In contemporary reflections on the history of international law and international organization the creation of the League of Nations in the aftermath of the First World War stands as a critical dividing line between an older, pre-institutionalised era of sovereign coexistence and a modern era of cooperation, conflict resolution and institutional governance. Projecting forwards
from this point, however, the legacy of the League in its somewhat short-lived existence is rather more mixed. In terms of what was clearly its primary purpose, to pacify inter-state diplomacy and put an end to the scourge of war, its overriding failure is well-known and does not need repeating here. However, in terms of the League’s contribution to the project of international organisation its contribution has been considerable and often overlooked. In fact, as Pitman Potter has claimed, the League has arguably made «a far greater contribution to the progress of international organisation than any other institution in history». Indeed, as Philippe Sands and Pierre Klein have equally commented, that it failed in its primary purpose —and, indeed, did so quite dramatically— cannot be blamed so much on its institutional design as a more profound failure of political will of those states that were tasked with making the institution work.
REDI Vol. 71 2 2019
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