Towards the Transnational History of International Organizations:
Methodology / Epistemology

Cambridge University, 6-7 April 2009

The conference paid special attention to UNESCO as a case-study, and took a broader view of methodological issues relating to the study of the history of international organizations. The conference has been hosted by the Centre for History and Economics at King's College, Cambridge University, United Kingdom, and took place on 6 and 7 April 2009.


Since its creation in 1945, UNESCO has played a continued role in advancing methodological and epistemological discussions in the field of historical studies, from its post-Second World War initiation of the 'History of Humanity' project and the first Journal of World History, to its current engagement with the trans-Atlantic histories of slavery and migration. This conference brings together scholars who address new questions of historical methodology in the context of the study of international organizations, with a special, although not exclusive, reference to UNESCO. While transnational history has now taken hold in numerous fields, challenging the dominance of the nation-state as the framework for the investigation of past lives, experiences, and events, is only beginning to touch the traditional field of international studies. Reflection on the transnational context in which international organizations have come into existence and operated raises challenging questions for not only national studies, but also for international and diplomatic history. It places the emphasis on the realm in which organizations such as UNESCO came to life: firmly rooted in the context of the continued salience of nation-states, yet inspired by and requiring other kinds of political, social and cultural spheres of agency and knowledge. The aim of the conference is to encourage innovative work that brings the study of UNESCO and other international organizations into the mainstream of international and national histories and interdisciplinary approaches.