the general term for the former German colonies and certain Turkish possessions which the League of Nations, after the defeat of Germany and Turkey in World War I, placed under the government of the victorious countries on the basis of special commissions, or mandates. The mandate system was instituted in accordance with Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations. It was, in fact, a veiled form of colonial domination by the imperialist powers and covered up their redistribution of the colonial possessions taken from Germany and Turkey.
Subject to inclusion in the mandate system were colonies and territories “which as a consequence of the late war have ceased to be under the sovereignty of the states which formerly governed them and which are inhabited by peoples not yet able to stand by themselves under the strenuous conditions of the modern world.” The formal transfer was supposed to be carried out by the League of Nations, but in fact the mandate system consolidated a division of colonies that favored Great Britain and France and that had been carried out by them before the end of World War I.
The mandated territories were subdivided into groups A, B, and C. Group A mandates were formally organized as states with their own citizenship and administration, but in fact all rights in legislation, domestic policy, and foreign relations were held by the governing state, the mandatary, which was also given the power to determine when the particular territory would be “capable of governing itself.” Included in this group were Iraq, Palestine, and Transjordan (for which Great Britain was the mandatary), as well as Syria and Lebanon (mandatary, France).
Mandated territories in group B were to be directly governed by the mandatary, which was to observe certain conditions. These territories included part of the Cameroons and part of Togo and Tanganyika (Great Britain, mandatary), another part of the Cameroons and another part of Togo (France), and Ruanda-Urundi (Belgium).
Mandated territories in group C were governed entirely by the laws of the mandatary “as integral portions of its territory.” In other words, these territories were annexed by the mandataries. Included in this group were Southwest Africa (mandatary, the Union of South Africa), German New Guinea (Australia), Western Samoa (New Zealand), Nauru (Australia, Great Britain, and New Zealand, collective mandataries), and the Caroline, Mariana, and Marshall islands in the Pacific Ocean (Japan).
The colonial dominion of the mandataries over territories in groups B and C was, in fact, unrestricted. Under the Covenant of the League of Nations, the slave trade and trade in weapons and alcohol were formally prohibited in these territories. In addition, the states holding the mandates were obliged to “guarantee freedom of conscience and religion, subject only to the maintenance of public order and morals,” and were prohibited from building fortifications and military and naval bases and from providing the native inhabitants with military training.
The USSR never recognized the mandate system and sharply condemned it. After World War II the mandate system was replaced by the UN trusteeship system.