Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Postwar League of Nations Mandate System for the Middle East

Following WWI, the League of Nations established a system of "mandates." In theory, the mandate system had the benevolent intention of preparing the "natives" of various regions for self-government. Many believed of course that the granting of mandates often represented nothing more than the granting of spoils to the different victorious Allied governments. The basis of the mandate system was Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations, which gave broad authority to the mandate powers regarding preparation for self-rule. The document is reproduced below.

It is noteworthy that the mandate provision allowed the widest possible latitude in execution of individual mandates: "The character of the mandate must differ according to the stage of the development of the people, the geographical situation of the territory, its economic conditions and other similar circumstances." The terms of each mandate were accordingly to be worked out on a per-country basis. 

The Mandate System
Kuwait: Designated “Independent Sheikhdom”
Greater Lebanon: Part of French Mandate

The authority for the Mandate System was Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations, 28 June 1919:

Article 22. 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 civilization and that securities for the formance 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.

The character of the mandate must differ according to the stage of the development of the people, the geographical situation of the territory, its economic conditions and other similar circumstances.

Certain communities formerly belonging to the Turkish empire have reached a stage of development where their existence as independent nations can be provisionally recognized subject to the rendering of administrative advice and assistance by a Mandatory until such time as they are able to stand alone. The wishes of these communities must be a principal consideration in the selection of the Mandatory.

Other peoples, especially those of Central Africa, are at such a stage that the Mandatory must be responsible for the administration of the territory under conditions which will guarantee freedom of conscience and religion, subject only to the maintenance of public order and morals, the prohibition of abuses such as the slave trade, the arms traffic and the liquor traffic, and the prevention of the establishment of fortifications or military and naval bases and of military training of the natives for other than police purposes and the defence of territory, and will also secure equal opportunities for the trade and commerce of other Members of the League.

There are territories, such as South-West Africa and certain of the South Pacific Islands, which, owing to the sparseness of their population, or their small size, or their remoteness from the centres of civilization, or their geographical contiguity to the territory of the Mandatory, and other circumstances, can be best administered under the laws of the Mandatory as integral portions of its territory, subject to the safeguards above-mentioned in the interests of the indigenous population.

In every case of Mandate, the Mandatory shall render to the Council an annual report in reference to the territory committed to its charge.

The degree of authority, control or administration to be exercised by the Mandatory shall, if not previously agreed upon by the Members of the League, be explicitly defined in each case by the Council.

A permanent Commission shall be constituted to receive and examine the annual reports of the Mandatories and to advise the Council on all matters relating to the observance of the mandates.


  1. The quagmire of today has roots in the mandates and hidden agreements made during the war.

  2. Don't forget the Seven Sisters, as detailed in
    The demand for oil also helped created today's quagmire

  3. If you do not 'mandate' the divisions of newly liberated lands, where the establish colonial government just withdraws, then you leave them to their own choices. This can often lead to tribal rivalry and civil war, and then draw larger powers back into war. As happened in Afghanistan and other 'countries' after various times with the withdraw of forces. While mandates and colonial rule is far from perfect, it has led to stability and peaceful liberation in maturing nations.