As lexicons of historical categories expand, the field of international history has emerged in recent years as a taxonomy that goes beyond traditional diplomatic history. It has become both deeper and wider, embracing subjects from diverse sub-fields including intellectual history, the history of international law, global/world history and “new diplomatic history”. This has led to a process of enquiry among historians who are increasingly pushing the boundaries of the field, travelling to further-flung archives, reading more languages and engaging wider epistemologies to incorporate new actors, chronologies, geographies and perspectives while taking to task conventional state-based approaches and out-dated frames of traditional analysis. In opening new forms of ontology and pedagogy, particular attention has been paid to identifying the longer visible and invisible legacies of imperialism and colonialism, the myriad ways in which the Cold War has intersected with decolonization, the complex history of relations between the Global North and Global South while also attempting to supersede these conventional boundaries. In seeking to understand how these major international processes intersected and affected each other, a number of overlapping themes may be identified: histories of capitalism, histories of globalism and development, histories of decolonisation, histories of international organisations and histories of human rights. These various trajectories are often investigated separately, but each angle uncovers a new dimension of internationalism, revealing intertwined processes that offer insights into the structures, actors and interests of global relations across the twentieth century.
This essay examines some newly published works under these central themes that currently shape the field of international history more broadly. These themes have emerged as historians seek to capture and classify how the contours of the international system have changed over time, producing new visions of, and vectors for, global order. The essay compares and contrasts some of the major works on the frontiers of this field, particularly those that transcend the North-South binary by embracing new or under-explored actors and archives. It examines traditional periodisations and turning points, arguing that existing frames such as the East-West axis and the distinctions between national, regional, international and transnational histories no longer suffice to offer useful points of departure or conclusion. Rather, new literature which moves the chronology forward through “the shock of the global” in the 1970s, the rise of neo-liberalism in the 1980s or even the crystallisation of human rights in the 1990s needs to be incorporated into the expanding chronological frames. It highlights not just new international histories but traces shifting boundaries of knowledge production among a diverse array of historians in an effort to reveal the rising cosmologies of international history as an increasingly diverse and yet interconnected constellation.
To begin, it is essential to develop a conception of internationalism, to try to define its functions and boundaries, and understand why and how this process has impacted upon traditional narratives, state-based histories and the way that international history has been positioned and progressed against the grain of the former two approaches. In their definitively titled edited volume Internationalisms, A Twentieth Century History, Glenda Sluga and Patricia Clavin develop a conceptually sophisticated approach which sets out to redefine the field of the history of internationalism and the ways in which it shaped twentieth century history, often in its under-estimated and forgotten dimensions. Following Akira Iriye’s ground-breaking assertion in 1997 that internationalism and transnationalism “have always existed alongside and inside national affairs,” Sluga and Clavin argue that internationalism helped to define political movements and change as much as nationalism but has not been accrued such importance as a transformative force in international history because it has so often been shrouded in utopian illusions which tend to cover up its transformative potential and actual manifest influence on contemporary historical developments. As an intellectual scaffold for this conceptual investigation, they adopt the format of Rogers Brubaker’s analysis from the Myths and Misconceptions in the Study of Nationalism, to develop a compelling argument about the manifest dimensions of internationalism and trace its influence in shaping global affairs. The editors skilfully work through some of the myths surrounding internationalism; that it is solely elitist, that institutions have little inherent value, that it is only utopian and therefore lacks relevance, and that there are “good” internationalisms (liberal, neoliberal) and “bad” internationalisms (communist, fascist, imperialist). They tackle the various fables and fallacies haunting the history of internationalism to assert: “The process of embedding histories of internationalism in broader political debates is no simple task, not least because conventional histories of the twentieth century have relied so heavily on normative national conceptions of subjectivity, identity and political sovereignty.”
Looking forward, the editors emphasise that the emerging field comprises also a “new cohort of historians, often sensitive to cultural analyses and with expertise in the history of imperialism and transnationalism as well as nationalism […] now accruing broad-ranging evidence of a relatively mainstream twentieth-century internationalism and the geographic, political and economic reach of its various ideological and institutional strands at critical moments in the twentieth century.” The volume as a whole seeks to restore the historical relevance of internationalism, not just as a political force, but as a process which actively shaped what is termed “differential value of human lives.” In this way the essays in this volume provocatively set forth internationalism as a means by which to understand international and global history as a container term that is about more than ideas and ideologies, but also about methodologies and vehicles for understanding political developments. These are often shaped by wider processes beyond the state level, which has for too long dominated our understanding, reading, constructing and teaching of historical narratives. Its key value lies in this conceptual reckoning of what internationalism means, and therefore, takes this work beyond many others on similar lines as it offers ways to conceptualise and theorise the contribution of this process to our comprehensive understanding of twentieth century history.
From this broad and at times sweeping overview of internationalisms, several other key works more focused on specific branches and examples of this process deserve examination. Specifically, and one of the features which links together many of the chapters in the volume, there has been a host of literature in recent years analysing the historical role of international organizations, i.e. the spaces where internationalisms are most easily identified, codified and scrutinised. Two texts particularly stand out in this regard: Madeleine Herren’s edited volume Networking the International System, Global Histories of International Organizations, and Amy L. Sayward, The United Nations in International History. Herren’s edited volume argues that spatial and social understandings of international organizations remain absent from the field as a whole. This is particularly the case where efforts have been made to analyse international organizations on their own merit, and in previous attempts to integrate their multi-faceted roles in international history. Herren claims that international organizations produce their own historicity “as crucial actors in the developing field of global history and give empirical evidence on how border-crossing contacts multiplied […] at a moment when nation states shaped the master narrative.” Importantly, the essays in the volume substantiate this claim by demonstrating that international organizations function as actors, networks and platforms that produce their own dynamics in response to, and sometimes in contrast with, combined and connected national and regional histories. In this way, international organizations certainly fostered internationalisms but also acted as global nodes and clearing houses which shaped the iteration and effects of national politics. Herren’s volume weaves together the historical importance of international organizations not just to global history, but also to the related field of global international relations, arguing that these conjoined disciplines can benefit from each other’s insights.
The idea that international relations scholars and historians can find connections and critiques in the common ground between them is not a new one, but the exact points of connection and contestation are a fertile space for intervention. Much of the contributions to this debate to date have revolved around the contention of international organizations as actors, or the capacity that they have to “act.” This is a provocation that Amy L. Sayward takes up directly in her book, albeit from the perspective of the empirical value of the United Nations (UN) to International Relations (IR) debates, rather than from the conceptual approach taken by others above. In defining the role of the UN in international history, she signals how historians can inform international relations literature on the organization which continues to take a rather “realist” approach. To do so, she advocates using the abundant sources of and about the UN to develop a more empirical conception that actually captures how the institution functions, thereby expanding the qualitative discussions in adjacent fields.
Sayward’s book, which is lucidly argued and almost certainly directed towards pedagogy, is defiantly framed from the beginning in which she rightly points out that the UN has not been properly analysed by historians because most reviews start by comparing it to the ideals established at its foundation in 1945. She argues that the UN has to be analysed in a way that escapes the success-or-failure-binary in order to capture its myriad functions and capacities. This raises the perennial question of how to conceive of or define the UN as we try to analyse its legacy and performance. Here, Sayward diverts a little from her provocative opening as she calls for the UN to be viewed as “an arena, an intersection or a borderland, as a space where the governments and peoples of the world can come together to discuss, debate and dispute the issues of the day.” She challenges scholars to historicise the organization itself, rather than just according the institution a role in some of the issues that it has dealt with over time. From this perspective, she maintains that the UN can provide a multiple array of entry-ways to wider topics of foreign policy. But this implies somehow the use of the UN as a lens with which to examine other issues, which is a contradiction of her earlier statements and implies that this approach would not produce a direct focus on the history of the institution itself.
What is striking about the arrangement of this book, often lacking in others on UN history which imply that the reader has existing knowledge of institutional procedures and processes, is her careful explanation of how the UN system is navigated. This is particularly true of the introductory chapters, which talk about how the main organs, the Security Council, the General Assembly and the Secretariat, actually work. This helps to define the book’s audience as newcomers to the UN system, but it also usefully describes the inbuilt mechanisms that help the system function, for example the fourteen-week General Assembly work cycle which has been essential to the ways in which issues can be inscribed on to the global agenda. Moreover, she rightly defines this organ as having great potential for historians given the wide, and largely underutilized, array of sources available to offer insights into “the thoughts and operating procedures of leaders from the ‘periphery’ states, who may be actors on the international stage but about whom there are often no large public archives.” Notably, and a feature which really makes this book stand out in the field of UN histories, is the specific attention towards the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), which very rarely receives sustained scholarly attention. Employing her own definition of the UN as a “borderland” Sayward offers several examples of the ways in which individuals and groups were able to utilize the space to develop specific political initiatives through the system. However, much more could have been said about the Secretariat and the individuals who work within this borderland, including those who shape the processes by which politics are filtered into practices. Additionally, although some attention is devoted towards Third World countries as it is argued that the representatives “although barred from the old boys club of the permanent members, did have the power to reshape debate,” as in most of the fields, these actors receive scant attention, despite their numerical majority at the UN since 1960.
Certainly this history of the UN is written “against the grain” of existing work, but Sayward’s approach does echo earlier interventions, most notably from Sunil Amrith and Glenda Sluga in their argument about how new histories of the UN can provide a way to understand wider geopolitical issues. Overall, this book admirably opens up a host of different ways to think about the history of the UN, and in that capacity it’s a useful guide for historians who may have long considered the UN a dull subject, and students who are new to the institution. Ultimately, Sayward falls short of analysing some of the trends that she outlines at the beginning and the reader is left craving a conclusion that is as stimulating in its analysis as the challenge laid out in the introduction. The book serves as a good opening into the UN, but it fails to decisively tell us anything really new; rather it lays a trial of breadcrumbs for future historians to follow.
The UN also appears in a host of sub-fields of international history including intellectual histories, institutional histories, and histories of NGOs, which delve into specific moments and cases of how the UN was operationalised in different contexts. Three further works deserve specific attention in this regard: Adom Getachew, Worldmaking after Empire, The Rise and Fall of Self-Determination; Jessica Lynne Pearson, The Colonial Politics of Global Health, France and the United Nations in Postwar Africa; and Jessica Reinisch (ed.), Special Issue: Agents of Internationalism, Contemporary European History. Taking up Pearson’s contribution first, this book examines how the World Health Organization (WHO) was perceived by France as a vehicle for anticolonialism in Francophone Africa in the 1950s. As a result, France consistently sought to resist UN policy towards Africa, and tried to limit the incursions of the social and public health programs of WHO in territories under French control. She investigates how this resistance shaped the landscape of public health in Africa whereby regional offices of WHO and their programs represented, in the French view, a political system, rather than just a health system, being installed in their territories. She argues that WHO interventions offered both a way of resisting colonial governance, and a means to gradually usurp the authority of local regimes by assisting the development of post-independence systems that embraced internationalist models more closely than their French counterparts. Pearson refers to this as “the clash between post-war internationalism and post-war imperialism.” Across three overlapping contexts, the UN and the end of empire in French colonial Africa, the development of the post-war system of global health and the French response to these processes, she utilises public health as a frame for decolonization, arguing that while often the policies where similar, the political motivations of the UN and France were drastically different and the confrontation between the two ultimately shaped the post-war development of Africa.
Pearson identifies a series of developments arising from this confrontation between French colonial authority in Africa, and what was perceived as the anticolonial influence of the WHO and the UN. The political tension between these actors was based on what Pearson describes as a “profound uncertainty about the value and danger of international development for colonial empire.” In effect, this tension transformed post-independence Africa into a battleground for influence between the remaining imperial powers as they each sought to limit the incursion of the UN in many forms, particularly through social and economic development. To do so, France claimed that French Africa should be classified as a European region, presenting some interesting issues about how sovereignty was defined in the context of development and how regionalism and the ways in which the UN sought to organize the world in socio-economic terms, became hotly contested processes.
While skilfully argued, the book could have had more detail about the thinking and planning of WHO officials and the UN representatives both on the ground and in Geneva and New York. It also could have engaged some of the wider debates about development that were taking place at the time at ECOSOC where anti-colonial actors such as India and Chile engaged in long discussions about development practices on behalf of emerging post-colonial actors. With her extensive research, Pearson does offer insights into the programs the WHO implemented to eradicate malaria and address infant mortality and shows how the motivations and intent behind these often stood in contrast to the ambitions of the French colonial regimes. In this way, the book demonstrates that even in the area of global health policy, the UN system developed policies which were increasingly directed towards the Global South, not necessarily merely in the interests of the Great Powers. Further analysis of whether or not this constituted state-building initiatives on behalf of the UN, and if so with what model, would have been a welcome addition. The whole dimension of UN agency is under-developed throughout the book, which is a pity given the great potential of the primary research. Rather, Pearson sets up the UN as the facilitator of discussions but stops short of explaining how or whether this facilitation actually manifested as political influence in the ways that France anticipated. It would be very interesting to conduct further research into the WHO secretariat officials and investigate the political undercurrents and contexts around the formation of policies, particularly also the links between the WHO offices in Geneva and in regional offices and the discussions of the Special Committee in New York. What is clear at the end of this fascinating book is the idea that “all expertise is political”, and the UN was certainly not just a neutral arbiter, a mere facilitator or a hotbed of ideas; rather, officials actively shaped its policies and programs.
This is where Pearson’s book can be amply linked to Jessica Reinisch’s Special Issue on “Agents of Internationalism” from Contemporary European History in 2016. Reinisch constructs a compelling argument about how transnationalism and internationalism still need to be dislodged from their characterisation as an exclusively Western, liberal and progressive cause. To do so, the Special Issue presents seven articles which focus, as she describes, on “Europeans thinking and acting internationally,” in order to show how social and cultural histories are linked with political realities and power – in a similar way to Pearson’s work on the social and cultural dimensions of development, belying its inherently political foundations. Here however, the capacity of organisations, and those individuals who work for them and through them are appropriately accorded agency. For Reinisch and her authors, institutions are not just empty vehicles but spaces where actors experience and practice internationalism and transnationalism, both inside and outside the official walls of power. Again, following earlier contributions and foreshadowing those that would come later, these international organisations appear as indistinct spectres, but here Reinisch accrues agency to those spaces, arguing that the bringing to life of internationalist ideas and impulses was impacted by the institutional setting. For many of the essays in this Special Issue, explanations of how this setting actually works could have been described more clearly, and also lacking is the analysis of the ways in which these individuals in turn shaped the organizations and spaces in which they work. But this is an important contribution to the field in bringing together internationalisms and transnationalisms and helping to define the scope of the debate about whether or not, or to what extent, organisations had agency.
One work which directly picks up this debate about the relationship of international organisations to the tensions between empire and anti-colonial internationalism is Adom Getachew’s Worldmaking After Empire, The Rise and Fall of Self-Determination. In this provocative tome, Getachew analyses the ways in which black anticolonial activists including Nnamdi Azikiwe, W.E.B. Du Bois, Michael Manley, Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere, George Padmore and Eric Williams pitched decolonisation as a “world-making” project. She moves the debate around decolonisation as a process of transition from empire to nation-states to consider it as “a project of re-ordering the world that sought to create a domination-free and egalitarian international order.” Central to these arguments, she shows persuasively how these actors sought to create institutions that would not only safeguard newly created states but foster the process of embarking on a wider quest for economic, political and social justice. As she terms it: “Rather than foreclosing internationalism, the effort to achieve national independence propelled a rethinking of state sovereignty, inspired a far-reaching reconstitution of the post-war international order, and grounded the twentieth century’s most ambitious vision of global redistribution.” While the institutions that are created are less of a focus than the intellectual history of the actors who populated them, Getachew aptly burrows into the various motivations for internationalism and hints at the undercurrents of rights discourses surrounding debates on self-determination. She sketches out a broad landscape of the intellectual and institutional architecture constructed by these actors as they tried to make different world orders by changing understandings of this core idea. Ultimately, it would have been useful to embed her intellectual history more in the social and political milieus that fostered these discussions and that also produced and shaped material outcomes. However, the link to histories of human rights is tantalisingly framed, which leads us to our second category of analysis.
At the root or flowing as an undercurrent through these connected histories of internationalism has been the quest for human rights in both utopian and more practical guises. In recent years, the literature in this sub-field has expanded rapidly, launching a series of rich discussions. The more recent debate was sparked off by Samuel Moyn’s ground-breaking book The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History which argued that human rights, as an idea, did not flow along a linear trajectory from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) forward, but actually only gained significant political traction in the late 1970s. In 2018, Moyn followed up with Not Enough, Human Rights in an Unequal World where he makes the link between human rights and social and economic justice. From the beginning of Not Enough Moyn asserts the importance of staking out a middle ground between those who think rights are a sham and an excuse for domination and those who claim that rights are unrelated to political economy and distributive justice. Human rights, he argues, have not kept pace with the free-market utopia created by neoliberalism, they are, as the title of the book tells us “not enough.” He rightly points out that the history of economic and social rights has been neglected by historians because “there is no way to study them apart from what one might call the distributional imagination and political economy of human rights.” The result of this process and an over-emphasis on sufficiency and equality, rather than the justice delivered by rights has rendered human rights a “prisoner of the contemporary age of inequality”. The book traces how this situation has come about and how the explosion of social and economic global inequality has been created. In doing so, Moyn transverses the national and the global contexts to show how human rights moved from being framed as a national project of liberation to the global level of subsistence. However, this does not account for how human rights evolved as part of the global system and in fact flourished through iterations of their essentialism to internationalism and visions of world order. Moyn frames human rights as “a powerless companion of market fundamentalism […] they simply have nothing to say about material inequality.” In this view, rights are inherently connected to both the market forces of neoliberalism, and national implementation mechanisms, which certainly distances rights and rights discourses from the broad-ranging and more hopeful horizons of internationalisms that espouse them.
Historian Jan Eckel also sees the 1970s as a transformative period for human rights, but his empirical approach emphasises what he terms the “twin facets” of human rights history; the development of international human rights policy on one hand, and the eruption of violence on the other. Eckel focuses his analysis less on the motivations and politics around the ideals of human rights, but more on how human rights policies were developed and operationalised and their cumulative effect on the history of human rights. He centres much of this analysis at the level of international institutions, not least the UN where he points out that discussions and conflicts are brought together. He argues that the history of human rights is a “fractured and discontinuous process” rather than a straight trajectory of development and expansion over time. This useful conceptual spur at the beginning prevents the succeeding chapters from constructing a teleological narrative about the progressive development of rights, but moreover also precludes the tendency found in other works to highlight peak moments of the effectiveness verses the ineffectiveness of rights. From this angle, Eckel emphasises that “short-term causes, and occasionally also immediate triggers, had a more significant impact on the implementation of human rights policy than distant historical roots of long-term continuities that may also have existed.” This is a very useful view. Essentially, what he argues is that realpolitik around human rights discussions and conflicts affect the implementation or operationalisation of the ideals. This creates a situation where it is essentially fruitless to compare human rights questions, as each case has its own particular set of dynamics and that there is no such thing as a perfect outcome, only a choice between “identifying the lesser evil.” But rather than a dim view of the effectiveness of rights, this means that rights produce their own dynamics at specific moments, in contrast to the emphasis that has come to characterise conventional approaches to human rights history. It raises the question of whether or not rights can be transformative in and of themselves in a particular context, and this seems unlikely, but it does present rights as something more effective than a utopian set of ideals or merely useful rhetorical devices. He also mentions that specifically in the context of decolonisation, at the UN, the link that African and Asian actors created between the UN’s work and issues like racial discrimination, apartheid and colonial rule was very important. “In this way, they established a symbolic order in the global organization that turned prevailing power relationships in international politics upside down.” This is also important because it underlines that rights have a greater potential than simply being declaratory but actually can change global order – even in a rhetorical or perhaps elusive and symbolic manner.
There are also several new works that focus explicitly on some of the actors mentioned in these wider kaleidoscopes of internationalism and global order, two of which merit particular attention. Keisha N. Blain’s Set the World on Fire, Black Nationalist Women and the Global Struggle for Freedom highlights the role of working-poor women and black women internationalism activists. She rightly argues that most narratives of black nationalism and internationalism focus on well-known figures such as Marcus Garvey and W.E.B. Du Bois. Her path-breaking book, rather, explores the contributions of women whose financial and socio-economic resources, and thereby their mobility, were limited. Yet, she identifies the various ways in which some of these women functioned as key leaders, thinkers, strategists and activists that informed the practices, politics and philosophies of black nationalist and internationalist movements. This is a unique perspective as it emphasises the role of actors who are normally omitted from consideration as change-makers in this sphere. Rather, Blain’s analysis highlights that black nationalism and internationalisms were neither monolithic, nor teleological nor unidirectional; instead, “These women, representing a subordinate group within the global racial and gender hierarchies […] laid the political groundwork for a new generation of black activists and intellectuals engaged in struggles for freedom […].”
Another work that deserves attention in this regard is Jürgen Dinkel’s The Non-Aligned Movement: Genesis, Organization and Politics (1927-1992). This book traces the history of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) across the twentieth century, rooting it in the anti-imperialism of the 1920s and taking the analysis of its contributions towards global order and internationalism up to the present day. While there has been a resurgence of interest in the NAM and neutralist politics in recent years, Dinkel’s book captures a clear snapshot of the field and contributes an important and up to this point largely absent perspective: that of the Global South countries themselves. He contends that the evolution of the NAM reflects some of the key breaks and caesuras in the history of South-South cooperation, and that the NAM is “the result of an episodic, polycentric process that occurred in a variety of locations and involved a variety of actors, as well as being the outcome of synchronous interdependencies between specific places and actors.” Importantly, this contradicts conventional historiographies which have assigned a linear trajectory to the NAM and to South-South cooperation overall. Dinkel also maintains that the NAM was formed and operated in the context of the North-South conflict even more so than the East-West conflict which has been the focus of most work on the NAM. Although it only utilises a very limited array of sources from the Global South (from archives in Bandung and Jakarta), Dinkel’s perspective represents an attempt to de-essentialise the history of the Global South – in that it was not inevitable that the vast array of actors and interests would be compatible nor have the political motivation to cooperate. While he could have developed this angle more with a wider assortment of primary research from some of these countries, the book argues convincingly that what was important about the NAM is that it led to the further international institutionalization of Global South cooperation and in this way, it provides a meaningful contribution to the field of international organizations and internationalism because it explores the process of transnational institutionalisation in detail.
Finally, Foreign Policy as Nation Making. Turkey and Egypt in the Cold War by Reem Abou-El-Fadl traces the interaction of nation-making with “the international” and argues that in the case of Turkey and Egypt, nationalism and its interactions with internationalism was about much more than identity formation. However, rather than focusing on the traditional elites of these nations, she emphasizes “the creative agency of local actors, who sought to direct social change, while confronting legacies of imperial decline and colonial encroachment, as well as the pressures of superpower politics and limited resources.” What is innovative and original about her approach is not just her choice of actors, but her effort to decentre the Cold War frame, and moreover, her empirical contribution to the theoretical field of foreign policy analysis. Few historians manage to interweave this disciplinary boundary in a satisfactory manner, but this book manages at once to inform theoretical debates and posits a new hypothesis; that in Global South states, the international becomes a space for national self-realisation, an opportunity “for the assertion and reconstitution of the self through every gesture or manoeuvre vis-à-vis the outside.”
This is an important contribution to the wider debate about how to conceptualise or understand the Global South as a group and how to historicise its origins. This emerging field has mostly relied on analysing why the bonds of solidarity have been constituted and maintained between disparate actors and nations. Problematically, this relies on the assumption that a vague sense of anti-colonial communion was sufficient to bind these actors together in their initiatives, which leads to rather monolithic descriptions of their actions and purposes. Rather, El-Fadl asks how these solidarity networks functioned and what they tell us about the duelling forces of nationalism and internationalism at their core. She argues that “claims may be made regarding a unity of purpose stretching beyond the nation to embrace others, where bonds of solidarity are forged through common values, struggles and horizons […]. In order that such claims be affirmed and maintained, they require recognition and indeed reproduction by these non-nations and will be undermined if such appeals are rejected or contradicted.” The international, in her view, transforms the national project as it necessarily requires the communication, contestation and affirmation or rejection of key claims – an equally powerful, intertwined force to that of nationalism.
This brings us to a third important junction in the field, where a variety of literature can be connected: that of the histories of capitalism and the histories of globalism and development and decolonisation. The whole dimension of political economy and the histories of capitalism as a contested, rather than an inevitable system, is an aspect that has been growing in popularity in international history. There are two stand-out works in this sub-field which deserve attention here; Christopher R. W. Dietrich, Oil Revolution: Anticolonial Elites, Sovereign Rights and the Economic Culture of Decolonization and Quinn Slobodian, Globalists, The End of Empire and the Birth of Neoliberalism. Taking up the first, Dietrich’s phenomenal study has sealed his reputation as an international historian of first repute. This ground-breaking book connects the field of the history of raw materials with the history of capitalism and political economy as an under-studied aspect of twentieth-century internationalism. Examining the development of what he terms “sovereign rights”, he shows persuasively how the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) utilised this idea as a political program to implement economic decolonisation of their natural resources. Dietrich pitches “sovereign rights” as a framework to understand what economic emancipation actually was and how it manifested in different political organisations of elites during this period. As he describes, “[i]t led them to pose questions about imperialism and statehood, about international inequality and reparative justice and about the global distribution of wealth.” He describes decolonization as a “pendular process” in international history as it united politicians, intellectuals, activists, economists and ordinary citizens around one common history of victimization through imperialism and emancipatory visions of the future. He classifies and describes in clear terms the agency of anti-colonial elites as a group that has gone largely under-examined in traditional international histories. He identifies their agency as an attempt to shape their realities: “As they tried to understand and shape the complex conditions at hand, they created and reproduced networks of affiliation that made it possible for them to pose their challenges to international capitalism. They developed expertise, created policies, and mobilized language that rang true to each other.”
This is an important aspect of Dietrich’s work, focused mostly on the OPEC anti-colonial elites. At the centre of this book is an effort to chart and analyse the ideas of this new class of international actors, to understand their experiences and perspectives of decolonization and how it could be used as a way to change the practices of international capitalism. He argues that these elites viewed themselves as “actors and theorists of an incomplete project of liberation,” and crucially, that “decolonization was a process which could be used to overhaul all kinds of future international relationships.” He uses the framework of sovereign rights to argue that the common understandings it generated fostered a culture between disparate anti-colonial elites that had significant effects on international power, the control of natural resources, sovereign wealth and the actors who controlled it. One unfortunate limitation of the book is that it uses only very few sources from the Global South, so the voices of the anticolonial elites featured are not interrogated as to their representative claims. Dietrich does however manage to provide an insider’s view of the institutions that elites used to develop their agenda and shows cogently the intermingling of international and transnational politics around the issue of sovereign rights and natural resources.
The whole question of international economic justice is approached from a different perspective in Slobodian’s work. Arguing that the “Geneva School” of economists and social scientists (including Ernst-Ulrich Petersmann, Wilhelm Ropke, Ludwig Von Mises, and F. A. Hayek) were formative in shaping neoliberalism as a set of ideals designed to save capitalism from absorbing itself, Slobodian traces the emergence of the neoliberal model of world governance. What neoliberalism sought, in this analysis, “was an institutional encasement for the world of nations that would present catastrophic breaches of the boundaries between imperium and dominium. The right institutions, laws and binding commitments would safeguard the well-being of the world.” He traces the ways in which these Geneva School actors developed their project of thinking in world orders by offering a set of proposals designed to defend the world economy from a democracy that became global only in the twentieth century. As he describes, “The normative neoliberal world is not a borderless market without states, but a doubled world kept safe from mass demands for social justice and redistributive equality by the guardians of the economic constitution.”
As with Dietrich, Slobodian argues that decolonisation was central to the evolution of neoliberalism, which became fortified in the wake of the push for wider and wider economic sovereignty from 1962 onwards. He views the NIEO and what he terms the revolt of the Global South in the 1970s as a central rupture of the existing world order that deeply impacted the institutionalisation of neoliberal principles and practices. For the Geneva School, this episode “was about rethinking the world economy as an information processor and global institutions as the necessary calibrators of that processor.” One issue which haunts the pages of this book, however, is that despite Slobodian’s insistence on neoliberal omnipotence, he doesn’t address the question of the injustices and inequalities rendered by the “reordering of the paradigms of international economic law and neoliberal constitutionalism” that he outlines. It would be worth taking into account the kind of world that this neoliberal ordering created, including the inherent problems that it created in the economic internationalisms it sponsored.
Thinking globally about how various orders have been created, sustained and smashed throughout the twentieth century, an important contribution can be found in Or Rosenboim’s “The Emergence of Globalism, Visions of World Order in Britain and the United States, 1939-1950”. This book is really an “intellectual history of the complex and non-linear genealogy of globalism in mid-century visions of world order,” but it is not an attempt to chart every aspect of those views or to determine the success of some or the failure of others. Although it offers a solid approach that combines analyses of Anglo-American and European thinkers on global order in the 1940s, what the field is missing is the perspectives of Global South and non-Anglophone actors. Rosenboim’s book uncovers a non-linear, non-teleological, non-chronological road to globalisation, which is fascinating. She argues that the roots of this process are contested, yet so too are its values. And yet this is not a story about whether or not these visions or global order were implemented or realised, but what these actors contributed to the wider discourse about globalism.
One part of her analysis that either needs further development or pairing back is the claim that this book tells us something new about the development of globalism in the twentieth century as a whole. It only deals with one decade, albeit important, and only with one set of elitist public intellectuals who all have similar origins, education and audiences. While she offers some new views of globalism, it may be questioned whether or not it turns intellectual histories of the twentieth century on their heads. What is particularly insightful are Rosenboim’s efforts to define the term global and her approach to it. She opts for an inclusive stance, outlining its various meanings but using it “in the widest, most inclusive sense, as a perspective on politics, a sometimes-abstract space that was modified, redefined and challenged in lively transnational conversations.” Key to this view is the issue of what “political space” means, something Rosenboim goes to great theoretical lengths to explore. In her view, the political space around discussions of globalism was shaped by a range of philosophical, sociological and political assumptions. Her central aim is to investigate not whether the globalist schemes of the 1940s were realised, but to uncover the political terms and conceptual vocabulary employed to promote certain ideas about politics in historical context. This leads her to analyse pluralism in conceptions of world order and the tension between various visions, but it stands somewhat awkwardly in relationship to her focus on liberal thinkers. This is particularly so when it is recalled that liberal internationalism is not pluralist, and actually quite exclusionary in practice. It raises the question of how one particular vision managed to crowd out others and become the defining globalist approach of the twentieth century.
Finally, it is important to briefly reflect on “The Development Century, A Global History”, an edited volume from Stephen J. Macekura and Erez Manela bringing together a brilliant set of essays from a cohort of leading historians of international development. The editors from the beginning set up the contention that the meaning of development is fluid rather than fixed and that “Part of the historian’s task is to retrieve the myriad ways in which the pursuit of development framed (and was informed by) imaginings of the future, how it has reshaped the material world, and how it has drawn on historical narratives to explain and justify contemporary choices.” The volume frames development in a challenging way, arguing that it had a variety of dimensions as “a set of practices that transcended the ideological divisions (capitalist/communist) commonly seen as incompatible and operated actors the political domains (empire/state/nonstate) that are often seen as separate and distinct.” This sets up the wide array of essays which examine the processes, effects, problems, challenges and politics of development, rather than just the purposes of the elites behind the ideas, or the realities of the people in receipt of development policies.
Two essays in particular demonstrate this perspective. The first is “Decolonization and the Gendered Politics of Developmental Labor in South-eastern Africa,” by Priya Lal. Her main goal is to counter historiographical approaches towards development – contesting the western-centred vision of it as well as to underline the usually neglected role of reproductive labour within the development efforts. To do so, she explores a unique approach towards development in Tanzania and Zambia through a two-layered analysis of the internal contradictions within these programs – the struggle between community (e.g. welfare) and self-reliance, as well as the debated place of productive and reproductive labour within development efforts. The core idea of these approaches to development was to prioritise “basic needs” of economic growth (already a departure from classic western approaches of that time), and to assure that this welfare state was built and managed by local citizens in the name of self-reliance (since all of these programs were based on African Socialism). The problem was that the dire post-independence situation didn’t allow for that because domestic workers skilled in the domains of welfare were almost non-existent but using migrant workers would undermine self-reliance. Hence, states had to improvise. Through an examination of this improvisation, Lal demonstrates that development was not one package of policies to be implemented by each country to achieve its goals, but rather an “entire range of human attitudes and efforts manifesting a ‘will to improve’”. The situational circumstances that forced these countries to improvise in such ways also show that post-colonial countries couldn’t really exercise their political independence, since they acutely lacked local actors that could execute self-sufficient development strategies due to the damaging legacies of colonialism.
This layer of analysis is beneficial in numerous ways. By charting the historiography of these national development plans of South-Eastern Africa, it sheds light on different mindsets towards development, where both productive and reproductive labour is equally recognised as essential to the development of the country and thus receives adequate attention and investment from these states. However, by analysing the strategies adopted by these countries vis-à-vis reproductive labour, this text also sheds light on the problem of gendered politics within development. Indeed, we see here the state-level “institutionalisation” of tendencies to divide labour (productive and reproductive) between genders with such initiatives as “Home Economics” teaching. However, these tendencies had to coexist with opposing forces that were agitating (sometimes successfully) for an alternative strategy of socialising reproductive labour that would allow men and women to equally contribute to the productive capacities of their country.
The second essay that deserves some analysis here is “Creating ‘The NGO International’ : The Rise of Advocacy for Alternative Development, 1974-1994”, from Paul Adler. Designed to counter the mainstream historiographical perception of NGOs as “predominantly Global North institutions who helped drive mainstream development thought and practice” he develops what he terms the “NGO International” that is driven by its own “alternative worldview about poverty and economic growth”. He focuses specifically on the first wave of South-centred NGOs which sprang from the disillusion with the technocratic, state-based approach towards development during the development decade of the 1960s such as Third World Forum, and African Institute for Economic Development as well as by some western NGOs (like Amsterdam-based Transnational Institute/TNI) who contributed to “challenging development orthodoxy”. Through the example of the struggle against Nestlé’s breast milk substitutes, he showcases how a successful boycott in the US by INFACT led to the creation of IBFAN (International Baby Food Action Network), at a WHO-UNICEF meeting in 1978. This cemented cooperation between Northern and Southern NGOs, which successfully pressured an immense multinational corporation to abide to the global code of conduct issued in the meeting.
The following wave of NGO activism that Adler identifies began with the foundation of the “Third World Network” in 1984 in order to forge a common vision of what he terms social justice development. The core principle of this unifying view was the emphasis on “production for basic needs, appropriate technologies, internal wealth redistribution, and programs to preserve and promote indigenous cultures.” The author concentrates on the centrality of the environmental challenges for the NGOs of the time, and how this global problem mobilised the actors, particularly through their struggle of bringing the project of green development to the table of the Multilateral Development Banks and the World Bank. Thanks to the pressure they created in cooperation with NGOs, the World Bank eventually agreed to an independent review of the project, and later led reform efforts towards being more environmentally conscious, demonstrating that “NGO International represented not just a voice of dissent but a force capable of winning policy changes.”
An intersectional reading of these leading works across these sub-fields is sure to foster a flowering of productivity that weaves these themes even closer together. What is evident from this short survey is that much more emphasis still needs to be placed on asserting the agency and voice of Global South actors, from a wider variety of sources than we have yet interrogated. So too is it important to be critical about how to identify those actors and really query how and why it is essential to go beyond the elite perspectives among them. These works demonstrate the enormous potential of thinking globally about international and transnational history in the twentieth century; but to do so requires, conversely, a closer engagement with regional, provincial and local sources for historians and social scientists. The works which have conceptualised what is meant by the term “global” already highlight the micro and macro level processes it requires, and much of the literature embraces these multi-scalar perspectives. But in the spaces in between there is still a lack of representativeness both in terms of the actors and their politics and in efforts to connect non-Anglophone literature and perspectives within and beyond the West, with their polyphonic counterparts. The challenge facing international historians now is not how to think globally, but whether that term can be meaningfully employed across these dimensions. It may be time to move beyond the categories of global and international history and start to delve into the meaning of world orders, which form both the root and purpose of much of our enquiries.
 The author would like to thank the editorial board of H-Soz-Kult for their helpful comments in the production of this essay. Thanks are also due to Grigory Troyanov who assisted with the final book review of this process.
 This essay has benefitted from the insights of Erez Manela, International Society as a Historical Subject, in: Diplomatic History 44,2 (2020), pp. 184-209.
 This term comes from Niall Ferguson, Charles S. Maier, Erez Manela and Daniel J. Sargent’s edited volume The Shock of the Global, The 1970s in Perspective, Cambridge, MA 2011.
 Glenda Sluga / Patricia Clavin (eds.), Internationalisms, A Twentieth Century History, Cambridge 2016.
 Akira Iriye, Foreword, in: Sluga / Clavin (eds.), Internationalisms, pp. xiii-xiv, here: p. xiv. See also Akira Iriye, Cultural Internationalism and World Order, Baltimore 1997.
 Rogers Brubaker, Myths and Misconceptions in the Study of Nationalism, in: John Hall (ed.), The State of the Nation: Ernest Gellner and the Theory of Nationalism, Cambridge 1998, pp. 272-305.
 Glenda Sluga / Patricia Clavin, Introduction: Rethinking the History of Internationalism, in: Sluga / Clavin, Internationalisms, pp. 1-14, here: p. 7.
 Ibid, p. 4.
 Sunil S. Amrith, Internationalising Health in the Twentieth Century, in: Sluga / Clavin, Internationalisms, pp. 245-264.
 Susan Pedersen, The Guardians. The League of Nations and the Crisis of Empire, Oxford 2015; Magaly Rodriguez Garcia / Liat Kozma / Davide Rodogno (eds.), The League of Nations Work on Social Issues: Visions, Endeavours and Experiments, New York 2015; Ryan M. Irwin, Gordian Knot: Apartheid and the Unmaking of the Liberal World Order, Oxford Studies in International History, Oxford 2012; Simon Jackson / Alanna O’Malley, Rocking on its Hinges? The League of Nations, the United Nations and the New History of Internationalism in the Twentieth Century, in: Simon Jackson / Alanna O’Malley (eds.), The Institution of International Order: From the League of Nations to the United Nations, Routledge 2018, pp. 1-22; Nicole Eggers / Jessica Lynne Pearson / Aurora Amada e Santos (eds), The United Nations and Decolonization, New York 2020; Guy Fiti Sinclair, To Reform the World: International Organizations and the Making of Modern States, Oxford 2017.
 Mark Mazower, No Enchanted Palace: The End of Empire and the Ideological Origins of the United Nations, Princeton 2009; Mark Mazower, Governing the World: The History of an Idea, New York 2012; Paul Kennedy, Parliament of Man. The United Nations and the Quest for World Government, London 2007. On similar themes in international law see Antony Anghie, Imperialism, Sovereignty and the Making of International Law, Cambridge 2005.
 Madeleine Herren, Introduction: Towards a Global History of International Organization, in: Madeleine Herren (ed.), Networking the International System, Global Histories of International Organizations, Heidelberg 2014, pp. 1-12, here: p. 4.
 For the idea of IOs conceived of as “actors, networks and platforms” see Daniel Maul, Human Rights, Development and Decolonization: The International Labour Organization, 1940-1970, New York 2012; Sandrine Kott / Joёlle Droux (eds)., Globalizing Social Rights: the International Labour Organization and Beyond, Basingstoke 2013. See also the UN as platform, actor and socialising space, Alanna O’Malley, The Diplomacy of Decolonisation, America, Britain and the United Nations during the Congo crisis, 1960-64, Manchester 2018.
 See for example, Michael Barnett / Martha Finnemore, Rules for the world: International Organizations in Global Politics, Ithaca 2004; Martha Finnemore / Kathryn Sikkink, International Norm Dynamics and Political Change, in: International Organization 52 (1998), pp. 887- 917; Judith Goldstein / Robert O. Keohane (eds.), Ideas and Foreign Policy: Beliefs, Institutions, and Political Change, Ithaca 1993; Ernst B. Haas, When Knowledge is Power: Three Models of Change in International Organizations, Berkeley 1990; Raymond Duvall / Alexander Wendt, Institutions and International Order, in: Ernst-Otto Czempiel / James N. Rosenau (eds.), Global Change and Theoretical Challenges. Approaches to World Politics for the 1990s, Lexington Mass 1989, pp. 51-74; Andrew Hurrell, On Global Order: Power, Values and the Constitution of International Society, Oxford 2007.
 Amy L. Sayward, The United Nations in International History, New York 2017.
 Ibid, p. 2.
 Ibid, p. 25.
 Ibid, p. 47.
 Sunil Amrith / Glenda Sluga, New Histories of the United Nations, in: Journal of World History 19,3 (2008), pp. 251-274.
 Jessica Lynne Pearson, The Colonial Politics of Global Health, France and the United Nations in Postwar Africa, Cambridge MA 2018, pp. 16-17.
 Ibid, pp. 142-143.
 On this aspect see Eva-Maria Muschik, Managing the World: The United Nations, Decolonization and the Strange Triumph of State Sovereignty in the 1950s and 1960s, in: Journal of Global History 12,1 (March 2018), pp. 122-144.
 For work in this vein see Tine Hanrieder, International organization in time. Fragmentation and Reform, Oxford 2015; Erez Manela, A Pox on Your Narrative: Writing Disease Control into Cold War History, in: Diplomatic History 34 (2010), pp. 299–323; Sunil S. Amrith, Decolonizing International Health: India and Southeast Asia, 1930–65, Basingstoke 2006; Nitsan Chorev, The World Health Organization between North and South, Ithaca 2012; Thomas Zimmer, Welt ohne Krankheit. Geschichte der internationalen Gesundheitspolitik 1940-1970, Göttingen 2017, is not yet available in English, but see the review: Heidi Tworek: Rezension zu: Zimmer, Thomas: Welt ohne Krankheit. Geschichte der internationalen Gesundheitspolitik 1940–1970, in: H-Soz-Kult, 19.01.2018, http://www.hsozkult.de/publicationreview/id/reb-25461 (01.10.2021).
 Jessica Reinisch (ed.), Special Issue: Agents of Internationalism, Contemporary European History 25,2 May (2016).
 Ibid, p. 200.
 Adom Getachew, Worldmaking after Empire. The Rise and Fall of Self-Determination, Princeton 2019.
 Ibid, p. 2.
 Ibid, p. 3.
 Such as for example, Michael Goebel, Anti-Imperial Metropolis, Interwar Paris and the Seeds of Third World Nationalism, Cambridge 2015; Jennifer Anne Boittin, Colonial Metropolis: The Urban Grounds of Anti-Imperialism and Feminism in Interwar Paris, Lincoln 2010.
 See Roland Burke, Decolonization and the Evolution of International Human Rights, Philadelphia 2010; Steven Jensen, The Making of International Human Rights: The 1960s, Decolonization and the Reconstruction of Global Values, Cambridge 2016.
 Samuel Moyn, The Last Utopia. Human Rights in History, Cambridge 2012.
 Samuel Moyn, Not Enough. Human Rights in an Unequal World, Cambridge MA 2018.
 Moyn, Not Enough, p. xii. For further arguments on the connection between human rights and material inequality see: Joel Glasman, Humanitarianism and the Quantification of Human Needs. Minimal Humanity, London 2020; Paul Streeten with Shahid Javed Burki / Mahbub u Haq / Norman Hicks / Frances Stewart, First Things First: Meeting Basic Human Needs in the Developing Countries, World Bank / Oxford 1981.
 Ibid, p. 216.
 Jan Eckel, The Ambivalence of Good: Human Rights in International Politics since the 1940s, Oxford 2019, p. 2.
 Ibid, p. 8.
 Ibid, p. 355.
 Ibid, p. 9.
 Keisha N. Blain, Set the World on Fire. Black Nationalist Women and the Global Struggle for Freedom, Philadelphia 2018.
 Ibid, pp. 4-5
 Ibid, p. 10. Also see pp. 143-150 and p. 165.
 Jürgen Dinkel, The Non-Aligned Movement: Genesis, Organization and Politics, 1927-1992, Leiden 2019.
 Natasa Mišković / Harald Fischer-Tiné / Nada Boškovska (eds.), The Non-Aligned Movement and the Cold War. Delhi – Bandung – Belgrade, London 2014; Janick Marina Schaufelbuehl / Sandra Bott / Jussi Hanhimäki / Marco Wyss, Non-Alignment, the Third Force, or Fence-Sitting: Independent Pathways in the Cold War, in: The International History Review 37,5 (2015), pp. 901-911.
 Dinkel, Non-Aligned Movement, p. 5.
 Jayantanuja Bandyopadhyaya, The Non-Aligned Movement and International Relations, in: India Quarterly, A Journal of International Affairs 33,2 (1977), pp. 137-164; Peter Willetts, The Non-Aligned Movement, The Origins of a Third World Alliance, London 1978.
 Reem Abou-El-Fadl, Foreign Policy as Nation Making. Turkey and Egypt in the Cold War, Cambridge 2019, p. 5.
 Ibid, p. 17.
 Vijay Prashad, The Darker Nations. A People’s History of the Third World, New York 2008; Vijay Prashad, The Poorer Nations. A Possible History of the Global South, New York 2012. See also: Dipesh Chakrabarty, Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference, Princeton 2008; Christopher J. Lee (ed.), Making a World after Empire. The Bandung Moment and its Political Afterlives, Athens OH 2010; Robert A. Mortimer, The Third World Coalition in International Politics, New York 1980; Christy Thornton, Mexican International Economic Order? Tracing the Hidden Roots of the Charter of Economic Rights and Duties of States, in: Humanity: An International Journal of Human Rights, Humanitarianism, and Development 9,3 (2018), pp. 389-421; Robert Vitalis, The Midnight Ride of Kwame Nkrumah and Other Fables of Bandung (Bandoong), in: Humanity: An International Journal of Human Rights, Humanitarianism, and Development 4,2 (2013), pp. 261-288.
 Abou-El-Fadl, Foreign Policy, p. 21.
 The field of the global history of capitalism is vast and growing but some important works are: Vanessa Ogle, State Rights against Private Capital: The “New International Economic Order” and the Struggle over Aid, Trade, and Foreign Investment, 1962-1980, in: Humanity 5,2 (2014), pp. 211-234; Vanessa Ogle, Funk Money: The End of Empires, the Expansion of Tax Havens, and Decolonization as an Economic and Financial Event, in: Past & Present 249,1 (November 2020), pp. 213–249; Patricia Clavin, Securing the World Economy: The Reinvention of the League of Nations, 1920-1946, Oxford 2013; Andrew David Edwards / Peter Hill / Juan Neves-Sarriegui, Capitalism In Global History, in: Past & Present 249,1 (November 2020), pp e1–e32; Leonardo Davoudi / Christopher McKenna / Rowena Olegario, The Historical Role of the Corporation in Society, in: Journal of the British Academy 6,s1 (December 2018), pp. 17-47; Craig E. Carroll / Rowena Olegario (eds), Pathways to Corporate Accountability: Corporate Reputation and its Alternatives, Journal of Business Ethics 163,3 (May 2020).
 Christopher R. W. Dietrich, Oil Revolution: Anticolonial Elites, Sovereign Rights and the Economic Culture of Decolonization, Cambridge 2017.
 Quinn Slobodian, Globalists, The End of Empire and the Birth of Neoliberalism, Cambridge MA 2018.
 Dietrich, Oil Revolution, p. 3.
 Ibid, p. 6.
 Ibid, p. 8.
 Ibid, p. 9-10.
 Slobodian, Globalists, p. 13.
 Ibid, p. 16.
 Ibid, p. 18.
 Or Rosenboim, The Emergence of Globalism. Visions of World Order in Britain and the United States, 1939-1950, Princeton 2017.
 Ibid, p. 2.
 Ibid, p. 3
 For further elaboration on this idea see articles in Philippa Hetherington / Glenda Sluga (eds.), Special Issue, Liberal and Illiberal Internationalisms, Journal of World History 30,1 (2020).
 Stephen J. Macekura / Erez Manela, Introduction, in: Stephen J. Macekura / Erez Manela (eds.), The Development Century. A Global History, Cambridge 2018, pp. 1-18.
 Ibid, p. 3.
 Ibid, p. 4.
 Priya Lal, Decolonization and the Gendered Politics of Developmental Labor in South-eastern Africa, in: Macekura / Manela, The Development Century, pp. 173-194, here p. 173.
 Ibid, p. 179.
 Ibid, p. 173.
 Ibid, p. 177-178.
 Paul Adler, Creating “The NGO International”: The Rise of Advocacy for Alternative Development, 1974-1994, in: Macekura / Erez Manela, The Development Century, pp. 305-325, here p. 307.
 Ibid, p. 312.
 See also Tehila Sasson, Milking the Third World: Humanitarianism, Capitalism, and the Moral Economy of the Nestlé Boycott, in: American Historical Review 121,4 (October 2016), pp. 1196-1224.
 Ibid, p. 317.
 Ibid, p. 322.