Birmingham Centre for Modern and Contemporary History Annual Lecture
- Muirhead Tower G15
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The League of Nations and the End of Empires
The prestigious Birmingham Centre for Modern and Contemporary History Annual Lecture Series is delighted to welcome Susan Pedersen, Professor of History at Columbia University, and one of the foremost historians of British and international politics in the twentieth century. Her books include Family, Dependence, and the Origins of the Welfare State: Britain and France (1993) and Eleanor Rathbone and the Politics of Conscience (2004).
Professor Pedersen will be speaking about her new book, provisionally titled But Who Will Guard the Guardians? The League of Nations and the Transformation of the Global Order (forthcoming with OUP in 2014).
This is the first comprehensive history of the mandates system of the League of Nations, the oversight regime applied to the Ottoman and German territories seized during the First World War, to be published in more than fifty years. Based on research in the Geneva archives of the League of Nations and in national, local and organizational archives across four continents, it examines the origins, workings and impact of that system not only for particular states, nationalist movements and the League itself, but also for the international order more generally.
The book argues that the apparatus of oversight put into place in Geneva decisively affected how imperial powers sought to manage – and how either revisionist powers or nationalist movements sought to contest – their empires. All sought to enlist ‘the force field of Geneva’ in their interest; all adjusted their strategies to its opportunities and norms. In the regime’s early days, mandatory powers were sometimes able to use the oversight regime to discredit nationalist movements and gain international support. Yet, especially once Germany entered the League, the system could also become an arena through which definitions of sovereignty, order, and civilization were contested and redefined. By tracking the regime through these conflicts and over time, we can see a new global order in the making.
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