Nations was made up of different parts with three principal organs of the Secretariat, Council, and the Assembly.

  1. The Secretariat : the Secretariat of the League of Nations was based in Geneva and headed by the Secretary General. The responsibility of the Secretariat was the administrative role of League which includes preparing the agendas to be discussed in the Council and Assembly, and other works in the Secretariat.
  2. The Council : The Council which was the executive body of the League of Nations was solely responsible for the issue of world peace and appointment of the Secretary General. In the system, the Council comprised of four permanent members and four non-permanent members. The four permanent members included the United Kingdom, France, Italy, and Japan. While the non-permanent members were chosen by the Assembly among the member states for a period of three years.
  3. The Assembly : The Assembly was the body which comprises every member state of the League of Nations. The Assembly’s responsibility was to dealt with the world issues in general and to elect four non-permanent members into the Council. The Assembly convened once in a year in September for a decision making in which every member state have one vote.

Factors for the Weaknesses of the League of Nations

The first and one of the most important factor responsible for the weaknesses of the League of Nations was that of the United States refusal to be the member of the League. The United States have been proactive advocate for the establishment of the League, but, unfortunately, the its Congress refused to allowed the her to join the League, which in turn weakened the organization.

Secondly, some of the provisions of the Covenant that laid the basis of Constitution of the League of Nations have helped in the League’s weakness. For example, the Unanimity section of the League’s Constitution have maintained that no important decision or action could be taken either by the Council or Assembly without having a Unanimity among the member states. Therefore, this Unanimity brought about delay in the decision making making.

Thirdly, and one of the most important factor was the fact that the League of Nations lacked a standing armed forces for peacekeeping. Instead, the League relied on its members, especially the Four Permanent members of the Council for the provision of forces that would maintained and enforce its resolution.

Lastly, the League of Nations failed to stop or deal with the aggression of some nations as required by its Covenant that every nation in the world should be peaceful, and if not, the League was required to persuade its member nations to use economic or political sanctions against any aggressive nation. For example, the League failed to check the Japanese aggression in Manchuria, the Italian invasion of Abyssinia in 1935, and the German rearmament under Adolf Hitler.

Gradually, the aforementioned weaknesses and others have paved the way for Second World War which lasted for about six years from 1939 to 1945.

After the War, the League of Nations was dissolved in 1946, and was replaced by the United Nations.


The League of Nations was primarily created to provide peace and security in the world. Because, after the World War I, nations of the world more especially the superpowers were devastated by the War. Therefore, it became necessary for them to find a an umbrella under which the nations of the world could cooperate and promote peace. Thus, the League of Nations was established to serve that purpose. Unfortunately, the League failed to effectively carried out it duties, which eventually paved the way for the occurrence of Second World War.

However, though the League of Nations have failed to provide the substantial peace and security upon which it was established, but, it has been an achievement in itself. Because, the League for the first time have brought about different nations under one umbrella of peace. Furthermore, the League of Nations was the role model after which the United Nations was established.

Ahmad Abdullahi, BA History

My name is Ahmad Abdullahi, I was born on 10th March, 1994 in Garun-Danga Town, Gabasawa L.G., Kano State. I attended FCE Demonstration Primary School from 2002 to 2007, FCE Staff Secondary School from 2007 to 2013, and Northwest University, Kano from 2013 to 2017, where I obtained bachelor degree in History.

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