First World War (1914-1918) = The Great War = The War to End all Wars = Total War Long Term Causes: [animal]

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Manchuria and Abyssinia

The Manchurian and Abyssinian crises shook people's confidence in the League and proved that the League had no real power or authority over its members. In both situations, the League did not act quickly enough or made poor decisions about how to suppress the aggressor nation. This served to show that smaller countries could not expect protection from the League and that aggressors (such as Hitler) had nothing to stand in their way.

In the early 1930s, two events destroyed people's belief in the ability of the League to stop wars.  

  • In 1932, Japan (a member of the League's Council) invaded Manchuria. It took the League nearly a year to send a commission and declare that Japan ought to leave - whereupon Japan left the League. The League couldn't send an army, and it needed America's support to impose sanctions successfully. In the end, it did nothing.

  • In 1935, Italy invaded Abyssinia. Although the Abyssinian emperor Haile Selassie went to the League himself to ask for help, all the League did was to ban arms sales, which did Abyssinia more harm than Italy. A League commission offered Italy part of Abyssinia, but Italy invaded anyway. Far from stopping Italy, Britain and France tried to make a secret pact to give Abyssinia to Italy.


image icon: map of manchuria

In September 1931, the Japanese claimed that Chinese soldiers had sabotaged the Manchurian railway in Korea, which Japan controlled. Japan attacked and by February 1932, had brutally conquered Manchuria.

image icon: china appealed to the league of nations

Meanwhile, in January-March 1932, Japan attacked and captured the city of Shanghai in China itself. In March 1932, China appealed to the League of Nations.

image icon: japan leave league of nations

In April 1932, a League delegation led by Lord Lytton arrived in Manchuria to see what was happening, and in October 1932 it declared that Japan should leave. In February 1933, a special assembly of the League voted against Japan, so the Japanese walked out.

image icon: japan invade china

The League, however, could not agree on sanctions, and Britain and France were not prepared to send an army. Not only did the Japanese stay in Manchuria, but in July 1937 they also invaded China.


image icon: abyssinia map

In December 1934, a dispute about the border between Abyssinia and the Italian Somaliland flared into fighting.

image icon: haile selassie

In January 1935, Haile Selassie, the emperor of Abyssinia, asked the League to arbitrate.
In July 1935, the League banned arms sales to either side, and in September 1935, it appointed a five-power committee to arbitrate.

image icon :italy invade

In October 1935, the League's committee suggested that Italy should have some land in Abyssinia.
Instead, Italy's 100,000-strong army invaded Abyssinia. The Italian troops used poison gas and attacked Red Cross hospitals.

image icon: hoare-laval pact

Britain and France refused to intervene. In December 1935, news leaked out about the Hoare-Laval Pact - a secret plan made by the foreign secretary of Britain and the prime minister of France to give Abyssinia to Italy.
In the end, the League did almost nothing. By May 1936, Italy had conquered Abyssinia.

Effects of the Manchurian and Abyssinian Crises

This cartoon by the British cartoonist David Low attacks the weakness of the League in the face of Japan. A Japanese soldier walks all over the League, while League officials bow to him and the British foreign secretary John Simon powders the League's nose using a 'face-saving kit'.  image: cartoon called \'the doormat\' by british artist david low

It is as important that you know the effect the two crises had on the League, as it is that you know the story of the events themselves:  

  1. It became clear that if a strong nation was prepared to ignore the League, the League could do nothing about it.

  2. The League's delays and slowness made it look scared.

  3. Sanctions were shown to be useless.

  4. Everybody realized that Britain and France were not prepared to use force.

  5. The four major powers - Japan, Italy, Britain and France - all betrayed the League.

  6. Smaller nations realized that the League could not and would not protect them.

  7. Britain and France decided that the League was useless to stop war, and followed instead the policy of appeasement.

  8. Hitler was encouraged to move ahead with his plans.

Failures in the 1930s

The failures of the League in the 1930s were not only because of aggressor nations undermining its authority, but also down to its own members. Britain and France, the two most influential members, ignored the League in their efforts to appease Hitler - actions that arguably led to the outbreak of the Second World War.
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