Churchill Archive for Schools - Themes_Key questions_League of Nations

Did the League of Nations matter in the 1920s?

Source 3

A pamphlet published by the Woodford Branch of the League of Nations Union in 1925


➜ CHAR 7/2

Simplified Transcript


Some of the achievements of the League in the last four years:

Prevented war between Sweden and Finland
Prevented conflict between Poland and Lithuania
Prevented conflict between Serbia and Albania
Established the International Court of Justice
Helped 400,000 Prisoners of War to get home
Organised and assisted campaign against typhus in Eastern Europe
Created International Health Office to fight disease throughout the world
Settled the disagreement between Germany and Poland about Upper Silesia
Gave Austria a loan to save its economy
Made progress towards disarmament
Increased its membership from 42 to 52 Nations

The League is active but it cannot yet be called a success.
It would be successful if it freed the world from the threat of war. Another war wold be even worse than the last war, and the world would be devastated.

How can the League succeed?
Only through the support of all the world. League delegates need to know their people support them.

Why has the League not achieved more?
Because it does not yet have enough support.

Why not?
Because people do not know enough about the League and what it does. This means there is a need to tell people about the League.

The League of Nations Union is the organisation for teaching about the League in Britain. Other organisations exist in other countries. Organisations like these are essential for the League’s success.

Original Transcript


Some of the achievements during the four years of its existence.

Prevented war between Sweden and Finland.
Arrested Hostilities between Poland and Lithuania.
Arrested Hostilities between Serbia and Albania.
Established International Court of Justice.
Repatriated 400,000 Prisoners of War between Russia and Central Europe.
Organised and assisted campaign against Typhus in Eastern Europe.
Created International Health Office to fight disease throughout the world.
Settled the dispute between Germany and Poland about Upper Silesia.
Saving a Nation. The League succeeded in raising a loan for rendering possible the rehabilitation of Austria. This is the first big step towards economic recovery of Central Europe.
Made notable progress towards a definite practical scheme of disarmament.
Increased its membership from 42 to 52 Nations.
The League now represents three-quarters of the population of the globe.

This is evidence of the vitality of the League, but does not yet prove that the League is a success.

The success of the League freeing the world from war and saving it from bankruptcy. Another war means wholesale slaughter, wholesale destruction, and wholesale misery and want.

The failure of the League means the uprooting of civilisation and the utter destruction of humanity. The next war will be inconceivably more hideous and terrible than the last. Mankind, unable to endure the agony and horror, will turn to anarchy. The world will be devastated from end to end.

How then can the League be made to succeed? Only by virtue of world-wide public support.

The delegates to the League can do nothing unless they know beyond doubt that they are solidly supported by the people they represent.

Why has not the League achieved more? Because the necessary public support does not yet exist in sufficient numbers to warrant it.

Why is that so? Because public support is dependent upon public knowledge, and that is dependent on our willingness (yours and mine) to learn about the League. It also depends upon there being somebody who will teach us about the League and induce others also to take the trouble to learn.

This means that there must be teaching organisations in all countries to foster interest in the League and explain it to the public. Many of these organisations already exist. They are perhaps the greatest factor in the League’s future.

The League of Nations Union, as far as this country is concerned, is the organisation for educating and voicing public opinion relative to the League of Nations itself. It has a growing membership at present 311,431 and has 1,483 vigorous branches and similar organisations in other countries. Such organised bodies are indispensable to the League’s success.

What is this source?

This is a part of a leaflet published by the Woodford branch of the League of Nations Union in Britain in 1925. It was enclosed in a letter sent to Winston Churchill inviting him to join the League. Churchill was Chancellor of the Exchequer (in charge of finance) at the time and also Conservative Member of Parliament for Epping (close to Woodford) so this was his local branch. The leaflet was designed to encourage people to join the Woodford branch of the League of Nations Union.

Background to this source

By the mid-1920s it was clear that many of the problems which had caused the First World War, or had arisen during the war, had still not been solved. Many people were concerned about the prospect of another war. They saw the League of Nations as their best hope of avoiding this.

Additional information

The League of Nations Union had a significant membership in Britain, reaching over 400,000 by the end of the 1920s. The Union had an impressive list of patrons as well, including former Prime Ministers H.H. Asquith and David Lloyd George and the Conservative leader Stanley Baldwin. Some MPs, particularly Conservatives, regarded the Union with suspicion, particularly over its commitment to disarmament. Churchill agreed to join after receiving this leaflet.

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 List three examples of achievements by the League
2 Why is the League not a complete success?
3 What needs to be done?
4 According to the pamphlet, who or what should tackle the problem which it has identified?

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?
This leaflet is criticizing the League of Nations

The purpose of this leaflet is to gain members for the League of Nations Union so it cannot be trusted

This is a valuable source for studying the work and the achievements of the League

The League of Nations Union was a tiny and irrelevant pressure group

This is a valuable source for studying attitudes towards the League

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Need some help interpreting the source?

  • This is a tricky source for the historian. The leaflet is trying to build up membership for the Union. So it needs to create a need for the work of the Union. At the same time it is very positive about the League as it supports the League’s aims. 
  • We need to be careful in interpreting this source. We have to bear in mind that it is from an organisation which supports the League and wants to highlight its successes. On the other hand, the successes are real and documented. So in one sense the source is a reliable view of the League’s achievements, but on the other hand it may be selective in what it lists.
  • At the same time, the Union seems to suggest that the record of the League is not well known as it calls for people to spread the word. This is an indicator that perhaps many people are either unaware of the League’s work, or do not see it as relevant.

 Source 4

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