What Was the Mandate System? - Definition & WWI

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  • 0:07 Defining the Mandate System
  • 1:08 Classes of the Mandate System
  • 3:37 Legacy of the Mandate System
  • 4:14 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Charles Kinney, Jr.
In this lesson, we'll take a look at the Mandate System, an attempt at collective security by the League of Nations in the wake of World War I. Although it was well-intentioned, the system created the roots of some of the world's present conflicts.

Defining the Mandate System

After World War I ended in 1918, the newly-formed League of Nations, predecessor to today's United Nations, created the Mandate System. The League of Nations was formed on the idea of collective security, or the concept that by working together to ensure the security of all nations, each nation would, in turn, ensure its own security. At the time, this was then a novel approach to international governance.

The Mandate System was an attempt to stop the cycle of war and fighting over conquered land by appropriating the land of the collapsed Ottoman Empire and the colonies of Germany. The idea was that there were different types of territories: those that were close to independence, those near-to-far to independence, and those with virtually no hope of self-determination. These territories would be guided by a larger, established state. In practice, the Mandate System devolved into internationally-sanctioned colonialism.

Classes of the Mandate System

The League, under article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations, created three classes of mandates: Class A mandates, Class B mandates, and Class C mandates.

Class A mandates were former territories of Ottoman Turkey that would have independence shortly, pending paperwork. In the Middle East for Britain, this included Palestine (now Israel and Palestine), Mesopotamia (now Iraq), and TransJordan, (now Jordan). For France, there was Lebanon and Syria.

Class B mandates were former German territories in which independence was in the foreseeable future. Nearly all of these countries were in Africa: the Cameroons (now Cameroon) and Togoland (folded into Ghana) were divided by the French and British. Tanganyika (later Tanzania, with the addition of Zanzibar Island), came under British administration. Ruanda-Urundi (later Rwanda and Burundi) were placed under Belgian control from 1924-1945, and later Britain. Belgium had run the Congo, Rwanda and Burundi's neighbor, as a personal colony of the Belgian king, Leopold II.

Class C mandates were also former German territories that had near nil chance of attaining independence, which meant virtual rule by another country. Curiously, the colonies under the control of the British Empire were given their own mandates, including South West Africa (now Namibia), which was run by South Africa.

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