Did the League of Nations matter in the 1920s?

The sources have been carefully selected from the Churchill Archive to explore the question of whether the League of Nations really mattered in the 1920s and whether its record in the 1930s has caused us to forget its previous triumphs. As a collection of eight sources they can be used to build up a picture of thoughts and opinions on the League in the 1920s. Teachers could ask students to work through the entire collection, or to get individuals or small groups to look at a smaller number of sources and then report back. It is probably better to try to get students to use the entire collection if possible. This way they can move beyond the sources as a collection of individual documents and use them more in the way a historian would, as a collection of documents which illustrate the past more effectively as a collection.

With this basis in mind, students who have looked at the collection might then be challenged with tasks which extend their thinking and understanding. For example:

Activity 1: Was the League taken seriously by governments and other organizations?

You might ask students if the sources provide an answer to the question posed by this enquiry.

Source Support the view AT FACE VALUE that the League was taken seriously Do not support the view AT FACE VALUE that the League was taken seriously Reasons why the source is strong or weak evidence about this particular issue (eg date of source, typicality, attitudes expressed towards the League)
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Activity 2: What kind of picture do we get about the work of the League from these sources?

Students can sometimes fall into the trap of assuming that documents represent ‘the whole’ of the story rather than being part of the puzzle which historians have to piece together.  It might be useful to ask them to discuss the following assertions in groups:

  • The sources tell you what the League did.
  • The sources tell you that the League was a success.
  • The sources tell you that the League was respected.
  • The sources tell you that the League was a failure.
     

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