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The League of Nations as a Site of Political Imagination (The Nicolai Rubinstein lecture, 2017)

Pedersen, Susan G.

What difference did the League of Nations Secretariat make to the practice and theory of international politics? This talk takes us inside the Secretariat to meet some of the men (and one woman) who headed up its different sections, delving into the records of their internal “kitchen cabinet” meetings to uncover what they themselves thought they were doing. The League’s high officials talked freely among themselves about the nature and scope of their authority, about how to balance national loyalties and international service, and about how to deal with public complaints of ineffectuality or lack of accountability. Self-consciously, unevenly and buffeted by political winds, they nonetheless developed strategies and practices that challenged and changed the international system and that still influence it to this day. Historians and political theorists should pay more attention to the Secretariat as a site for political innovation and political thought.

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December 6, 2018
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