Churchill Archive for Schools - Themes_Key questions_League of Nations

Did the League of Nations matter in the 1920s?

Source 1

A resolution by the League of Nations International Labour Office 19 January 1922


➜ CHAR 2/120/107

Simplified Transcript


The International Labour Conference in 1921 proposed an international conference to help tackle unemployment problems worldwide.

The task of the Geneva Conference is to find ways to rebuild the economies of Europe. The issue of unemployment is closely connected with this task.

The International Labour Office will work with the Supreme Council to help with the conference by:

(a) Giving all the help it can and providing any information needed about labour and industrial matters

(b) Sending 2 representatives of each of the International Labour Office’s groups (representing Government, Employers, Workers) to help the Conference any way they can.

Original Transcript


19 JANUARY 1922

Whereas the International Labour Conference at its session at Geneva 1921 unanimously adopted a resolution proposing the summoning of an international conference to examine the remedies of an international character to put an end to the unemployment crises:

Whereas, also, the decision of the Supreme Council to summon the Genoa Conference fulfils in a considerable degree the desire expressed by the Geneva Conference;

And whereas the task of the Genoa Conference is to secure the economic reconstruction of Europe, a task which must include problems concerning labour, and one with which in particular the question of unemployment is closely connected:

The Governing Body, in conformity with its usual procedure of establishing connection with international institutions which deal with questions with a repercussion on its activities, invite the Director of the International Labour Office to place himself in touch with the Supreme Council with the following end

(a) To inform the Supreme Council that the Office is ready to give all assistance possible, and to place at the disposal of the Conference the experience and information of the Office in labour and industrial matters:

(b) That with a view to giving the Conference the most effective assistance possible, the Governing Body shall arrange that 2 representatives of each of its groups, Governments, Employers, Workers, will, with the Director, place themselves at the disposal of the Conference to give any assistance in their power.

What is this source?

This is a resolution made by the governing body of the International Labour Office, one of the League of Nations’s agencies. The resolution is effectively a commitment by the organization to help the League’s Supreme Council with an international conference on economic reconstruction.

Background to this source

The First World War left Europe (and many other parts of the world) devastated. As well as the massive loss of life, there was damage to factories, farmland, homes and many other types of property. Most of the combatants, apart from the USA, emerged from the war economically crippled. One of the many ambitious aims which the League of Nations set itself was to get states to work together to solve problems like these. Another was to improve living and working conditions for ordinary people around the world.

Additional information

The League had many agencies which aimed to achieve its key aims of repairing the damage caused by war and getting states to collaborate. One of these agencies was the Financial Office, the Health Committee and the International Labour Office. The League did not have its own experts in each of these fields. The role of the League was to bring together experts from different countries and provide them with a place to meet and facilities to discuss and try to implement solutions to economic and social problems.

How can we use this source in the investigation?

Remember we are hoping that this source can be useful to us in investigating how far the work of the League of Nations mattered in the 1920s:

Surface level: details, facts and figures

1 What did the International Labour Conference in 1921 propose to do?
2 What was its aim?
3 What did the International Labour Office (ILO) propose to do to help?
4 What groups did the ILO contain?

Deeper level: inferences and using the source as evidence

Which of the inferences below can be made from this source?

On a scale of 1-5 how far do you agree that this source supports this inference? Which extract(s) from the source support your argument?
The League is solving economic problems around the world

The world is bringing together experts to look at how to solve economic problems

The different parts of the League do not work together

The International Labour Office (ILO) is offering valuable practical assistance and support

The League is having a significant impact

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Need help interpreting the source?

  • Resolutions are often very longwinded and can sometimes be confusing. The use of ‘Whereas’ does not help. The way to interpret this source is to reword it. It is really trying to say: ‘We want to achieve X because we have a problem Y. Therefore, we are going to do Z’.
  • Something else to consider is whether a source like this is evidence that the League had an impact or whether it can only be seen as evidence that the League took action.

 Source 2

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