The League of Nations' Work on Social Issues

Visions, Endeavours and Experiments

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This edited volume offers a fresh look into the history of the League of Nations. It uses the League of Nations' involvement in social issues as a unique prism for understanding the League's development, as well as the development of interwar international relations more generally. Off the beaten path of diplomatic history, this perspective allows the authors to trace less familiar actors and unexpected alliances. It enables contributors to reassess the League's impact on European societies, their colonial possessions, and non-European states. As such, it also marks a paradigm shift in the League's Eurocentric historiography toward one that acknowledges its global reach.



Race problems, social issues: The Portuguese empire and the racial equality proposal, Paris 1919

In the aftermath of the Great War, the problems of race and race-based discrimination became particularly contested and internationalised as both social and political issues. In this context, Japan’s campaign for the recognition of racial equality as a guiding principle in world politics, as well as the political controversy it unleashed at the Paris Peace Conference and elsewhere, dramatized some crucial problems of the time, including the internationalisation of colonial affairsand related expectations regarding the European civilising mission. This chapter approaches these debates from the vantage point of a relatively marginal and still understudied player: the Portuguese Empire. Conversations within the Portuguese delegation, I argue, demonstrate that the problem of racial equality had to do not only with anxieties over Asian immigration to white countries, but was also crucially entangled with the politics of empire and concerns with the effects of colonialism on African populations. The defeat of the Japanese proposal, I suggest, points to some of the limitations of the League of Nations and the forms of internationalism it promoted in the interwar period – in particular, the neutralisation of racial equality (and inequality) as a social rather than political concern.


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