Map showing the boundaries of League of Nations mandated areas in the Pacific. See a larger version of this map (opens in new window).
The map shows how the mandates for the former German colonies in the area were divided among four countries: Japan (western Pacific Islands), Australia (New Guinea), Britain (Nauru) and New Zealand (Western Samoa).
The victorious Allied powers established the League of Nations in 1919, after defeating the German, Austrian and Ottoman (Turkish) empires in the First World War. The League's goal was ‘to promote international cooperation and to achieve peace and security’.
Article 22 of the League's Covenant gave it the power to distribute former German and Turkish colonies to member nations to administer. Each former colony was known as a mandated territory, or mandate, while each administering nation was known as a mandatory.
Mandates were divided into three groups based on their geographical location and their level of political and economic development. Turkey's former Middle East territories became Class A mandates, while most of Germany's former African territories became Class B mandates.
Former German territories in the Pacific became Class C mandates. The League considered them to be the least developed and therefore ‘best administered under the laws of the mandatory as integral portions of its territory’. The League awarded the Class C mandate of Western Samoa to New Zealand in 1920.
In theory, mandates were supervised by the League's Permanent Mandates Commission. Like other mandatory nations, New Zealand was required to submit annual reports to the Commission and fulfil specific obligations towards Samoa's inhabitants.
But in practice, the Commission was unable to exert any real control over mandatory nations. In many cases, mandates were regarded as little more than colonies. New Zealand, like other mandatory nations, was left to govern Samoa more or less as it saw fit.
The League of Nations' activities were suspended following its failure to prevent the Second World War. It was replaced by the United Nations in late 1945, and its mandates became UN Trust Territories the following year.