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. 


2017.10.10 | Arts

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

Emil Eiby Seidenfaden (PhD Student - Aarhus University)

2017.08.08 | Arts

A modernist in Geneva - Le Corbusier and the competition for the Palais des Nations

Marco Ninno (MA Student - Aarhus University)

2017.07.04 | Arts

“Utterly below Criticism” – Working Conditions in the Palais Wilson 1930

Karen Gram-Skjoldager (Associate Professor - Aarhus University)

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Latest News and Events

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.

2017.03.17 | Knowledge exchange

Presentation of 'The Invention of International Bureaucracy' project

(27.04.2017): Karen Gram-Skjoldager will be presenting the ideas and aims behind 'The Invention of International Bureaucracy' project at the new head office of the Danish Council for Independent Research.

2017.03.17 | Lecture / talk

What is not "digital history"?

(05.04.2017): Postdoctoral Researcher Torsten Kahlert will give a talk on the use of digital tools in the history of international organisations.

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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.