United Nations History/League Formed

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Origins of the League




The League of Nations was an international organization founded as a result of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919–1920. The League's goals included disarmament, preventing war through collective security, settling disputes between countries through negotiation, diplomacy and improving global welfare. The diplomatic philosophy behind the League represented a fundamental shift in thought from the preceding hundred years.

James Eric Drummond


James Eric Drummond, 16th Earl of Perth, KCMG, CB (August 17, 1876 – December 15, 1951) was a Scottish representative peer, a British diplomat and the first general secretary of the League of Nations.

Half brother of the 15th Earl of Perth, Drummond was born in North Yorkshire, England. He was educated at Eton and began his Foreign Office career in 1900. In 1906, he became private secretary to Lord Edmund Petty-FitzMaurice, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. In 1908 and again from 1910 to 1911, he was précis writer for Sir Edward Grey, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.

Joseph Louis Anne Avenol


Joseph Louis Anne Avenol (June 9, 1879, Melle, Deux-Sèvres, France—September 2, 1952, Duillier, Vaud, Switzerland) was a French diplomat. He served as the second general secretary of the League of Nations, from July 3, 1933 to August 31, 1940. He was preceded by Sir Eric Drummond of the United Kingdom, who was general secretary between 1920 and 1933, and he was succeeded by the Irish diplomat Seán Lester, who was general secretary between 1940 and 1946, when the League was dissolved.

Avenol was sent to the League of Nations from the French Treasury Department in 1922 to handle the League's finances. He was under secretary-general in 1933, when Eric Drummond resigned. He became secretary-general because the first secretary-general had been British and there had been a private agreement at Versailles that the next would be French. Avenol was accused of using the League as an extension of the French Foreign Office in its policy of appeasement of Germany and Italy. In fact, as he showed after the German occupation of Paris, he was a supporter of Hitler, Mussolini and Marshal Philippe Pétain of the Vichy régime.

Seán Lester


Seán Lester (September 28, 1888, Carrickfergus, County Antrim, Ireland – June 13, 1959, Galway, Ireland) was an Irish diplomat and the final Secretary General of the League of Nations, from August 31, 1940 to April 18, 1946.

Lester was both an Ulster Protestant and an Irish nationalist. He was born in County Antrim, the son of a grocer. Despite the fact that the town of Carrickfergus, where he was born and raised, was strongly Unionist, he joined the Gaelic League as a youth, and was won over to the cause of Irish nationalism. As a young man he joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood. He was working as a journalist for the North Down Herald and a number of other northern papers, before moving to Dublin, where he found a job with the Freeman's Journal. There, by 1919, he had risen to news editor.

After the War of Independence, a number of his friends joined the new government of the Irish Free State. Lester was offered, and accepted, a position as Director of Publicity.