Churchill Archive for Schools - Themes_Key questions_League of Nations

Did the League of Nations matter in the 1920s?

Source 8

Extract from British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin’s election address in May 1929


➜ CHAR 22/240/107

Simplified Transcript

One of our main foreign policies is to develop the League of Nations. We have shown how important we think the League is by sending the Foreign Secretary to Assembly and Council meetings.

We welcome the progress being made towards disarmament and hope for more progress in this area after seeing proposals being put forward by the United States.

Original Transcript

The development of the League of Nations is a cardinal principle of our foreign policy. The importance attached by the present Government to the work of the League is illustrated by the fact that Great Britain has been continuously represented by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs on the Council and in the Assembly of the League.

We welcome, as the fruit of this consistent policy, the advance made at Geneva towards an international agreement for the reduction of armaments and we greatly hope for a further advance in this direction on the lines of the proposals foreshadowed by the representatives of the United States of America.

What is this source?

This is an extract from Conservative Party leader Stanley Baldwin’s election address setting out the achievements of his government and his plans if he were re-elected in 1929. It is aimed at voters in Great Britain.

Background to this source

Throughout the 1920s Britain and France were the two most powerful and active members of the League. Despite the fact that the USA never joined, and that Britain and France actually undermined the League on some occasions, Britain was generally committed to making it work.

Additional information

Although the USA never joined the League it sent observers to most of the League’s meetings. The British Government always sent its Foreign Secretary to League meetings and most other countries also sent their most senior Foreign Ministers as well.

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 is the attitude of Baldwin towards the League?
2 According to the source, how has Britain shown its commitment to the League?
3 What does Baldwin hope for?

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?
Britain takes the League of Nations seriously

This is an election address so the source cannot be trusted

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Need some help interpreting the source?

  • The League has a poor historical reputation, but this is partly because historians and other commentators criticized it for a failing in a role which it never really had. The great powers like Britain, France and Japan never saw the League as an international police officer. They saw it as one of many ways in which great powers reached agreements. By providing a place to meet and by providing technical and administrative support the League performed a valuable function. The Foreign Ministers of the Great Powers usually attended League meetings and the USA usually sent observers. It is hard to believe they would have done this if they thought the League was pointless.

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 CHAR 22/240/107