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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. 


2019.07.10 | Arts

Out now: The League of Nations – Perspectives from the Present

Karen Gram-Skjoldager (Associate Professor - Aarhus University) and Haakon A. Ikonomou (Associate Professor - University of Copenhagen)

2019.06.30 | Arts

Historical Women Take the Streets of Geneva: Restoring the Legacy of International Organizations’ Working Bees

Pamela Ohene-Nyako, Laure Piguet, Myriam Piguet, PhD Fellows in History, University of Geneva

2019.05.06 | Arts

Naturism, the Permanent Mandates Commission, and the denial of the violent nature of colonialism

Florian Wagner (Assistant Professor - Universität Erfurt)

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Latest News and Events

2019.06.20 | Debate

Karen Gram-Skjoldager and Haakon A. Ikonomou attends the UN Library at Geneva Library Talk to launch book

Karen Gram-Skjoldager and Haakon A. Ikonomou will appear at the United Nations Library at Geneva Library Talk, together with academics and practitioners, to discuss and explore innovations in global diplomacy from the League of Nations to the United Nations. Here they will be launching: The League of Nations:…

2019.06.13 | Lecture / talk

Karen Gram-Skjoldager and Haakon A. Ikonomou presents at DIIS-event marking the centenary of the Versailles Treaty

On June 12, 2019, Karen Gram-Skjoldager and Haakon A. Ikonomou each presented their research in the panel "The new global order: The League of Nations" at the DIIS-event "Global Order and Disorder - The Peace following World War One - a hundred years later". Karen Gram-Skjoldager gave a presentation entitled…

2019.05.16 | Lecture / talk

Haakon Ikonomou gave talk on Thanassis Aghnides and The Greco-Turkish Population Exchange at the Seeger Centre for Hellenic Studies

On February 19th 2019, Haakon A. Ikonomou gave the lecture "Between The Levant and The League: Thanassis Aghnides and The Greco-Turkish Population Exchange" at the Seeger Centre for Hellenic Studies, at Princeton…

2018.12.09 | Conference

Haakon A. Ikonomou's talk on Thanassis Aghnides and the makings of a hybrid international bureaucrat is now available on YouTube

Haakon A. Ikonomou presented a paper entitled "Between the Ottoman Levant and the League: Thanassis Aghnides and the makings of a hybrid international bureaucrat" at the 3rd International Conference of The Levantine Heritage Foundation, Athens, 2-3 November 2018. The presentation is now available on…

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Director of Research

Karen Gram-Skjoldager

Associate professor, research programme director

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.