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Does the history of the League of Nations tell the story

of triumph of realism over liberalism?

Fanny Berthaud, Anastasia Bocchino, Darislav Dikov,
Cora Fariba Schah Sedi, Raphael Nahoum
What is League of Nations?

International & intergovernmental

Established on 10 January 1920
Headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland
Covenant included in Treaty of Versailles
Covenant centred around Woodrow
Wilsons 14 Points plan
Council: Four strongest members
(Great Britain, France, Italy, Japan)
Dissolved on 18 April 1946
Main Objectives of the League of Nations
To achieve international peace and security
To promote international cooperation
To establish friendly and cooperative relations between nations

Prevent wars through collective security and disarmament

Settle international disputes through negotiation, arbitration and
What is Liberalism ?
Preservation of individual liberty
Economic freedom
Democratic government
Rule of law
It Defends :
Freedom of speech and press
Freedom of artistic and intellectual expression
Use of state resources for the welfare of the
Liberalism in the League of Nations

1920s Liberal approach:

Banking and the commercial
sector (liberal culture)
League encourages:
Commercial side
Money side
Monetary stabilization
International Labor Office (ILO)
European Customs Union
Examples of Liberalism
Aaland Islands, 1921

Yugoslavia Albania conflict 1921

Greece Bulgaria conflict 1925.

What is realism?

Realism in the World politics is essentially and unchangeably a struggle among

League of Nations self-interested states for power and position under anarchy with each
competing state pursuing its pwn national interests Machiavelli & Thomas
- All states seek to preserve their political autonomy and
their territorial integrity.
- All states want to maintain a desirable domestic and
international order.

Key characteristics

- Power is the only certainty in the world.

- Self-preservation of a state is fundamental.
- Moral behavior is risky.
- Leaders may be moral, but they must not let moral concerns
guide foreign policy.
- International organizations and law have no power or force;
they exist only as long as states accept them.
Niccol Machiavelli
He is a realist.
The Prince (1513), he advised rulers to use deceit and violence as
tools against other states.
To act morally will bring about disaster.
Machiavelli supports a type of brutal politics.
He justifies immoral actions in politics, but never refused to admit
that they are evil.
Introduction of the basis for defining the realism we know today.

Realism in the League

of Nations
The League of Nations was
Sanctions had to be taken
helpless in the face of the
They only took decisions on the principle of
expansionist power politics
through inefficient unanimity, this is why Wall Street crash of October 1929
conducted by authoritarian
sanctions. most of them could not be
regimes in Japan, Italy and

Realism in the League of Nations

Examples of Realism The Corfu Incident of 1923
involving Italy and Greece

The Manchurian Crisis (1931)

involving Japan and China

Abyssinia invasion by

Disarmament had failed

Historiography on League of Nation

Harriman (1927) :
Believes in it
A solution to solve the problems in the world
Create an international world united with peace.
Potter (1932) :
Had a more balanced point of view
Recognized that it wasnt as successful as
Optimistic regarding the future
Future without an international organization
wouldnt make any sense.
What about E. H. Carr ?

Wrote The Twenty Years Crisis :

- Any attempt to place optimism in the League of Nations is
- League of Nations failed at its creation
Why ? Because :
- Misconception of liberalism => principles caused the failure
- Power was divorced from politics
- An international anarchical system based on balance of power
- Contradictions within the different articles of the treaty
- The treaty didnt have power
The good points of the League of Nations ?
It helped the new states
It helped to solve conflicts between small
It solved disputes without military means

How the League of Nation failed ?

The League of Nations was dominated by
Britain and France
Many countries were insufficiently involved or
not represented
The League proved to be powerless

The answer to the question ?

Yes : The League of Nations represents the
triumph of realism of liberalism.
But: E.H Carr analysis tells us the League of
Nations failed because the leaders didnt think in
a liberal way.