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. 


2018.01.02 | Arts

Film-splaining the League of Nations

Helle Strandgaard Jensen (Associate Professor - Aarhus University) and Nikolai Schulz (Head of BUSTER School and Family Programme - CPH PIX)

2017.10.27 | Arts

‘He used to give me Turkish lessons in Constantinople’: How to get a job in the League Secretariat

Haakon A. Ikonomou (postdoc - Aarhus University)

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Latest News and Events

2018.01.08 | Conference

Launch of new Internatinal Research Network

On 16 November 2017, Karen Gram-Skjoldager participated in the launch of the new international research network “Size Matters! Towards a New Research Agenda for Small State Studies, 1814-Present Day” at the University of Amsterdam. The research network will run for three years and host workshops in Amsterdam, Reykjavik and Aarhus. See the full…

2017.12.19 | Lecture / talk

Karen Gram-Skjoldager and Haakon A. Ikonomou founding members of the editorial board of Diplomatica: A Journal of Diplomacy and Society (Brill)

After co-arranging the New Diplomatic History conference in Copenhagen in 2016, Karen Gram-Skjoldager and Haakon A. Ikonomou (Book Review Editor) join the editorial board of a brand new journal: Diplomatica: A Journal of Diplomacy and Society (Brill). The journal is published in cooperation with the New Diplomatic…

2017.09.29 | Lecture / talk

Inside International Bureaucracy. Career Trajectories in the League of Nations Secretariat

On 31 October Torsten Kahlert will be giving the talk: “Inside International Bureaucracy. Career Trajectories in the League of Nations Secretariat” at a colloquium  organized by Professor Madeleine Herren at the University of Basel.

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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.