league of nations
société des nations
semi-official flag (1939)
anachronous world map showing member states of the league
during its 26-year history.
|common languages||french and english|
|sir eric drummond|
|deputy secretary-general|| |
|historical era||interwar period|
|10 january 1920|
• first meeting
|16 january 1920|
|20 april 1946|
- ^ the headquarters were based from 1 november 1920 in the palais wilson in geneva, switzerland, and from 17 february 1936 in the purpose built palace of nations also in geneva.
the league of nations, abbreviated as ln or lon, (french: société des nations [sɔsjete de nɑsjɔ̃], abbreviated as "sdn" or "sdn" and meaning "society of nations") was the first worldwide intergovernmental organisation whose principal mission was to maintain world peace. it was founded on 10 january 1920 following the paris peace conference that ended the first world war; in 1919 u.s. president woodrow wilson won the nobel peace prize for his role as the leading architect of the league.
the organisation's primary goals, as stated in its covenant, included preventing wars through collective security and disarmament and settling international disputes through negotiation and arbitration. other issues in this and related treaties included labour conditions, just treatment of native inhabitants,
human and drug trafficking, the arms trade, global health, prisoners of war, and protection of minorities in europe. the covenant of the league of nations was signed on 28 june 1919 as part i of the treaty of versailles, and it became effective together with the rest of the treaty on 10 january 1920. the first meeting of the council of the league took place on 16 january 1920, and the first meeting of assembly of the league took place on 15 november 1920.
the diplomatic philosophy behind the league represented a fundamental shift from the preceding hundred years. the league lacked its own armed force and depended on the victorious first world war allies (france, the united kingdom, italy and japan were the permanent members of the executive council) to enforce its resolutions, keep to its economic sanctions, or provide an army when needed. the great powers were often reluctant to do so. sanctions could hurt league members, so they were reluctant to comply with them. during the second italo-abyssinian war, when the league accused italian soldiers of targeting red cross medical tents, benito mussolini responded that "the league is very well when sparrows shout, but no good at all when eagles fall out."
at its greatest extent from 28 september 1934 to 23 february 1935, it had 58 members. after some notable successes and some early failures in the 1920s, the league ultimately proved incapable of preventing aggression by the axis powers in the 1930s. the credibility of the organization was weakened by the fact that the united states never joined the league and the soviet union joined late and was soon expelled after invading finland. germany withdrew from the league, as did japan, italy, spain and others. the onset of the second world war showed that the league had failed its primary purpose, which was to prevent any future world war. the league lasted for 26 years; the united nations (un) replaced it after the end of the second world war and inherited several agencies and organisations founded by the league.