The history of international organizations has been an exciting area of research in recent years, with such landmark studies as Stephen Wertheim’s Tomorrow, the World: The Birth of US Global Supremacy and Adom Getachew's Worldmaking after Empire: The Rise and Fall of Self-Determination. From this scholarship, we’ve learned a lot about, say, the politics of creating new intergovernmental organizations or how they became arenas for interstate competition. But the international bureaucracies themselves remain mysterious, even black-boxed. That’s where Organizing the 20th-Century World: International Organizations and the Emergence of International Public Administration, 1920-1960s (Bloomsbury, 2020) comes in.
Edited by Karen Gram-Skjoldager (an associate professor at Aarhus University), Haakon Ikonomou (an associate professor at the University of Copenhagen), and Torsten Kahlert (a postdoctoral fellow at the Herzog August Bibliothek), Organizing the 20th-Century World tells the history of international public administration, documenting the arrival of “an entirely new professional figure on the international stage: the international civil servant.” The edited collection’s contributors also introduce tools that could aid in study of international administration, including biography (what Haakon Ikonomou calls an “institutional can opener”), prosopography, and relevant datasets. Thanks to both its methodological and historical contributions, this volume will serve as a useful compass for future scholars of international public administration.
Dexter Fergie is a doctoral student in US and global history at Northwestern University. His research examines the history of ideas, infrastructure, and international organizations.