Centenary of Intellectual Cooperation

Centenary of the International Committee on Intellectual Cooperation of the League of Nations

Université de Lausanne (Section d'histoire), United Nations Library and Archives (United Nations Office in Geneva)
United Nations Office in Geneva
Palais des Nations
Vom - Bis
12.05.2022 - 13.05.2022
Martin Grandjean, Section d'Histoire, Université de Lausanne

International conference dedicated to the centenary of the International Committee for Intellectual Cooperation of the League of Nations. Will take place from May 12 to 13, 2022 at UN Geneva and brings together all the people working on scientific and cultural relations in the interwar period and the League of Nations.

Centenary of the International Committee on Intellectual Cooperation of the League of Nations

On August 1, 1922, on the shores of Lake Geneva, the International Committee on Intellectual Cooperation (ICIC) met for the first time in what would later become the “Palais Wilson”. Although this was the first time that these twelve international personalities from the sciences and arts, including Henri Bergson, Kristine Bonnevie, Marie Curie-Sklodowska, Albert Einstein, Gilbert Murray, Jules Destrée and George E. Hale, came together, the idea of creating such a coordinating body for intellectual matters predates the founding of the League of Nations and has its origins in the internationalist movements of the late 19th century. What would later be considered by its actors as an attempt to build a “General Republic of Intelligence” or a “League of the Minds”, was just one element of the vast diplomatic and bureaucratic machine that was set up at the end of the Great War to try to pacify Europe and create a new world order based on multilateral cooperation.

But the idea of intellectual cooperation nonetheless inspired the work of bodies and institutions that operated for nearly 20 years, trying to find their place and define their missions in a rapidly changing context. From a consultative committee, it quickly grew to become a real center of activity with the founding of the International Institute of Intellectual Cooperation (IIIC) in Paris in 1926 and other third-party structures like the International Educational Cinematographic Institute (Rome, 1928). Not without generating some tensions with the League of Nations at the turn of the 1930s, this institutionalization led to intellectual cooperation gradually becoming independent from the League’s Secretariat. Although the Second World War interrupted the transformation of the Committee and the Institute into a full-fledged international organisation, UNESCO would resume and expand the activity in this field at the end of the conflict.

The centenary of the creation of the ICIC is an opportunity for historians to step back and examine the achievements but also the limitations of this enterprise, its lack of diversity and cultural representativeness. In recent years, there has been a renewed interest in this field of research (see bibliography), in parallel with a renewed interest in the League of Nations as a whole, in a context of doubts about the capacity of multilateral institutions. Without attempting to cover all the areas that remain to be studied in relation to intellectual cooperation and soft power diplomacy in the interwar period, such an event therefore seems to be a useful place of exchange at the crossroads between the archives, teaching and research communities. To do this, the scientific committee invites participants to reflect in particular on the renewal of our methods: whether it is about new approaches or the use of innovative digital tools, the aim of this conference is not only to look at the past but also to inspire future research.


Communications can focus on the following areas (but are not limited to):

- The International Committee on Intellectual Cooperation, its sub-committees and activities
- The International Institute on Intellectual Cooperation, its sections and activities
- The International Educational Cinematographic Institute
- The International Bureau of Education and its relations to the League of Nations
- The Congresses of Intellectual Cooperation, intellectual networks and debates
- Actors that have been overshadowed or from countries not represented in the Council of the League of Nations
- Women involved in intellectual cooperation or playing a role in any of the organisations concerned with intellectual cooperation
- The historiography of Intellectual Cooperation and the intellectual foundations of the League of Nations
- Innovative methods, impact of digitization and use of digital tools on the study of Intellectual Cooperation or the League of Nations archives
- Bureaucratization of cultural, educational and scientific relations during the interwar, administrative machinery of Intellectual Cooperation at the League of Nations
- Other cultural, educational and scientific organisations during the interwar period and their relation to the League of Nations
- Transition between Intellectual Cooperation and UNESCO, legacy of this first experience
- Successful or unsuccessful implantation of Intellectual Cooperation in specific countries/regions, National Committees on Intellectual Cooperation (especially in contexts outside Western Europe)
- National and regional responses to intellectual cooperation initiatives in the field of education
- Coordination of the exchanges of students and professors during the interwar period, university relations and education
- Specific issues dealt with by the League of Nations in relation to cultural, educational and scientific questions (eg. museums, intellectual property, textbooks, libraries, intellectual workers, radio, etc.)
- Relationship to moral disarmament in the interwar period

Paper proposals should be sent to info[at]intellectualcooperation.org by November 15, 2021. They should be submitted in the form of an abstract of 500 to 1000 words (not including references), accompanied by a short biography of the author (50 to 100 words). In addition to the purpose of the study, the abstract should indicate precisely how the topic will be addressed (based on which archives/data, method).

Prior to the conference, authors will be invited to share an extended version of their paper so that participants can prepare for the discussions. The organizers are considering the publication of a collective monograph based upon the papers submitted to the conference.



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