The Other League of Nations: The League against Imperialism and Anti-imperialism across States and Empires in the Interwar World

Thursday, January 3, 2019: 1:30 PM
Marshfield Room (Palmer House Hilton)
Heather Streets-Salter, Northeastern University
For a brief time in the interwar period, the League Against Imperialism (LAI) was the largest, most organized, and most diverse group to organize against imperialism in the world. This paper takes a wide angle view of the LAI and contextualizes both its membership and its goals within the wider interwar world. It argues that in spite of the sometimes quite different ideological and political commitments of its members, they were nevertheless united in their belief that imperialism was a systemic, global problem that needed to be eradicated everywhere and in all of its forms. While we know in hindsight that the LAI was a relatively short-lived organization, this paper also argues that all of the European colonial powers found it deeply threatening, and that they devoted an inordinate amount of time, resources, and paper both to hindering its growth and to sharing information about it with one another. Thus, even though the LAI has largely been ignored in the historiography of the interwar period, this paper demonstrates that it deserves renewed attention for its role in bringing both anti-imperial activists and colonial governments together across national and colonial boundaries.
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