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Failure of the League of Nations in the 1930s

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In the 1930s the world became a much more difficult place for the league to deal with. The reasons for this happening was because of things such as the great depression, the failure to reach any agreement about disarmament, aggressive policies by Japan in Manchuria and by Italy in Abyssinia and also the aggressive policies of Hitler’s Germany. For starters the league always had a problem with its members and by 1933 Germany, Japan and Italy all left the league with led to the people of thinking that the league is weak and ineffective and won’t really make a change and improve life for people all over.

The effects of the great Depression

In 1929 the Wall Street crash in the USA sparked off an economic depression throughout the world. Millions of people were thrown out of work. This made the leagues work harder in many ways such as the trade between countries like the USA putting tariffs on imports from outside to protect their own industries and jobs. This damaged relations between countries. Another way that this made the league work harder is to rescue its industry from collapse. And also to distract the Italian peoples attention away from Italy’s economic problems.

Some countries like Britain did not want to get involved in setting international disputes while they had economic problems like high unemployment. Another effect was that in Germany the economic depression led to Hitler being elected to power. He promised to overthrow the treaty of Versailles and take back by force the land Germany had lost at Versailles. This led to Frances refusal to disarm and she started building up her defences.

The Manchurian Crisis, 1931

Japan was a rising power in Asia and the pacific and played an important role in the First World War.

The Wall Street crash and depression had a major impact on the Japanese economy. This caused the Japanese to invade the Chinese territory of Manchuria. The area also provided a new market for Japanese goods. The Japanese successfully conquered Manchuria and renamed it Manchukuo. China was not able to defend Manchuria. It appealed to the League of Nations for support against Japan. After much delay, the league condemned to the Japanese and called for Japan to leave Manchuria. However, instead of leaving Manchuria, Japan left the League of Nations. It remained in control of Manchuria and the league did not try to stop the Japanese occupation there. This event marked the beginning of the end for the League of Nations. Britain and France were not willing to support the league in taking action against Japan. The Manchurian crisis seemed to signal that the league would not punish aggression.

The Italian invasion of Abyssinia, 1935

Italy under Mussolini was another country that felt it had to expand its borders. Mussolini had said he did not want to be made a prisoner of the Mediterranean. He looked at the map of Africa and saw the British and French had major parts of it. He saw no problems with taking Abyssinia (now Ethiopia) for Italy. Like Japan, Italy made up a reason to invade. They claimed Abyssinian troops had attacked them and they had to defend themselves. In October 1935 Italian troops invaded. The force and the one-sided war made many people want a solution. Abyssinia went to the League for help. They were slow and not very eager to get involved. The British and French even tried to do a secret deal with the Italians to solve the problem. Eventually the League began to use sanctions) to make them leave Abyssinia. These were badly organised and the important goods like coal, oil and steel were not affected. It was clear that most League countries were not prepared to put themselves out.

World Disarmament Conference (in Geneva 1923-33)

A total of 59 countries were present but the conference collapsed without any agreement. Germany wanted other countries to disarm; France did not want to reduce its armed forces because of its fear of being attacked again. In 1933 Germany withdrew from the conference. Everyone knew that Hitler was reaming Germany and so the conference collapsed with no agreement.


To conclude this presentation the reasons that the league failed was because its reputation was weakened and people started thinking that its authority was lost. The Manchurian and Abyssinian crisis was not handled very well. Britain and France were not that helpful either they only cared about themselves and not about the league, which they were committed to and obligated to perform in the people’s interest but they were not able to deliver. And also because the USA never joined this was a big deal because the whole idea of the League of Nations started with Woodrow Wilson the US congressman. Another reason was that the structure wasn’t very good and it took a long time to make decisions. It was basically not helpful and was not acting in the people’s interest and that’s why it failed.

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