The League of Nations – failures in the 1930s

The League of Nations formed on 10th January 1920 after the Treaty of Versailles was to ensure that there was peace in the region and in the world over. During nineteenth and twentieth century the nations of Europe were the most powerful and disputes among them led to World War in the sense most countries in that region took sides and fought the war. The massive loss of life and money set the leaders to rethink about war. So the main provisions of the League were to prevent war and disarmament. This was partially successful in the 1920s but failed miserably in 1930s leading to World War II.


Manchuria officially belonged to China but Japan had the power to station its troops in the area around the South Manchurian Railway. In September 1931 a part of the railway was damaged and Japan declared that it was China’s sabotage and declared war. They quickly moved in and captured the area. China appealed to The League. The commission found Japan to be right but rebuked it for using forces an asked it not to indulge in further provocations. Japan ignored this, completely occupied the area and even renamed it as Manchukuo. On March 9th 1932 Japan set up a puppet government and made Pu Yi, the former emperor of China, as its executive head. The “Manchurian Crisis” was a major failure of the League of Nations.

Chaco War

Skirmishes between Bolivia and Paraguay were on from the 1920s. In 1932 Bolivia attacked Paraguay for the Grand Chaco region – a place sparsely populated but had the Paraguay River which flowed into the Atlantic Ocean. The League was asked to intervene but could not solve the issue. Pan American Conference had to mediate and brought about a ceasefire on 12th June 1935. Paraguay retained most of the land.


In October 1935 Italy under Benito Mussolini attacked Abyssinia, the last independent state of Africa. It was totally unprovoked and the League had to intervene. In December 1935 the British Foreign Secretary Samuel Hoare and the French Prime Minister Pierre Laval tried to end the conflict with the Hoare-Laval Pact. This pact proposed to divide Abyssinia into an Abyssinian sector and Italian Sector. Mussolini agreed to the pact but the people of Britain and France were outraged with this and the two leaders had to resign. In effect Abyssinia remained with Italy as nothing was done by the League of Nations.

Other minor disputes were happening all over Europe and many nations refused to abide by the laws of the League of Nations.

  • In 1933 Hitler announced Germany’ disassociation from the League. He also refused to comply with the disarmament clause.
  • The Disarmament Conference in 1936 failed.
  • In 1936 Germany occupied Rhineland.
  • In 1937 Italy disassociated from the League.
  • In 1938 Germany and Austria became allies again in defiance of the League of Nations.
  • British and France to appease Germany, agreed to give Hitler Sudetenland in 1938.
  • In 1939 the Spanish war was won by the Fascists resulting in Spain leaving the League.

The final and the biggest failure was the League’s inability to stop World War II. All the major and minor disputes culminated in this war which was the worst holocaust the world had ever seen.

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