Michael Portillo re-examines the reputation of the League of Nations. Born out of the carnage of World War One it has been damned for failing to avoid a second conflict. But is that a fair judgement?
As an institution set up in the aftermath of a terrible conflict and amidst hopes that such horrors would never be repeated, it seems only right that the League of Nations should be deemed one of history's great failures. But in exploring the origins and works of the League Michael Portillo finds a number of things that have been forgotten in the over-whelming desire to lump the failings of the interwar years on a single identifiable scapegoat.
With the help of a former UN Ambassador and historians who have analysed the finer details of what happened at League meetings and conferences, he establishes a rounder picture of the League, both in its failings and successes. It did, after all resolve a number of border conflicts, very similar to the ones that had sparked the First World War. It also rescued the ailing Austrian economy and brought together the greatest Economists of the world who were given the opportunity to formulate global financial plans that formed the basis of the post Second World War economic system.
Of course, in pushing for the setting up of the United Nations it was expedient to establish clear water between a system that appeared to have failed and a new one which might be able to learn the harsh lessons of the interwar years.
Producer: Tom Alban