There are few better illustrations of the complexities and paradoxes of the peacemaking process in 1919 than the ideas and negotiations that combined to produce the Covenant of the League of Nations. Seeking to build upon past experience but also attempting to create a new framework for diplomatic activity, the League represented a revolutionary basis for future international stability. It sought to limit the untrammelled exercise of national sovereignty that had allegedly characterised the ‘international anarchy’ of 1914, yet it stopped far short of supranational power. It thus embodied the paradox of an attempt to combine collective security with the continued existence of national sovereignty. In theory based on the idea of equality among nations but in practice controlled by the great powers, it aimed at producing a peaceful world by threatening a determined aggressor with, as a last resort, war. Designed to guarantee the territorial integrity and political independence of its members but also to permit peaceful changes to frontiers and treaties that had become inappropriate, the League is an apt symbol of the idealism, vision, difficulties and contradictions of the ‘new diplomacy’.
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