History 13b: The History of International Organizations





This seminar introduces students to the history of international organizations. The course seeks to understand how and why international organizations have come to play such a significant role in the politics, economics, and culture of the modern world. The course considers the historical factors that have determined the structure, ethos, and efficacy of particular organizations and why international organizations arose in the first place. The course will combine that historical awareness with assessments of broader attitudes towards international organizations. That combination will help us to answer questions about the historical role of international organizations and their work. Why do we use the vocabulary of fighting wars when we discuss disease, for example? What do we actually expect of UN bodies and why? And why have historians only recently become interested in international organizations? More broadly, we will use the wide-ranging history of international organizations to rethink the role of the modern state as well as questions of peace, development, culture, and environment.