The league of nations

Brief summary

The organisation founded at President Wilson’s initiative was the first attempt at peaceful resolution of the world’s conflicts.

The League of Nations was founded in 1920 by forty-two states, twenty of which were non-European countries. Its goal was to act as a mediator in ensuring the new post-war order, and to prevent further armed conflict where possible. It had a General Assembly, a Secretariat and an Executive Council, but decisions had to be passed unanimously, and it did not have its own armed forces. Member states signed a declaration committing themselves to respecting one another’s independence and borders. Although it was the President of the United States, Woodrow Wilson, who had insisted on its foundations, the USA never became a member. Thus the fate of the international organisation was sealed, as without the new world power that was the United States – the role of which had been decisive in winning the war – it was unable to back up its decisions with real power. After 1939 the League of Nations ceased to be operational, but was only officially declared to be defunct in 1946, after the foundation of its successor organisation, the United Nations.



„Rather than on brute force, rights should be based on the shared power of the nations."
Woodrow Wilson


„It is the mission of the League of Nations to be the tutor of the less developed countries."
Arthur Balfour


„The League of Nations provides for territorial integrity plus later alteration of boundaries if it could be shown that injustice had been done or that conditions had changed."
Woodrow Wilson


„The League of Nations is no substitute for the British fleet."
Winston Churchill


„This was an American inspiration forced and foisted upon Europe against its forward inclination."
Winston Churchill


„It’s useless even to talk about the League of Nations. Soon Europe will turn to America, asking it to save the civilized world."
Warren G. Harding


„The League of Nations is the dictatorship of four big powers."
Warren G. Harding


„The League of Nations may do a little good, but the more pompous it is and the more it pretends to do, the less it will really accomplish."
Theodore Roosevelt


„The League of Nations is dead, long live the United Nations!"
Robert Cecil, 1st Viscount Cecil of Chelwood (1946)




Further rooms

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Franz Joseph’s death was felt as a tragedy by his contemporaries.

Back from the front

The military casualties of the war numbered 10 million dead and 21 million wounded.

The creators of the peace structure

The victors invoked the principle of “national self-determination”, but their decisions bore no trace of this.

The dawn of the American century

After World War I the United States took over the leading role in world politics from Europe.

Europe in tumult

The continent’s victors and vanquished alike faced similar problems: everyday life was overshadowed by social unrest and economic hopelessness.

The Spanish flu pandemic

In three devastating waves, the pandemic killed over twenty million people: more than twice the number of soldiers killed in the war.

The league of nations

The organisation founded at President Wilson’s initiative was the first attempt at peaceful resolution of the world’s conflicts.

Red terror

Violence and intimidation were from the very start the essence of communist dictatorships.

The Leninist model

Attempts at transforming European societies and the threat of a communist world revolution posed a serious challenge to European states.

Changes – 1914–1922

“Divide and rule!” The victors redrew the world map in a way that would possibly perpetuate ethnic and religious conflicts.

In the shadow of Trianon

The dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy plunged the Kingdom of Hungary into its deepest crisis since the Ottoman occupation.