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League of Nations Union

The League of Nations Union (LNU) was an organization formed in October 1918 in the peace movement.[1][2] By the mid-1920s, it had over a quarter of a million registered subscribers [3] and its membership eventually peaked at around 407,775 in 1931. By the 1940s, after the disappointments of the international crises of the 1930s and the descent into World War II, membership fell to about 100,000.[4]


  • Formation 1
  • Internal structure 2
  • Activities 3
    • Peace Ballot 3.1
    • Educational programmes 3.2
  • The end of the LNU and the establishment of the United Nations Association 4
  • Papers and records 5
  • References 6
  • Further reading 7
  • See also 8


The LNU was formed on 13 October 1918[2] by the merger of the League of Free Nations Association and the League of Nations Society, two older organisations already working for the establishment of a new and transparent system of international relations, human rights (as then understood) and for world peace through disarmament and universal collective security rather than traditional approaches such as the balance of power or the creation of power blocs through secret treaties.[5]

Internal structure

The headquarters of the LNU were located variously at Buckingham Gate [6] and Grosvenor Crescent, Royal Charter of Incorporation. Beneath the General Council sat the Executive Committee, which met every two weeks and co-ordinated all activity such as the LNU's campaigns and educational programmes, received reports from branches, monitored the output of specialist sub-groups and had responsibility for the LNU's staff. LNU branches had their own independent management structures.[5]


The LNU played an important role in inter-war politics. According to one source it had been successful in converting the mainstream of British society, including labour, the churches and the principal newspapers to the cause of the League of Nations.[8] It also carried great influence in traditional political circles and particularly in the

See also

  • Donald S. Birn, The League of Nations Union, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1981.

Further reading

  1. ^ R. M. Douglas, The Labour Party, Nationalism and Internationalism, 1939-1951: A New World Order; Routledge, 2004, p. 27.
  2. ^ a b League of Nations Union Collected Records, 1915-1945, Swarthmore College Peace Collection.
  3. ^ John T. Callaghan, The Labour Party and Foreign Policy: A History; Routledge, 2007, p. 69.
  4. ^ Joseph Preston Baratta, Politics of World Federation: From world federalism to global governance; Greenwood Publishing Group, 2004, p. 74.
  5. ^ a b c "LNU - League of Nations Union" Collection, British Library of Political and Economic Science, LSE.
  6. ^ Edith M. Phelps, Selected Articles on a League of Nations; H. W. Wilson & Company, 1919, pp. xxvi & xxxvii.
  7. ^ a b Archives of League Of Nations Union, 1918-1971.
  8. ^ B. J. C. McKercher (ed.), Anglo-American Relations in the 1920s: The Struggle for Supremacy; University of Alberta, 1990, p. 23.
  9. ^ Frank McDonough, Neville Chamberlain, Appeasement, and the British Road to War; Manchester University Press, 1998, p. 111.
  10. ^ Steven Morewood, The British Defence of Egypt, 1935-1940: Conflict and Crisis in the Eastern Mediterranean; Routledge, 2004, p. 73.
  11. ^ Francis West, Cecil Murray: A Life; Croom Helm, 1984, pp. 200-201.
  12. ^ David Dutton, Austen Chamberlain: Gentleman in Politics; Transaction Publishers, 1985, p. 307.
  13. ^ J. A. Thompson, Lord Cecil and the Pacifists in the League of Nations Union; Volume 20, 4, 1977, pp. 949-59.
  14. ^ Neville Thompson, The Anti-Appeasers: Conservative Opposition to Appeasement in the 1930s; Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1971, p. 37.
  15. ^ HC Deb 23 November 1932 vol 272 cc73-211
  16. ^ Pat Thane, Companion to Twentieth-Century Britain, Cassell & Co, 2001, p. 311.
  17. ^ Chris Cook, Sources in British Political History, 1900-1950 Volume 1; MacMillan, 1975, p. 144.
  18. ^ British Library of Political and Economic Science, League of Nations Union, 1918-1971.
  19. ^ J. A. Cannon, League Of Nations in The Oxford Companion to British History, OUP, 1997, p. 567.


The papers, records, minute books, pamphlets, reports and leaflets of the LNU are deposited at the British Library of Political and Economic Science at the London School of Economics in Westminster.[5]

Papers and records

It was plain a new international settlement would be needed after the Second World War and in 1948 the United Nations Association (UNA) was founded to promote the work of the Dumbarton Oaks Conference of the previous year. As a result the LNU arranged for the transfer of its complete organisation and membership to the UNA. However, under the provisions of its Royal Charter, the LNU was able to continue until the mid-1970s in a limited capacity, to handle bequests, and administer the payment of pensions to former employees.

The failure of the League of Nations to ensure collective security during the international crises of the 1920s and 1930s in prominent conflicts such as Manchuria, the Italian invasion of Abyssinia, the Spanish Civil War and the Russian invasion of Finland diminished public faith in the League and its principles. In addition the withdrawal, exclusion or expulsion of key nations from its counsels - the USA refused to join, Germany and Japan left in 1933, Italy went in 1937 and the Soviet Union was expelled in 1939 - made clear the limitations of collective security without full and active participation of all the powers.[19]

The end of the LNU and the establishment of the United Nations Association

The LNU other main activity was education and awareness raising. It provided publications, speakers and organised courses.[17] Some of its programmes had a lasting impact on British schools.[18]

Educational programmes

One example of the significance of the political impact the LNU could have was its organisation of the Peace Ballot of 1935, when voters were asked to decide on questions relating to international disarmament and collective security. The Peace Ballot was not an official referendum but more than eleven million people participated in it, representing strong support for the aims and objectives of the League of Nations, influencing policy makers and politicians. The results of the Peace Ballot were publicized worldwide. It has been suggested that one outcome was the interpretation of the result by the Axis powers as an indication of Britain's unwillingness to go to war on behalf of other nations,[16] although those voting in favour of military action against international aggressors as a matter of last resort was almost three-to-one.

Peace Ballot

[15] said of the Union: "What impresses me most about them is their long suffering and inexhaustible gullibility".Winston Churchill [14]. Even Austen Chamberlain remarked that the Executive Committee contained "...some of the worst cranks I have ever known".Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament – an analogous position to the opinions held by Conservatives in the 1980s in respect of the [13] However, most Conservatives were deeply suspicious of the LNU's support for pacifism and disarmament[12] who were both members of the LNU Executive Committee.Austen Chamberlain and Lord Robert Cecil High profile Conservatives did then come into the LNU, notably [11]

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