League of Nations


The League of Nations was the first worldwide intergovernmental organisation whose principal mission was to maintain world peace. It was founded on 10 January 1920 following the Paris Peace Conference that ended the First World War. In 1919 US President Woodrow Wilson was to win the Nobel Peace Prize for his role as the leading architect of the League. The onset of the Second World War showed that the League had failed its primary purpose, which was to prevent any future world war.


The League of Nations was the forerunner of the United Nations. It was established under the Treaty of Versailles, the peace treaty that formally ended World War I. The Treaty of Versailles was signed on 28 June 1919. Part I of the Versailles Treaty, i.e. the Covenant of the League of Nations, was the constitutional document of the League. According to this constitution, the League's purpose was "to promote international co-operation and to achieve international peace and security". The main organs of the League were the Assembly, the Council and a permanent Secretariat, headed by a Secretary General. The Assembly was the global deliberative organ, the Council the global executive, and the Secretariat acted somewhat like a global bureaucracy. Both Council and Assembly were mandated to deal with any matter within the sphere of action of the League or affecting the peace of the world. The League was based at Geneva, Switzerland. The Covenant also included the establishment of a Permanent Court of International Justice. Even though the League managed to contain various international disputes, the League ultimately failed to prevent World War II, and was formally abolished in 1946.

This Research Guide is intended as a starting point for research on the League of Nations. It provides the basic (legal) materials available in the Peace Palace Library, both in print and electronic format. Handbooks, leading articles, bibliographies, periodicals, serial publications and documents of interest are presented in the Selective Bibliography section. Links to the PPL Catalogue are inserted. The Library's subject heading (keyword) League of Nations is instrumental for searching through the Catalogue. Special attention is given to our subscriptions on databases, e-journals, e-books and other electronic resources. Finally, this Research Guide features links to relevant websites and other online resources of particular interest.

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Sources of international law

  • Kolb, R. (ed.), Commentaire sur le Pacte de la Société des Nations, Bruxelles, Bruylant, 2015.
  • League of Nations Documents, 1919-1946: A Descriptive Guide and Key to the Microfilm Collection, New Haven, CT, Research Publications, 1973-1975.

This three volumes set serves as a guide to all of the League of Nations Documents, published by Research Publications, as part of the microfilm collection League of Nations Documents and Publications, 1919-1946. The guide consists of basically two classes of League of Nations materials: A. Documents and B. Serial Publications. The microfilm collection is available at the Peace Palace Library. Please contact the counter in our Reading Room, if you want to make use of this unique collection.

Reference works

  • Cottrell, M.P., League of Nations: Enduring Legacies of the First Experiment at World Organization, London; New York, Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2018.
  • Gill, G., The League of Nations from 1929 to 1946, Garden City Park, NY, Avery Pub. Group, 1996.
  • Ginneken, A.H.M. van, Historical Dictionary of the League of Nations, Lanham, MD, Scarecrow Press, 2006.
  • Gupta, D.C., The League of Nations, Delhi, Vikas, 1974.
  • Henig, R.B., The League of Nations, London, Haus Histories, 2010.
  • The League of Nations 1920-1946: Organization and Accomplishments: a Retrospective of the First International Organization for the Establishment of World Peace, New York, United Nations, 1996.
  • Northedge, F.S., The League of Nations: Its Life and Times, 1920-1946, Leicester, Leicester University Press, 1986.
  • Ostrower, G.B., The League of Nations from 1919 to 1929, Garden City Park, NY, Avery Pub. Group, 1996.
  • Raffo, P., The League of Nations, London, Historical Association, 1974.
  • Scott, G., The Rise and Fall of the League of Nations, London, Hutchinson, 1973.
  • The League of Nations in Retrospect: Proceedings of the Symposium organized by the United Nations Library and the Graduate Institute of International Studies, Geneva, 6-9 November 1980, Berlin, W. de Gruyter, 1983.
  • Walters, F.P., A History of the League of Nations, London, Oxford University Press, 1952.

Selected books and articles

  • Chaudron, G., New Zealand in the League of Nations: the Beginnings of an Independent Foreign Policy, 1919-1939, Jefferson, NC, McFarland, 2012.
  • Clavin, P.M., Securing the World Economy: the Reinvention of the League of Nations, 1920-1946, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2013.
  • Fosse, M. and J. Fox, The League of Nations: From Collective Security to Global Rearmament, Geneva, United Nations, 2012.
  • Housden, M., The League of Nations and the Organization of Peace, Harlow, Pearson Education, 2011.
  • Johnson, G., Lord Robert Cecil: Politician and Internationalist, Farnham, Ashgate, 2013.
  • McCarthy, H., The British People and the League of Nations: Democracy, Citizenship and Internationalism, c.1918-45, Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2011.
  • Micheletta, L. e L. Riccardi, La politica della pace: la Società delle Nazioni tra multilateralismo e Balance of Power, Milanofiori Assago, Wolters Kluwer, 2016.
  • Pedersen, S., The Guardians: The League of Nations and the Crisis of Empire, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2015.
  • Ross, W.G., "Constitutional Issues Involving the Controversy over American Membership in the League of Nations, 1918-1920", American Journal of Legal History, 53 (2013), No. 1, pp. 1-88.
  • Sarè, S., The League of Nations and the Debate on Disarmament (1918-1919), Roma, Edizioni Nuova cultura, 2013.
  • Wilson, Th.W., "The Dream of a League of Nations", in G.M. Reichberg, H. Syse and E. Begby, The Ethics of War: Classic and Contemporary Readings, Malden, MA, Blackwell, 2006, pp. 595-599.

Periodicals, serial publications

  • Annuaire de la Société des Nations
  • Société des Nations: revue Belge de coopération internationale
  • Völkerbund: Journal of the German League of Nations Union


  • Aufricht, H., Guide to League of Nations Publications: a Bibliographical Survey of the Work of the League, 1920-1947, New York, Columbia University Press, 1951.
  • Birchfield, M.E., Consolidated Catalog of League of Nations Publications Offered for Sale, Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., Oceana Publications, 1976.
  • Ghebali, V.Y. and C. Ghebali, A Repertoire of League of Nations Serial Documents, 1919-1947, Dobbs Ferry, N.Y, Oceana Publications, 1973.