League of Nations


League of Nations - Research Guide International Law

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 systematic classification → League of Nations in general and subject heading (keyword) League of Nations are 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.


Reference works


Leading articles


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.

Periodicals, serial publications


Systematic classification → United Nations, League of Nations

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Librarian's choice

  • Cottrell, M.P., League of Nations: Enduring Legacies of the First Experiment at World Organization, London; New York, Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2018.

    The League of Nations occupies a fascinating yet paradoxical place in human history. Over time, it's come to symbolize both a path to peace and to war, a promising vision of world order and a utopian illusion, an artifact of a bygone era and a beacon for one that may still come. As the first experiment in world organization, the League played a pivotal, but often overlooked role in the creation of the United Nations and the modern architecture of global governance. In contrast to conventional accounts, which chronicle the institution's successes and failures during the interwar period, Cottrell explores the enduring relevance of the League of Nations for the present and future of global politics. He asks: What are the legacies of the League experiment? How do they inform current debates on the health of global order and US leadership? Is there a "dark side" to these legacies? Cottrell demonstrates how the League of Nations' soul continues to shape modern international relations, for better and for worse. Written in a manner accessible to students of international history, international relations and global politics, it will also be of interest to graduates and scholars.

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  • Micheletta, L. e L. Riccardi, La politica della pace: la Società delle Nazioni tra multilateralismo e Balance of Power, Milanofiori Assago, Wolters Kluwer, 2016.

    La Società delle Nazioni nacque come una risposta globale alla necessità manifestatasi nel primo dopoguerra di ribaltare le convenzioni tradizionali su cui si erano incardinate le relazioni internazionali. La New Diplomacy da essa propugnata intendeva sostituire il sistema gerarchico delle grandi potenze così come si era manifestato, pur con le evoluzioni successive, dal Congresso di Vienna. Non a caso lo spazio riservato agli interessi dei «piccoli stati» era uno degli elementi di maggiore novità della proposta wilsoniana. Per la prima volta si sarebbe sganciato il concetto di equilibrio internazionale da quello della centralità assoluta dei disegni delle grandi potenze il cui compimento si fondava sulla maggiore forza militare, economica e organizzativa. Le vicende politiche ed economiche degli anni Venti e Trenta si sarebbero incaricate di mettere alla prova questo ambizioso disegno.

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See also

More Research guides on International Organizations and Relations

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