The British people and the League of Nations

Democracy, citizenship and internationalism, c.1918-45

By Helen McCarthy

The British people and the League of Nations


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  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-0666-7
  • Pages: 296
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £25.99
  • Published Date: September 2016
  • BIC Category: 20th century, c 1900 to c 1999, History & Archaeology, HISTORY / Europe / Great Britain, Humanities / 20th century history: c 1900 to c 2000, International Organisations & Institutions, History, Modern History, Modernism, History of art, United Kingdom, Great Britain, European history, ART / History / Modern (late 19th Century to 1945)


In the decades following Europe's first total war, millions of British men and women looked to the League of Nations as the symbol and guardian of a new world order based on international co-operation. Founded in 1919 to preserve peace between its member-states, the League inspired a rich, participatory culture of political protest, popular education and civic ritual which found expression through the establishment of voluntary societies in dozens of countries across Europe and beyond. Embodied in the hugely popular League of Nations Union, this pro-League movement touched Britain in profound ways. Foremost amongst the League societies, the Union became one of Britain's largest voluntary associations and a powerful advocate of democratic accountability and popular engagement in the making of foreign policy. Based on extensive archival research, The British people and the League of Nations offers a vivid account of this popular League consciousness and in so doing reveals the vibrant character of associational life between the wars.


'An important work of recovery.[McCarthy's] recovery of the activism and commitment of ordinary citizens is welcome and new'
Susan Pedersen, London Review of Books, August 2013

'This book presents a fresh and encompassing social history of the LNU in British interwar political culture, astutely assessing failures as well as successes.'
George Egerton, American Historical Review

'A fascinating account of the League of Nations movement in Britain between the wars....the movement in the book between micrological investigations of local sources and macrological analyses of major political figures and developments is almost seamless.'
Jeanne Morefield, Journal of Modern History

'The scale and scope of the LNU's activities far eclipsed that of earlier voluntary associations. Herein lies its historical significance, as McCarthy's fine book illustrates.'
Daniel Gorman, Journal of British Studies

'This important monograph is the first detailed study of the League of Nations Union (LNU) since Donald S. Birn's book on the topic appeared in 1981...McCarthy's impressive book points to a valuable avenue for future research.'
Paul Corthorn, Contemporary British History

'McCarthy's excellent study fills a sizeable gap in the existing literature.By frequently shifting the spotlight towards the LNU's interaction with the British public - rather than with Whitehall and Westminster - readers are granted a much deeper understanding of the British relationship with internationalism.The British people and the League of Nations thus deserves a large and varied readership.'
Jamie Perry, Journal of History and Cultures


Introduction: The respectable face of troublemaking
1. The League of Nations, public opinion and the New Diplomacy
2. Of all parties and of none: the League in party politics
3. Members one of another: Christianity, religion and the League
4. Training for world citizenship: internationalist education between the wars
5. Enlightened patriots: League, empire, nation
6. Classes and cultures? League activism and class politics
7. Mothering the world: The making of a gendered internationalism
8. The quiet citizen silenced: the failure of political centrism, 1936-39
Conclusion: democratising foreign policy between the wars


Helen McCarthy is Senior Lecturer in Modern British History at Queen Mary, University of London

The British people and the League of Nations

By Helen McCarthy

Paperback £25.99 / $36.95

Hardcover £85.00 / $130.00

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