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. 


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)

2017.10.10 | Arts

Wilsonianism from beyond the Grave – Report from the President’s Deathbed

Emil Eiby Seidenfaden (PhD Student - Aarhus University)

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Latest News and Events

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.

2017.05.04 | Conference

Conceptualising the League of Nations’ International Civil Service: An Adventurous Journey

(01.09.2017) Paper presentation by Karen Gram-Skjoldager

2017.03.20 | Conference

Public Legitimization Strategies of the League of Nations and their Continuation into the Postwar United Nations

(19.06.2017): Paper presentation by Emil Eiby Seidenfaden.

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Director of Research

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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.