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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. 


2019.01.15 | Arts

Israel Zangwill on Nationality and “The League of Damnations”

Laura Almagor (LSE Teaching Fellow - Department of International History)

2018.12.16 | Arts

Framing the League of Nations - Cartoons as a prism for perceptions of international politics and organizations

Paul Reef (MA Student - Radboud Universiteit, Nijmegen)

2018.10.29 | Arts

Multiple Internationalisms at the League of Nations Secretariat, 1933-1940

Marco Moraes (PhD Student - University of Oxford)

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Latest News and Events

2018.10.30 | Lecture / talk

Presentation at University of Southern Denmark

On Wednesday 7 November 2018 Karen Gram-Skjoldager will present the Invention of International Bureaucracy project at an internal research seminar at the University of Southern Denmark

2018.10.30 | Debate

BBC Radio 4: The Dream of World Government

Karen Gram-Skjoldager has contributed to the BBC 4 programme 'The Dream of World Government' in which David Miliband looks at the League of Nations and its internationalist legacies https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0bgvfgk

2018.10.29 | Conference

Karen Gram-Skjoldager and Haakon A. Ikonomou present at the 3rd New Diplomatic History Conference (RIAS - Middelburg)

Karen Gram-Skjoldager and Haakon A. Ikonomou presented the paper "Establishing a New Diplomatic Profession: Developing a Code of Conduct for the International Civil Servant, c. 1920-1960" at the 3rd New Diplomatic History Conference at the Roosevelt Institute for American Studies in Middelburg, Netherlands. (Link to…

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…

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Director of Research

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.