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Born on this day
Gerhart Hauptmann
Gerhart Hauptmann was a German dramatist and novelist, who won a Nobel prize.
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15 November 2018

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First assembly of the League of Nations is held in Geneva15.11.1920

Wikipedia (07 Nov 2013, 12:04)

The League of Nations (abbreviated as LN in English, and SDN in its other official languages) was an intergovernmental organization founded as a result of the Paris Peace Conference that ended the First World War. It was the first international organization whose principal mission was to maintain world peace. Its primary goals, as stated in its Covenant, included preventing wars through collective security and disarmament, and settling international disputes through negotiation and arbitration. Other issues in this and related treaties included labour conditions, just treatment of native inhabitants, human and drug trafficking, arms trade, global health, prisoners of war, and protection of minorities in Europe. At its greatest extent from 28 September 1934 to 23 February 1935, it had 58 members.


The concept of a peaceful community of nations had been proposed as far back as 1795, when Immanuel Kant's Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch outlined the idea of a league of nations to control conflict and promote peace between states. Kant argued for the establishment of a peaceful world community, not in a sense of a global government, but in the hope that each state would declare itself a free state that respects its citizens and welcomes foreign visitors as fellow rational beings, thus promoting peaceful society worldwide. International co-operation to promote collective security originated in the Concert of Europe that developed after the Napoleonic Wars in the 19th century in an attempt to maintain the status quo between European states and so avoid war. This period also saw the development of international law, with the first Geneva Conventions establishing laws dealing with humanitarian relief during wartime, and the international Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907 governing rules of war and the peaceful settlement of international disputes.

The forerunner of the League of Nations, the Inter-Parliamentary Union, was formed by peace activists William Randal Cremer and Frédéric Passy in 1889. The organization was international in scope, with a third of the members of parliaments (in the 24 countries that had parliaments) serving as members of the IPU by 1914. Its aims were to encourage governments to solve international disputes by peaceful means. Annual conferences were held to help governments refine the process of international arbitration. Its structure consisted of a council headed by a president, which would later be reflected in the structure of the League.

At the start of the 20th century, two power blocs emerged from alliances between the European Great Powers. It was these alliances that, at the start of the First World War in 1914, drew all the major European powers into the conflict. This was the first major war in Europe between industrialized countries, and the first time in Western Europe that the results of industrialization (for example, mass production) had been dedicated to war. The result of this industrialized warfare was an unprecedented casualty level: eight and a half million soldiers killed, an estimated 21 million wounded, and approximately 10 million civilian deaths.

By the time the fighting ended in November 1918, the war had had a profound impact, affecting the social, political and economic systems of Europe and inflicting psychological and physical damage. Anti-war sentiment rose across the world; the First World War was described as "the war to end all wars", and its possible causes were vigorously investigated. The causes identified included arms races, alliances, secret diplomacy, and the freedom of sovereign states to enter into war for their own benefit. One proposed remedy was the creation of an international organization whose aim was to prevent future war through disarmament, open diplomacy, international co-operation, restrictions on the right to wage war, and penalties that made war unattractive.

While the First World War was still underway, a number of governments and groups had already started developing plans to change the way international relations were carried out to try to prevent another such conflict. United States President Woodrow Wilson and his adviser Colonel Edward M. House enthusiastically promoted the idea of the League as a means of avoiding any repetition of the bloodshed of the First World War, and the creation of the League was a centrepiece of Wilson's Fourteen Points for Peace. Specifically the final point stated: "A general association of nations must be formed under specific covenants for the purpose of affording mutual guarantees of political independence and territorial integrity to great and small states alike."

Before drafting the specific terms of his peace deal, Wilson recruited a team led by Colonel House to compile information deemed pertinent in assessing Europe’s geo-political situation. In early January 1918, Wilson summoned House to Washington and the two began hammering out, in complete secrecy, the president’s first address on the League of Nations, which was delivered to Congress on 8 January 1918. Wilson's final plans for the League were strongly influenced by South African Prime Minister Jan Smuts (served as a General in World War I), who in 1918 had published a treatise entitled The League of Nations: A Practical Suggestion. According to F. S. Crafford, Wilson adopted "both the ideas and the style" of Smuts.

On 8 July 1919, Wilson returned to the United States and embarked on a nation-wide campaign to secure the support of the American people for their country’s entry into the League. On 10 July, Wilson addressed the Senate, declaring that "a new role and a new responsibility have come to this great nation that we honor and which we would all wish to lift to yet higher levels of service and achievement". Support, particularly from Republicans, was scanty at best.

The Paris Peace Conference, convened to build a lasting peace after the First World War, approved the proposal to create the League of Nations (French: Société des Nations, German: Völkerbund) on 25 January 1919. The Covenant of the League of Nations was drafted by a special commission, and the League was established by Part I of the Treaty of Versailles. On 28 June 1919, 44 states signed the Covenant, including 31 states which had taken part in the war on the side of the Triple Entente or joined it during the conflict. Wilson canvassed the country to generate support for the treaty and the league, but his health was failing, and he gave his last speech on the subject on 25 September 1919. Despite Wilson's efforts to establish and promote the League, for which he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in October 1919, the United States did not join. Opposition in the Senate, particularly from Republican politicians Henry Cabot Lodge and William Borah and especially in regard to Article X of the Covenant, ensured that the United States would not ratify the agreement.

The League held its first council meeting in Paris on 16 January 1920, six days after the Versailles Treaty came into force. In November, the headquarters of the League was moved to Geneva, where the first General Assembly was held on 15 November 1920.

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