International Relations 1919-1939

Occupation of the Ruhr

The French and Belgian occupation of the Ruhr, 11th January 1923

On the 11th January 1923, French and Belgian troops marched into Germany and occupied the industrial Ruhr area. The two countries had grown increasingly frustrated by Germany frequently defaulting on its reparations that had been agreed in the Treaty of Versailles. The occupation was met with passive resistance, which was only called off on the 26th September as rampant hyperinflation crippled the German economy.

 

Although the French leader Raymond Poincaré was initially reluctant to occupy the Ruhr, he had grown increasingly exasperated by Germany’s regular defaults and the lack of international support for sanctions as a way to persuade her to pay. He argued strongly that the reparations themselves were not the key issue, but rather that allowing Germany to defy this part of the Treaty of Versailles could lead to further attempts to undermine the Treaty at a later date.

Despite these arguments it was Germany’s failure to provide the full quota of coal and timber in December 1922 that provided France and Belgium with the excuse to occupy the Ruhr on the 11th January 1923. They established the Inter-Allied Mission for Control of Factories and Mines to ensure that goods payments were made, but the Germans responded with a campaign of passive resistance. Tensions were high between the occupiers and Ruhr locals, and by the time Gustav Stresemann’s new government called off the strikes in September approximately 130 German civilians had been killed by the occupying army.

The occupation enabled France and Belgium to extract reparations, but it was Germany that won international sympathy. The last French troops finally left the Ruhr on the 25th August 1925.

The end of Germany’s strike in the Ruhr

On the 26th September 1923, German Chancellor Gustav Stresemann ended passive resistance in the Ruhr and resumed the payment of First World War reparations.

By doing so he was able to slow down the economic crisis that was enveloping the country and show that he accepted the international realities of the new era. Although greeted with anger from both Left and Right Wing parties, Stresemann’s actions laid the foundation for the economic recovery that Germany experienced up until the onset of the Great Depression.

The 1921 London Schedule of Payments set out both the reparations amount, and the timetable over which Germany was expected to pay for its defeat in the First World War. However, from the very start of the payments Germany missed some its targets. Failure to provide the full quota of coal and timber in December 1922, provided the excuse for France and Belgium to occupy the Ruhr on the 11th January 1923.

Occupation was met with passive resistance, and the striking workers were paid with money printed by the government. This contributed to the rampant hyperinflation that had begun to cripple the economy from before the occupation even began. Aware that the situation was unsustainable, Stresemann – who had only been Chancellor for six weeks – called off passive resistance after nine months and started to pay reparations again. This marked the start of Germany’s international rehabilitation, although within Germany it was met with opposition from both Left and Right extremists. For that reason, Stresemann asked President Ebert to announce a state of emergency under Article 48 of the constitution on the same day.

League of Nations

The foundation of the League of Nations

On the 10th January 1920, the Treaty of Versailles came into effect. Although it had been signed in June the previous year, the terms weren’t activated until the 10th January – which as well as instigating the punishment of Germany also meant that the League of Nations was officially founded as the Covenant of the League was now in operation.

 

The League was set up on the urging of US President Woodrow Wilson, who included it as one of his Fourteen Points. His desire was to create “A general association of nations formed under specific covenants for the purpose of affording mutual guarantees of political independence and territorial integrity to great and small states alike.” It was therefore the first worldwide organisation established with the explicit aim of securing world peace. It intended to do this through collective security, disarmament, the promotion of international trade, and the improvement of social conditions.

Six days after its establishment on 10th January 1920, the League’s first Council meeting took place. The United States were notably absent, as opposition in the Senate meant that USA did not ratify the Treaty of Versailles. Although there were many reasons for the United States not ratifying the Treaty, a key factor was opposition to Article X of the Covenant which stated that League members would come to each other’s defence if they were attacked.

The League therefore began with 42 members, of which 23 remained members until the League was dissolved in 1946. It was replaced by the United Nations which, coincidentally, held its first General Assembly on the 10th January 1946.

The Gap in the Bridge cartoon

Weaknesses in the foundation and structure of the League of Nations

This short clip from the BBC’s Curriculum Bites offers a good overview of the inherent weaknesses of the League of Nations.

The League of Nations in the 1920s

This revision podcast is aimed at students studying GCSE and IGCSE History.  It focuses on striking a balance between the successes and failures of the League of Nations in the 1920s, in order to best help students revise for an exam question on this topic.  It opens with advice on how to plan an answer to a ‘how far’ question by assigning a score out of 10 for how successful different events were for the League of Nations.  You might also like to watch this video about answering a question on how successful the League of Nations was in the 1920s.

The podcast goes on to detail different challenges faced by the League of Nations during the 1920s, in order to provide students with adequate evidence to support a balanced answer.  Specific attention is given to the Leagues’s successes in the Upper Silesia Dispute, the Aaland Islands, and Greco-Bulgarian Dispute.  Other successes of the League are given, such as the League’s social policies and the work of the various commissions.

The successes of League are then contrasted with the League’s failures during the same period.  Key examples of failure that are outlined include the Vilna Dispute, the Corfu Crisis, and disarmament.  For more detail on the League’s attempts at disarmament, and advice on how to answer a question about it, check out the exam tips video here.

          

The League of Nations in the 1920s

Kellogg-Briand Pact

The signing of the Kellogg-Briand Pact

On the 27th August 1928, Germany, France and the United States signed the General Treaty for Renunciation of War as an Instrument of National Policy – otherwise known as the Kellogg-Briand Pact. A total of 62 nations eventually went on to join them in signing the agreement, which promised to never use war as a way to settle conflicts.

Jointly created by the United States Secretary of State Frank B. Kellogg and French foreign minister Aristide Briand, the Pact stemmed from France’s desire to protect itself against possible future German aggression. Unwilling to join what could be interpreted as a military alliance, Kellogg suggested that they invite all countries to sign a condemnation of war unless in self-defence. The United States’ involvement meant that the Pact was signed outside the League of Nations, of which America was not a member, and therefore means that it is still in force today.

At the time it was hoped that the signing of the Pact would stop any future wars, but the impact of the worldwide depression in the 1930s led nations such as Japan and Italy to launch invasions of Manchuria and Abyssinia respectively. Such invasions began without the aggressor ever declaring war but, despite this, the Pact was ineffective since it provided no way to enforce its terms anyway. However, it did act as the legal basis for the notion of a crime against peace, and in turn became the basis for many of the key prosecution arguments in the Nuremberg Trials and the Tokyo Trials that followed the Second World War.

How successful were the League of Nations’ attempts at disarmament in the 1920s?

This short video is designed to help GCSE and IGCSE students write a balanced answer to explain how successful the League of Nations’ attempts at disarmament were in the 1920s.  The video shows how a 1-10 scale can be used to give a point ‘score’ to the League’s overall attempts, which can then be translated into words.  It concludes with a skeleton essay structure, which helps to structure a balanced answer.

For a more detailed video on how to answer a question about the broader factors affecting the success of the League of Nations in the 1920s, check out this video and this podcast about the League of Nations in the 1920s.

You can access all my videos at www.youtube.com/mrallsop

How successful was the League of Nations in the 1920s?

This video explains the technique to answer a ‘how far’ type question at GCSE/IGCSE.

This particular example focuses on the question ‘how successful was the League of Nations in the 1920s’, but the format can be applied to other questions of this type.  You should check out this podcast about the League of Nations in the 1920s prior to watching this video.

Writing a balanced answer, in which you recognise both sides of the argument, is a simple yet important skill to develop.  I also explain how you can use the ‘Point, Evidence, Explanation’ paragraph format to structure your answer.

For a video focusing specifically on how to assess the success of the League’s attempts at disarmement in the 1920s, check out this post.

You can access all my videos at www.youtube.com/mrallsop

Wall Street Black Thursday

A brief explanation of the origins of the Wall Street Crash

Thursday the 24th October 1929, known as Black Thursday, is generally accepted as the first day of the Wall Street Crash. The day saw panic selling of shares on the New York Stock Exchange on an unprecedented scale, with over 12.8 million being sold and the market’s value plummeting by 11%. The market didn’t return to its pre-crash level until 1954.

Signs of an impending crisis had been identified many months before the crash, with the Federal Reserve warning on the 25th March of the dangers of speculation on the stock market. The warning coincided with a slowing down of the American economy, but investors continued to purchase stocks that gradually pushed the market to a peak of 381.17 points on the 3rd September.

However, in late September many of the larger investors began to sell their shares, and by the middle of October the market was in freefall as more and more people began panicking about the plummeting prices. Although Black Thursday was the first day of large-scale panic selling, the losses were dwarfed by those the following week when around 16 million shares were sold. Within just a few days of trading, $30 billion dollars had been wiped off the stock market. This was the Wall Street Crash. Although the scale of panic selling did slow down, the market continued its downward trajectory for over 2 years, finally reaching an all-time low on the 8th July 1932. By that time the effect of the Great Depression had crept around the world, acting as a catalyst for the world war that was to follow.