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At the end of the First World War, the Paris Peace Conference saw a battle over the future of empire. The victorious allied powers wanted to annex the Ottoman territories and German colonies they had occupied; Woodrow Wilson and a groundswell of anti-imperialist activism stood in their way. France, Belgium, Japan and the British dominions reluctantly agreed to an Anglo-Ame At the end of the First World War, the Paris Peace Conference saw a battle over the future of empire. The victorious allied powers wanted to annex the Ottoman territories and German colonies they had occupied; Woodrow Wilson and a groundswell of anti-imperialist activism stood in their way. France, Belgium, Japan and the British dominions reluctantly agreed to an Anglo-American proposal to hold and administer those allied conquests under "mandate" from the new League of Nations. In the end, fourteen mandated territories were set up across the Middle East, Africa and the Pacific. Against all odds, these disparate and far-flung territories became the site and the vehicle of global transformation. In this masterful history of the mandates system, Susan Pedersen illuminates the role the League of Nations played in creating the modern world. Tracing the system from its creation in 1920 until its demise in 1939, Pedersen examines its workings from the realm of international diplomacy; the viewpoints of the League's experts and officials; and the arena of local struggles within the territories themselves. Featuring a cast of larger-than-life figures, including Lord Lugard, King Faisal, Chaim Weizmann and Ralph Bunche, the narrative sweeps across the globe-from windswept scrublands along the Orange River to famine-blighted hilltops in Rwanda to Damascus under French bombardment-but always returns to Switzerland and the sometimes vicious battles over ideas of civilization, independence, economic relations, and sovereignty in the Geneva headquarters. As Pedersen shows, although the architects and officials of the mandates system always sought to uphold imperial authority, colonial nationalists, German revisionists, African-American intellectuals and others were able to use the platform Geneva offered to challenge their claims. Amid this cacophony, imperial statesmen began exploring new means - client states, economic concessions - of securing Western hegemony. In the end, the mandate system helped to create the world in which we now live. A riveting work of global history, The Guardians enables us to look back at the League with new eyes, and in doing so, appreciate how complex, multivalent, and consequential this first great experiment in internationalism really was.


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At the end of the First World War, the Paris Peace Conference saw a battle over the future of empire. The victorious allied powers wanted to annex the Ottoman territories and German colonies they had occupied; Woodrow Wilson and a groundswell of anti-imperialist activism stood in their way. France, Belgium, Japan and the British dominions reluctantly agreed to an Anglo-Ame At the end of the First World War, the Paris Peace Conference saw a battle over the future of empire. The victorious allied powers wanted to annex the Ottoman territories and German colonies they had occupied; Woodrow Wilson and a groundswell of anti-imperialist activism stood in their way. France, Belgium, Japan and the British dominions reluctantly agreed to an Anglo-American proposal to hold and administer those allied conquests under "mandate" from the new League of Nations. In the end, fourteen mandated territories were set up across the Middle East, Africa and the Pacific. Against all odds, these disparate and far-flung territories became the site and the vehicle of global transformation. In this masterful history of the mandates system, Susan Pedersen illuminates the role the League of Nations played in creating the modern world. Tracing the system from its creation in 1920 until its demise in 1939, Pedersen examines its workings from the realm of international diplomacy; the viewpoints of the League's experts and officials; and the arena of local struggles within the territories themselves. Featuring a cast of larger-than-life figures, including Lord Lugard, King Faisal, Chaim Weizmann and Ralph Bunche, the narrative sweeps across the globe-from windswept scrublands along the Orange River to famine-blighted hilltops in Rwanda to Damascus under French bombardment-but always returns to Switzerland and the sometimes vicious battles over ideas of civilization, independence, economic relations, and sovereignty in the Geneva headquarters. As Pedersen shows, although the architects and officials of the mandates system always sought to uphold imperial authority, colonial nationalists, German revisionists, African-American intellectuals and others were able to use the platform Geneva offered to challenge their claims. Amid this cacophony, imperial statesmen began exploring new means - client states, economic concessions - of securing Western hegemony. In the end, the mandate system helped to create the world in which we now live. A riveting work of global history, The Guardians enables us to look back at the League with new eyes, and in doing so, appreciate how complex, multivalent, and consequential this first great experiment in internationalism really was.

30 review for The Guardians: The League of Nations and the Crisis of Empire

  1. 5 out of 5

    Cold War Conversations Podcast

    A good insight into the League of Nations Mandate Scheme that provides a much needed addition into the paucity of books available about The League of Nations. The League of Nations was the precursor to the United Nations. It was set up as an intergovernmental organisation in 1920 as a result of the Paris Peace Conference that ended the First World War. It was the first international organisation whose principal mission was to maintain world peace. The book concentrates in the main the mandate sch A good insight into the League of Nations Mandate Scheme that provides a much needed addition into the paucity of books available about The League of Nations. The League of Nations was the precursor to the United Nations. It was set up as an intergovernmental organisation in 1920 as a result of the Paris Peace Conference that ended the First World War. It was the first international organisation whose principal mission was to maintain world peace. The book concentrates in the main the mandate scheme whereby certain territories were assigned for other nations to look after. These territories were the former German colonies in Africa and the Pacific, and the several non-Turkish provinces of the Ottoman Empire. What is striking from Pedersens work is the patronising and sometimes very brutal treatment the populations of these mandates received. Many were considered “backward” peoples literally considered mentally unable to govern themselves and therefore requiring a “civilised” nation to keep them on the straight and narrow. South Africa and more surprisingly Belgium’s treatment of their mandates beggars belief. The book does concentrate on the African and Pacific mandates, however I found the section on Palestine the most interesting, particularly the eagerness from not only Germany, but also Poland and other central European countries to create a territory to deal with their “Jewish problem”. Poland’s representative at the League of Nations is quoted as revealing his government admiration of Germany’s success in expelling Jews and hoping to follow suit underlining the fact that it wasn’t just Germany that was anti-semitic in the 1930s. The book is very detailed and in some areas quite legalistic, however it provides valuable insight into the mandate system and the misdeeds of our imperialistic forefathers. I’m hoping that a further volume might be written as there must be enough material for another book dealing with the resolution of the territorial disputes in the Åland Islands, Upper Silesia, Memel, Vilnius and the Saar.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Bfisher

    The League of Nations is remembered for its inability to prevent World War 2. However, one aspect of the League has had a lingering impact into the current era. As part of the territorial settlement after WW1, the former German colonies and the non-Turkish provinces of the Ottoman Empire were handed over to the victors ostentatiously to be administered as a trust under a Mandate from the League, pursuant to Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations: “To those colonies and territories wh The League of Nations is remembered for its inability to prevent World War 2. However, one aspect of the League has had a lingering impact into the current era. As part of the territorial settlement after WW1, the former German colonies and the non-Turkish provinces of the Ottoman Empire were handed over to the victors ostentatiously to be administered as a trust under a Mandate from the League, pursuant to Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations: “To those colonies and territories which as a consequence of the late war have ceased to be under the sovereignty of the States which formerly governed them and which are inhabited by peoples not yet able to stand by themselves under the strenuous conditions of the modern world, there should be applied the principle that the well-being and development of such peoples form a sacred trust of civilisation and that securities for the performance of this trust should be embodied in this Covenant. The best method of giving practical effect to this principle is that the tutelage of such peoples should be entrusted to advanced nations who by reason of their resources, their experience or their geographical position can best undertake this responsibility, and who are willing to accept it, and that this tutelage should be exercised by them as Mandatories on behalf of the League... ” Essentially a rewording of Kipling’s White Man’s Burden, and intended by the imperialists as a fig leaf for imperial expansion and by the anti-imperialists as a barrier to imperial expansion, Pedersen describes how both camps, by a process of textualism, became co-opted by the Mandate process, at the centre of which was the Permanent Mandates Commission of the League of Nations Secretariat. Many of the Mandates, in particular, Rwanda, Palestine, Syria and Iraq, are currently some of the worst conflict sites in the world. While the Mandate system may not have been completely responsible for these conflicts, it did influence the shape of the developments. Pedersen’s book throws much light on the evolution of the current shape of the international system.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    Susan Pedersen’s The Guardians is a work that attempts to chronicle the history of the League of Nations through particular incidents and anecdotes that occurred in the individual mandates. Postulating that the idea of engaging international politics in a public space was without precedent, the author’s analysis is based around the concept of “internationalization”, which is the idea of building international consensus on issues through public discourse. Thus even though the mandate system was a Susan Pedersen’s The Guardians is a work that attempts to chronicle the history of the League of Nations through particular incidents and anecdotes that occurred in the individual mandates. Postulating that the idea of engaging international politics in a public space was without precedent, the author’s analysis is based around the concept of “internationalization”, which is the idea of building international consensus on issues through public discourse. Thus even though the mandate system was a rhetorical, rather than pragmatic, shift in the way that the colonies were organized and governed, it was unique in the way that it had to negotiate public opinion. Internationalization, however, led ultimately to the demise of the League because it denied nations the ability to act unilaterally and effectively on important issues. Pedersen’s introduction and first three chapters provide a historical context for the creation and functioning of the League. With the United States emerging as the strongest world power following World War I, it was able to direct global policy along the lines of Wilsonian principles and force other empires to maintain their legitimacy internationally. America’s exit from the scheme, however, left Britain and France with the tasking of running the system. Narrowing her focus on to the Mandates Commission, the author argues that it “was very much an imperialists’ club”, but displayed a significant degree of independence when it came to its oversight of the mandates. A crucial element of its power was based in the petition system, which gave the indigenous populations (in theory) a space to have a say in the running of their own territories and ultimately shifted the locus of discussion for issues of governance from the mandates to Geneva, where the League was based. In order to gain legitimacy, however, the Commission had to avoid petitions that questioned the mandate system itself and thus their business confirmed the mandatory charges and diverted attention away from their overall unjust nature. Pedersen’s first case study involves the South West African (Namibian) Bondelswarts controversy, wherein the League provided a space for those who opposed South Africa’s harsh measures against the indigenous population to come together and voice their concerns collectively. Although no significant changes were engendered by this process, the issue did confirm the Commission’s authority in matters related to the mandate, and the damage to South Africa’s international reputation alerted the other powers that they would at least have to play the “game” of negotiating the League’s liberal rhetoric while ruling their territories. A similar result occurred following the protests of France’s bombing of Damascus during the Syrian Revolt. Here, the price of the Commission’s support for France was a commitment to engaging the discourse and legitimizing the system. Yet it also demonstrated how thin this rhetorical veneer could be, as all France had to do was invoke the language of the mandatory charge and “demonstrate” that the Syrians lacked the ability to rule themselves. This played out again in the case of Western Samoa’s Mau Movement, where New Zealand was able to claim, despite all evidence to the contrary, that the country was unsuited for self-rule. Germany’s successful attempt to enter the League brought a new series of challenges to the Commission, as several powers tried to annex their mandates in an effort to prevent them from being returned to Germany. Addressing this struggle in detail, the author comes to the conclusion that “[e]stablishing that mandatory powers were not sovereign in the mandated territories, and forcing those powers to accept, however grudgingly, that norm, was the most significant achievement of the mandates system”. At the same time, the Commission also had to deal with the economic status of the mandates, which were based, in theory, around two principles: “open door” policies and a prohibition against coerced labor. Catalyzed into action by a depressed global economy, however, mandatory powers were able to operate systems that contravened these ideals by manipulating the discourse of the League. Finally, Iraq’s British-backed attempt to be emancipated from the mandatory system presented a problem from the other direction, as the Commission had no procedure for this (and had not considered the possibility of any nation actually “graduating” from the process). It therefore established a set of criteria to prove that Iraq would not collapse without British oversight, one that would be difficult for the indigenous leadership to meet. Rather than attempting to satisfy the requirements, Britain was successful in to preventing the Commission from demonstrating that Iraq did not qualify. As Pedersen shows, however, international consent for independence was granted only when the powers secured their own (primarily economic) interests in the territory, meaning that sovereignty was not a factor of any of the League’s ideals (such as the ability to self-govern or being “developed” enough). The Iraq example would not, however, be given the opportunity to establish a precedent. Germany, Italy, and Japan departed from the League and criticized the way that the mandates were run, arguing that they could do a better job by discarding the rhetoric against colonialism. With Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia justified using the language of the League, the Commission had to find a way to differentiate its charge from the actions of the Axis. Mike Leahy’s exploits in New Guinea, meanwhile, raised the suggestion that indigenous people might be better off without white Europeans. Critics argued that the powers were focusing on native productivity rather than capacity for self-rule, furthering the Commission’s need to shift away from the rhetoric of “civilizational superiority”. At the same time, Britain demonstrated the flimsiness of its commitment to development and protection by engaging in an attempt to curry favor with Nazi Germany through “colonial appeasement” and possibly returning a degree of control of its former territories to the nation. This was particularly surprising given that the confiscation of these regions had been justified originally on the basis of the Allied powers being able to do a “better job” of running them. It was the Palestinian case, however, that caused the collapse of the system, as internationalization proved ineffectual in this situation because the two sides could not come to an agreement. Unable to pursue independent policies, internationalization “forced Britain to continue policies it had already learned were unworkable [… and] was accompanied by a legalistic oversight apparatus that made flexible decision-making impossible”. This led Britain to abandon the mandate rather than continuing to work on a solution. Overall, The Guardians is a lengthy work, but one that is accessible and not dense and does a good job of providing a narrative of the history of the League of Nations that balances the machinations from above with the stirrings from below that forced them to adapt and renegotiate their position. Thus, academics and casual readers alike should emerge from this text with a broader and more nuanced understanding of the era’s international politics.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth Gabhart

    I didn't enjoy this book. Maybe it just doesn't mesh with my style. I'm an uber-nerd who reads all kinds of dry texts and dense tomes, and I couldn't make it more than 1/3 of the way through. To me, all good writing should set up a mystery, a puzzle, or a question, and then solve or answer it. Even my favorite textbooks use this technique, like, "Isn't it strange that we see this unexpected phenomenon? Let's explore it." The Guardians simply didn't draw me in. It felt more like a dry recitation I didn't enjoy this book. Maybe it just doesn't mesh with my style. I'm an uber-nerd who reads all kinds of dry texts and dense tomes, and I couldn't make it more than 1/3 of the way through. To me, all good writing should set up a mystery, a puzzle, or a question, and then solve or answer it. Even my favorite textbooks use this technique, like, "Isn't it strange that we see this unexpected phenomenon? Let's explore it." The Guardians simply didn't draw me in. It felt more like a dry recitation of facts than a story.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Nils

    A brilliant book that pinpoints in the interwar Mandatory system for managing the former colonies of Germany was a crucial site for the dynamic that eventually resulted in making statehood the normative form of governance in the second half of the twentieth century. If what Mandela has popularized as ‘the Wilsonian moment,’ with its emphasis on the right to self-determination of peoples, made the simple annexation of Germany’s former colonies impossible, neither was granting formerly colonized p A brilliant book that pinpoints in the interwar Mandatory system for managing the former colonies of Germany was a crucial site for the dynamic that eventually resulted in making statehood the normative form of governance in the second half of the twentieth century. If what Mandela has popularized as ‘the Wilsonian moment,’ with its emphasis on the right to self-determination of peoples, made the simple annexation of Germany’s former colonies impossible, neither was granting formerly colonized people instant independence acceptable to the still-imperial victorious powers in Europe. The Mandate System emerged as a compromise, giving the Brits and French sovereignty over pieces of the former German empire, but requiring them to rule in for the benefit of the tutelary peoples. For the Brits, led by Frederick Lugard, this was initially a way to maintain racial hierarchies and the validity of empire. By the late 1930s, “even the stalwarts of the Mandates Commission found claims of Western civilizational superiority, and likewise of alien rule as a form of tutelage, hard to defend. For them, the mandates system... was a mechanism for defining norms of good governance and promoting imperial ‘best practices’ across the globe.” (404) The book is thus part of the effort to rehabilitate the League of Nations’ dismal historical reputation. Specifically, while Pedersen recognizes the racial hierarchies that governed the minds of people like Lugard, she is also quite direct in her admiration for the “distinctive ethos” of the League (“egalitarian, cosmopolitan, sexually emancipated,” 7) which was at least better than the ideology of naked dominance of the natives which it often replaced. She says there were three distinct aspects to the League: (a) the “League to Outlaw War” — this one has been most mocked but it too has recently been rehabbed by Oona Hathaway in THE INTERNATIONALISTS, a book which should be read along side Pedersen’s; (b) a “technical league” of agencies that were coordinated efforts among international networks of experts to combat the proliferating hazards of an increasingly interconnected world, often by promoting standards and best practices and “neutral oversight”; and (c) a “world orderers League,” which worked to adjudicate relations of sovereignty — it is this latter league that THE GUARDIANS focuses on. The “internationalization” of the imperial order, however “unleashed a force that could not be contained, as the League of Nations swiftly became an engine for the mobilization of new constituencies, the generation of new claims” and the oversight organizations of the mandate system made the postwar territorial settlements “contestable and vulnerable... providing a mechanism for petitions and protests.” (405-6). They became a venue for claims-making and contestation. “Imperial statesmen and officials had to face wearying, detailed, and acrimonious interrogations in Geneva, often with experts briefed by humanitarian lobbies.” (4) As such, “The League helped make the end of empire imaginable, and normative statehood possible.... The dynamic of internationalization changed everything—including how ‘dependent people’ would bid for statehood, what ‘statehood’ would henceforth mean, and whether empires would think territorial control essential to the maintenance of global power.” (406) If I have one beef with this book it is that Pedersen appears to be slightly teleological, even whiggish, in her assumption that the “normative statehood” of the postcolonial order was not just inevitable, but also fundamentally desirable — her only critique is that it has been insufficiently achieved. She has done an admirable job of showing how the Mandate System contributed to making the ideal that every human and every space on the planet should be the subject of a unitary national state ruling in their name, but it’s left unproven and indeed unasked whether other paths toward internationalization could not have emerged as viable alternatives, much less whether such alternatives would not perhaps have been more desirable than the world of normative statehood that exists today. Perhaps we would do well to imagine beyond the world of normative statehood, to an order where in fact some governance functions — the quintessentially international ones like migration, trade, climate change mitigation, technological risk, military security, etc — are “delegated up” to truly a-national, global organizations, while many other functions currently monopolized by the normative state are, following the principle of subsidiarity, delegated “down” to local or municipal governments.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Joseph Spuckler

    The Guardians: The League of Nations and the Crisis of Empire by Susan Pedersen is a detailed account of the organization that formed after World War I as part of Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points. Pedersen is a historian and James P. Shenton Professor of the Core Curriculum at Columbia University. Pedersen focuses on 19th and 20th-century British history, women's history, settler colonialism, and the history of international institutions. She received both her B.A. (1982) and Ph.D (1989) from Ha The Guardians: The League of Nations and the Crisis of Empire by Susan Pedersen is a detailed account of the organization that formed after World War I as part of Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points. Pedersen is a historian and James P. Shenton Professor of the Core Curriculum at Columbia University. Pedersen focuses on 19th and 20th-century British history, women's history, settler colonialism, and the history of international institutions. She received both her B.A. (1982) and Ph.D (1989) from Harvard University. In the late 1980s, I worked in Geneva, Switzerland and every day walked past the League of Nations Building on my way to work. I thought of it as a grand experiment and a building that represented hope for the future as well as the seed that the UN and international organizations grew. It felt special to be that close to such a piece of history. The League of Nations is probably best known for its inability to prevent the second world war and is seen by the Realist thinkers as the failure of the Liberal Theory of International Relations. Europe was able, for the most part, to keep the peace through a balance of power. Peace was not kept because nations decided to be peaceful, but because the cost of war was too high. The idea of the League of Nations is that enlightened nations want peace and that diplomacy and international law could solve any problems that arose. In reality, this was more complicated. Nations that joined were not required to stay members. Germany, Italy, Japan, The USSR, and most of South America left. What is surprising, however, is how many nations actually joined, or were brought in as commonwealths, colonies, or mandate. I was truly a worldwide organization with only The United States (and it territories), Tibet, Mongolia, Nepal, and present-day Yemen and Saudia Arabia absent. Pedersen looks at the formation of the League of Nations and, in particular, the area that many people do not associate with the league -- the mandates. The League took over German colonies and non-Turkish Ottoman lands. Although the League members made efforts to appear as being all inclusive and all equal in public, it was essentially the white European nations that held power. France and England openly struggled for power and land. Those countries that did not like the results simply left the organization. Some blame the failure of the League on the United States' refusal to join. It is true that American involvement would have likely countered European desire for empire and the expansion of empire. The problem, however, was much deeper. European powers saw colonial lands and the mandates as unable to rule themselves. This attitude was also held by Wilson especially in Latin America. Ironically, after almost three hundred years of balance of power politics the sudden shift to a democratic league left the European powers unable to function beyond their own interests. Europe, from the perspective of a stable continent, was far worse now than it was with alliances. The mandates proved to be a problem that Europe was unable to handle. They are still a problem today with Palestine being at the forefront of the news. Rwanda made the news in the 1990s for genocide from strife going back to the mandates and one would be hard-pressed to find a success story in the mandates. Pedersen provides a deep, well-researched history of the League of Nations. The work is very well documented and uses a variety of source material. Just as there is more to the origin of World War I than many people understand, there is much more to the League of Nations than simply its failure to prevent WWII. Even with holding a master's degree in international relations, I learned a great deal from this book. I now have piles of notes and new information to be used when discussing and writing about international relations. The Guardians provides an excellent history of the beginnings and unfortunately the failure of the Liberal Theory. An excellent book for students of foreign affairs and the history of foreign affairs.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Steven Voorhees

    This isn't a general history of the League of Nations, the Geneva-based international body between the World Wars that tried to mediate global disputes and that was the UN'S forerunner. Rather, it's a tome focusing on the League's diplomatic aspects. Further, Pederson explores how the empires that survived World War I (chiefly Britain) tried to retain OR use as bargaining/peace chips their respective possessions beyond the seas. Of particular value is Pederson's reportage that European powers tr This isn't a general history of the League of Nations, the Geneva-based international body between the World Wars that tried to mediate global disputes and that was the UN'S forerunner. Rather, it's a tome focusing on the League's diplomatic aspects. Further, Pederson explores how the empires that survived World War I (chiefly Britain) tried to retain OR use as bargaining/peace chips their respective possessions beyond the seas. Of particular value is Pederson's reportage that European powers tried to use geographical appeasement (i.e., turn over their colonies to Germany) in order to stop Hitler and Nazi encroachment (of course, this didn't succeed). Overall, Pederson's book is a fascinating geopolitical analysis of the League, though it is dry in spots and can read like a doctoral dissertation. The League of Nations was not a failure. It kept the peace. Until it couldn't any longer.

  8. 4 out of 5

    A Reader's Heaven

    (I received a free copy of this book from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.) At the end of the First World War, the Paris Peace Conference saw a battle over the future of empire. The victorious allied powers wanted to annex the Ottoman territories and German colonies they had occupied; Woodrow Wilson and a groundswell of anti-imperialist activism stood in their way. France, Belgium, Japan and the British dominions reluctantly agreed to an Anglo-American proposal to hold and administer (I received a free copy of this book from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.) At the end of the First World War, the Paris Peace Conference saw a battle over the future of empire. The victorious allied powers wanted to annex the Ottoman territories and German colonies they had occupied; Woodrow Wilson and a groundswell of anti-imperialist activism stood in their way. France, Belgium, Japan and the British dominions reluctantly agreed to an Anglo-American proposal to hold and administer those allied conquests under "mandate" from the new League of Nations. In the end, fourteen mandated territories were set up across the Middle East, Africa and the Pacific. Against all odds, these disparate and far-flung territories became the site and the vehicle of global transformation. In this masterful history of the mandates system, Susan Pedersen illuminates the role the League of Nations played in creating the modern world. Tracing the system from its creation in 1920 until its demise in 1939, Pedersen examines its workings from the realm of international diplomacy; the viewpoints of the League's experts and officials; and the arena of local struggles within the territories themselves. Featuring a cast of larger-than-life figures, including Lord Lugard, King Faisal, Chaim Weizmann and Ralph Bunche, the narrative sweeps across the globe-from windswept scrublands along the Orange River to famine-blighted hilltops in Rwanda to Damascus under French bombardment-but always returns to Switzerland and the sometimes vicious battles over ideas of civilization, independence, economic relations, and sovereignty in the Geneva headquarters. As Pedersen shows, although the architects and officials of the mandates system always sought to uphold imperial authority, colonial nationalists, German revisionists, African-American intellectuals and others were able to use the platform Geneva offered to challenge their claims. Amid this cacophony, imperial statesmen began exploring new means - client states, economic concessions - of securing Western hegemony. In the end, the mandate system helped to create the world in which we now live. A riveting work of global history unparalleled in scope or authority, The Guardians enables us to look back at the League with new eyes, and in doing so, appreciate how complex, multivalent, and consequential this first great experiment in internationalism really was. History has always been a thing for me so when the opportunity to read this came up, I couldn't say no. For those who don't know, the League of Nations was set up in 1920 following the Paris Peace Talks after World War 1. Several mandates were handed down, effectively charging certain countries with "looking after" former German colonies and territories and non-Turkish Ottoman lands. The focus of this book is to see how these nations have gone on from there. Sad to say, there hasn't really been any success stories from this venture almost 100 years ago. Rwanda and Palestine are the two most recent "failures" but there are numerous to choose from. The author has written a detailed, comprehensive and information-packed book that I am very glad to have read. I knew very little about that period of time following WW1 and what the League of Nations achieved (or failed to achieve, in this case.) There are lots of pictures and illustrations to add depth of understand to the text, which can be, at times, a bit of a slog. Overall, a fascinating account of the early days of the League of Nations. I enjoyed this! Paul ARH

  9. 4 out of 5

    J Earl

    The Guardians: The League of Nations and the Crisis of Empire by Susan Pederson fills a sparsely covered historical moment, namely the opportunity to attempt an organized international governing organization. Its failure is certainly important yet is also the reason it receives minimal attention. Pederson admirably provides a detailed, well-researched yet very readable analysis of the League of Nations. Of particular importance here is the mandate system by which the victors of World War I sought The Guardians: The League of Nations and the Crisis of Empire by Susan Pederson fills a sparsely covered historical moment, namely the opportunity to attempt an organized international governing organization. Its failure is certainly important yet is also the reason it receives minimal attention. Pederson admirably provides a detailed, well-researched yet very readable analysis of the League of Nations. Of particular importance here is the mandate system by which the victors of World War I sought to maintain and grow their empires through mandates to oversee territories that had once belonged to the losing nations. Many factors contributed to this failure but a major part was certainly the continuation of imperialism, even if given a new name and effective spin control. The ramifications of this mandate system are still being felt today. Though Pederson certainly devotes a great amount of space to the key figures this is not a biographically driven work, unless one wants to consider it a "biography" of the League of Nations. Like any piece of scholarly research written for a popular audience The Guardians can at times seem a bit like a textbook. These instances are few and for the most part the book flows nicely. In addition to readers who are interested in either or both World Wars this will also be valuable for those seeking to understand some of the longstanding conflicts in current events. The notes offer many points from which to take off if a particular area piques your interest. For those students (formal or informal) who may be interested in a different area or period of history which might be enriched by a better understanding of the creation and failure of the League of Nations will find this to be a fine way to fill that gap. Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via NetGalley.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Gabriel Espinosa González

    A masterful work in terms of research, analysis and reach (both temporal and geographic), the Guardians centers on the Mandates System set up under the League of Nations following the the First World War to, in the words of Pederson, reconcile great power imperial interests and wilsonian principles. Under this system, former colonies were placed under international control and their adminstration was "mandated" to particular powers, i.e. the U.K., France, South Africa, Australia, Japan and other A masterful work in terms of research, analysis and reach (both temporal and geographic), the Guardians centers on the Mandates System set up under the League of Nations following the the First World War to, in the words of Pederson, reconcile great power imperial interests and wilsonian principles. Under this system, former colonies were placed under international control and their adminstration was "mandated" to particular powers, i.e. the U.K., France, South Africa, Australia, Japan and others, who were charged with their devolopment and the well-being of the peoples that inhabitated the mandated territories. A subject matter that at least to my knowledge has not attracted much attention, through meticulous research and the weaving of disparate but interrelated events that stretch across Europe, Africa, the Middle East and South East Asia, Pederson successfully demontrates how the dynamics and unintended effects of the Mandate System transformed the global order and the notion of sovereignty. It is a fascination albeit dense book. Therefore, it is recommended for those very interested in international relations, history and international law.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Mandy

    Meticulously researched, fair-minded, and very detailed, with an impressive array of photographs to illustrate the text, this is an impressive work of scholarship. The story of the League of Nations, the people and politics that brought it into being, its evolution and ultimate failure makes for some compelling reading. On a purely personal level I sometimes found it a bit too detailed but that personal view doesn’t detract from Pedersen’s accomplishment in writing a succinct and comprehensive a Meticulously researched, fair-minded, and very detailed, with an impressive array of photographs to illustrate the text, this is an impressive work of scholarship. The story of the League of Nations, the people and politics that brought it into being, its evolution and ultimate failure makes for some compelling reading. On a purely personal level I sometimes found it a bit too detailed but that personal view doesn’t detract from Pedersen’s accomplishment in writing a succinct and comprehensive account of such a pivotal organisation in 20th century international politics.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jack Laschenski

    A scholarly and massively researched book about The Permanent Mandates Commission of the League of Nations that "oversaw" the control of the colonies taken from the Ottomans and the Germans after WWI. England, France, Belgium, New Zealand, Australia and Japan were the beneficiaries of this tgransfer. They treated the "Mandates" like colonies. The Oversight was a sham. And the seeds of the current problems in the Middle East and Africa were sown. Racial prejudiced informed all decisions. A scholarly and massively researched book about The Permanent Mandates Commission of the League of Nations that "oversaw" the control of the colonies taken from the Ottomans and the Germans after WWI. England, France, Belgium, New Zealand, Australia and Japan were the beneficiaries of this tgransfer. They treated the "Mandates" like colonies. The Oversight was a sham. And the seeds of the current problems in the Middle East and Africa were sown. Racial prejudiced informed all decisions.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Carol Hessler

    Excellent read on a topic not often covered in its entirety

  14. 5 out of 5

    R.J.Cicisly Jr.

    Very detailed descriptive writing. Details the bureaucratic process .

  15. 5 out of 5

    Catherine

  16. 4 out of 5

    Anne

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jim Sojourner

  19. 5 out of 5

    Marek Eby

  20. 4 out of 5

    Rob Schmults

  21. 5 out of 5

    Monica

  22. 5 out of 5

    Christopher Allen

  23. 4 out of 5

    Beth

  24. 5 out of 5

    Dave

  25. 4 out of 5

    Yağız Emre Karaman

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kate

  27. 5 out of 5

    Simon Purdue

  28. 4 out of 5

    Rafael Braga da Silva

  29. 5 out of 5

    Ekul

  30. 5 out of 5

    Alan Long

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