In its political aspect, the history of the world could be read as the history of the creation and disintegration of successive empires, a chain of vicious cause and effect that has brought much bloodshed and wretchedness. After World War I, however, a concerted effort was made for the first time, in a limited way, to break the chain. Recognizing that colonies are a source of friction and jealousy among wealthy nations, the victorious Allies decided not to appropriate for themselves the colonies of their defeated enemies. Instead, those territories belonging to imperial Germany and the Ottoman Empire that were considered unable to function as independent states were placed under international administration supervised by the League of Nations.
The founders of the League created three types of mandates for the administration of these territories by nations acting as "Mandatories of the League of Nations." Class A mandates covered territories that were considered to be ready to receive independence within a relatively short period of time. These territories were all in the Middle East: Iraq, Palestine, and Transjordan, administered by the UK; and Lebanon and Syria, administered by France. Class B mandates covered territories for which the granting of independence was a distant prospect. These territories were all in Africa: the Cameroons and Togoland, each of which was divided between British and French administration; Tanganyika, under British administration; and Ruanda-Urundi, under Belgian administration. To the territories classified under Class C mandates virtually no prospect of self-government, let alone independence, was held out. These territories included South West Africa, administered by the Union of South Africa; New Guinea, administered by Australia; Western Samoa, administered by New Zealand; Nauru, administered by Australia under mandate of the British Empire; and certain Pacific islands, administered by Japan.
The terms of the mandate system implied an acknowledgment of the right of the peoples of the colonial territories belonging to states defeated in war to be granted independence if they were thought to have reached a sufficiently advanced stage of development. However, no provision was made in the League Covenant specifying that the countries designated to administer the mandated territories should take steps to prepare these peoples for eventual self-determination.