The Invention of International Bureaucracy

  • The League of Nations and the Creation of International Public Administration, c. 1920-1960


Over the last 100 years, the international political scene has become increasingly organized. More than 5000 international organisations now regulate global and regional political, economic and technical affairs. As a consequence international bureaucracy, i.e. international executive bodies that function autonomously from nation states and deal with international affairs, has become an important and increasingly contested feature of world politics.

Even so, the history of these non-elected executive bodies is underresearched. This project aims to shine a light on the roots of international bureaucracy and its particular institutional and socio-cultural characteristics by exploring the principles, practices and formative effects of the League of Nations Secretariat.  With theoretical inspiration from political sociology and based on extensive multiarchival research, the project will explore the institutional norms and practices of the League Secretariat and investigate its exchanges and connections with national diplomatic and bureaucratic structures, internationalist networks and institutions and subsequent international bureaucracies of the 20th century. 


2018.09.09 | Arts

Bandung Revisited: from Rural Hygiene to Primary Health Care

Niels Brimnes (Associate Professor - Aarhus University)

2018.08.28 | Arts

Beyond the formula of the age of reason: experts, social sciences, and the phonic public in international politics

Tomoko Akami (Associate Professor - The Australian National University)

2018.06.24 | Arts

The Dot-Connector: How the League of Nations Incidentally gave Birth to Neoliberalism

Hagen Schulz-Forberg (Associate Professor - Aarhus University)

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Latest News and Events

2018.09.09 | Conference

Karen Gram-Skjoldager and Emil Eiby Seidenfaden present at Oxford Conference

Karen Gram-Skjoldager will be presenting our ongoing research at the conference ‘Contemporary International History: Current Perspectives, Future Directions’ at Oxford University 10-11 September 2018. Emil Eiby Seidenfaden will attend a PhD Masterclass at the conference and present the paper “Legitimizing International Bureaucracy – the Press and…

2018.08.28 | Arts

Karen Gram-Skjoldager and Torsten Kahlert to present paper at conference on Global Diplomacy

At the conference on Global Diplomacy – a Post-Institutional Approach hosted by the University of Basel on 29-31 August, Karen Gram-Skjoldager and Torsten Kahlert will present the paper “Scandinavians and the League of Nations Secretariat, 1919–1946” (co-written with Haakon A. Ikonomou). Please find the program…

2018.05.30 | Arts

PhD Pre-defence of Emil Eiby Seidenfaden - "The Public Legitimization Strategies of the League of Nations 1919-1945"

Thursday June 7, 2018, Emil Eiby Seidenfaden will do a pre-defence on his thesis "The Public Legitimization Strategies of the League of Nations 1919-1945". Opponent on the pre-defence will be Docent, Professor Louis Clerc (University of Turku). Time: 16:30-18:00 Place: Aarhus University,…

2018.05.29 | Arts

Torsten Kahlert presents paper at workshop on Prosopography in International and Economic History (EUI, Florence)

Postdoc at the Invention of International Bureaucracy-project Torsten Kahlert presented a paper entitled "The League of Nations Secretariats personnel. A prosopographical study of pioneers in international administration" at a workshop on Prosopography in International and Economic History, organised by Dr. Emmanuel Mourlon-Druol…

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Director of Research

Karen Gram-Skjoldager

Associate professor

Part of

  • The Research programme at the Department of History and Classical Studies


The project is funded by the Danish Council for Independent Research Sapere Aude.