Disarmament Section, 1919-1946 (Sub-Fonds)

Archive plan context

Information on identification

Title:Disarmament Section
Creation date(s):1919 - 1946

Information on extent

Archival Material Types:Paper File(s) / Document(s)
Extent:356 boxes

Information on context

Administration history:The Disarmament Section was first called Armament Section. This is because the League of Nations was not only responsible for the reduction of armaments but also for the control of existing armaments.

Disarmament was one of the most important questions to be considered by the League of Nations.

The Disarmament Section was responsible for:

- the secretariat of the Permanent Consultative Commission;
- the secretariat of the Preparatory Commission for the Disarmament Conference and of its commissions and sub-commissions;
- preparing the work for the Secretariat concerning the investigation right resulting for the Council of the articles 213 of the Treaty of Versailles, 159 of the Treaty of Saint-Germain, 143 of the Treaty of Trianon and 104 of the Treaty of Neuilly;
- and preparing a conference on the control of the private production of arms, munitions and war material.

At the beginning the Disarmament Section was made up of three experts (militaries) only. Their task was to help, as secretaries, the Permanent Consultative Commission for military affairs. Later it became a more administrative section.

The Disarmament Section was responsible, under the Treaty of Versailles, for the control of armaments in different countries, war production and sales of war materials. With the opening of the Disarmament Conference in February 1932, this became its main activity, but little by little it was replaced only by the collection of information about armaments and the organization of conferences.

The Treaty of Versailles and other Peace Treaties (Saint-Germain, Trianon and Neuilly) imposed disarmament on the defeated States. To balance this and maintain peace, the authors of the Covenant had taken care to embody in Article 8, an undertaking on the part of the Member States of the League of Nations to proceed within an unspecified period to reduce their "national armaments to the lowest point consistent with national safety and the enforcement by common action of international obligations".

The States accepted a control of the manufacture of and trade in arms, as well as qualitative and quantitative limitation in principle. By qualitative limitation was meant the immediate or gradual abolition of certain particularly powerful types of armament (heavy artillery). By quantitative limitation was meant the limitation of the number of troops and of non-prohibited weapons (guns, tanks, etc.) which States would be entitled to possess.

The States agreed to a detailed system of publicity for national defence expenditure, and accepted the idea of control by a permanent International Disarmament Commission involving, in certain cases, inspections on the spot.

However, one of the main obstacles faced was the belief of the main Powers that their security depended on maintaining a level of armaments equal or even superior to those of their neighbours. They also preferred to determine their own needs in armaments. Another problem was that Russia and the United States not being members of the League of Nations did not take part in the process until 1932. Finally, one more obstacle was the withdrawal of Germany from the League of Nations in 1933.

In 1939, the Disarmament Section was merged into Department I.

Information on related materials

Related material:- Secretariat Fonds: Political Section, Administrative Commissions Section and Legal Section.

- Collections, see in the "Bulky Enclosures" reports concerning the inter-allied control commissions and sub-commissions in Germany, Austria, Hungary and Bulgaria (section 8 of the 1919-1927 Registry and section 7A of the 1928-1932 Registry), documents transfered to New York and then sent back to Geneva in 1968.

- Collections of Conventions, Ratifications and other Diplomatic Instruments.

Related units of description

Related units of description:see also:
Goldblat/P276/1-328/78 Goldblat, Jozef, 1954-2011 (Sub-Fonds)


End of term of protection:12/31/1986
Permission required:None
Physical Usability:Without limits

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