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International Organizations in Colonial Africalocked

  • Miguel Bandeira JerónimoMiguel Bandeira JerónimoCentre for Social Studies, University of Coimbra
  •  and José Pedro MonteiroJosé Pedro MonteiroCentre for Social Studies, University of Coimbra


European imperial expansion and consolidation in Africa was, from its inception, a trans-imperial process that was increasingly codified, regulated, and legitimized in an international sphere. Similarly, initiatives that aimed to counter Western dominance and hegemony across the 20th century looked for international institutions as privileged instances for claim-making and enhanced resistance against imperial and colonial projects. All these dynamics included several and diverse actors, networks, and institutions, from distinct geographies and with varied political and social outlooks. They gave origin to the global normative and institutional order of today. From the different but competing “civilizing missions” to the crystallization of self-determination as the global political norm, the history of Africa has been a recurrent feature of the mounting drives for internationalization that marked 20th century, offering several possible avenues of research for a global history of colonialism in the continent.

Framing International Organizations and Africa

In different ways, as a geographical space subject to multiple interventions in the (geo)political, religious, cultural, and economic spheres throughout the years, Africa has been a major topic in the history of international organizations, being frequently connected to modalities of hierarchical and teleological reasoning focused on the progress of respective societies and cultures, within and outside the academia. It has also been a recurrent theme in the historical unfolding of the internationalization dynamics that preceded and eventually influenced those organizations.1 This article addresses some of the most important moments and processes that help us to understand when, why, and how this happened. The history of the entanglements between international intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations—a multifaceted reality consisting of numerous institutional arrangements with their own complex histories, formed in and responding to various contexts and challenges—and the African continent is resistant to overarching descriptions, arguments and synthesis, and linear and unified narratives. The extraordinary heterogeneity of forms of political and social organization, economic dynamism, and social and cultural expression in Africa surely contributes to such fact.2 The diversity (and complexity) of contexts and processes shaping the entanglements between international intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations and the continent is considerable, and hard to systematize in simple ways. For instance, the norms and procedures of internationalization in the late 19th century were substantially different from those that characterized the period of decolonization. The presence (or absence) of substantial settler communities also constrained significantly the international dimensions of decolonization, as in Algeria, Angola, or South Africa. Historicization is mandatory, and extreme caution regarding generalizations is imperative. Moreover, despite the importance of Africa in efforts to understand the histories of many international organizations, how they generally evolved and how they engaged with the continent and its societies and polities across time, the existing historiography on this theme is still in its infancy. However, the last decade has witnessed a substantial increase in the related literature.3

This article comprises three major sections organized chronologically.4 All aim to shed some light on the ways in which Africa has become a subject of interest to international organizations, even before their formal institutionalization in the 20th century. The article also aims to point to ways in which Africa and Africans shaped the history of those organizations. The history of how Africa and, for that matter, the Global South, and its inhabitants contributed to the historical trajectory of international organizations and to the global ordering is a much-needed step in the historiography.5

The “Laboratories of Internationalization” section deals with the long 19th century. It indicates some of the most important events and dynamics that molded the growing internationalization of affairs related to the African continent. This ranges from the debates over its place in the global political and moral economy of the slave trade and slavery at the beginning of the century, namely at the Congress of Vienna (1814–1815) to the two conferences that, at the end of the century, paved the way for the “scramble for Africa,” the Berlin West Africa Conference (1884–1885), and the Brussels Anti-Slavery Conference (1889–1890).6 It ends with the London Pan-African Conference of 1900, organized by the African Association, created by Henry Sylvester Williams in 1897.7 At the core of this section stands the idea that efforts of internationalization of African debates were closely related to the formulation not only of new repertoires of action and legitimation of modern European imperialism, but also of a growing international and transnational activism. This activism, in diverse ways, questioned the imperial and colonial solutions and their actual accomplishments.

The “‘International’ Institutionalized” section focuses essentially on the interwar period and on the causes and effects of the gradual establishment of international modalities of consultation, collaboration, coordination, and regulation, within stable and highly formalized and routinized institutions, under the League of Nations system. This part highlights how Africa, in its diversity of political and socio-economic realities, began to be a more recurrent subject within international organizations. Along the way, Africa and its territories and populations continued to be looked upon through imperial and colonial lenses (including the mandates system). But, gradually, voices of relative dissent and criticism about colonial realities, and also about the modi operandi and effects of colonialism, started to echo increasingly loudly in the capital of internationalism, Geneva. Parallel examples of growing internationalization of the African question, either in favor of or against imperial formations and colonial societies, or pushing for their significant reform, are also addressed in this part.

The “International Decolonization of Africa” section concentrates on the continuities and changes brought about by the post-World War II momentum. The period was characterized by numerous and significant transformations in the global order, from the emergence of novel international and multilateral organizations to the crystallization of a global divergence and competition between two power blocs.8 The ways in which imperial and colonial projects were envisaged in political, economic, and social terms within new, highly fractured ideological and diplomatic frameworks also changed.9 The multifaceted involvement of international organizations with the African continent were shaped accordingly, in a process amply affected by the trajectories and waves of decolonization and independence across the globe, as well as by the rising contestation to a racial and socio-cultural hierarchical global order.10 As this section shows, the modalities of sovereignty assertion in the continent were constantly challenged during these years. Novel instruments of international scrutiny, norm-setting and policy-making emerged as a consequence.

Laboratories of Internationalization: The Long Nineteenth Century

The long 19th century was an important moment in the internationalization of African(-related) affairs.11 Disputes over the place of Africa in global (mostly Western) political and moral economies bourgeoned: in many events, with the participation of multiple actors, from empire-states to non-governmental organizations, and about many topics, entailing various arguments and interests. Two of the most important issues were related to the slave trade and slavery, connected but distinct phenomena.12 Side by side with the gathering of knowledge (of different kinds, origins, and reliability), the production of mythologies and “heroes” (from David Livingstone to Henry Morton Stanley or Hermenegildo Capelo and Roberto Ivens) and the celebration of “discoveries” (and putative “historical” rights of occupation) fostered by exploration, the slave trade and slavery were both pivotal in the international and transnational imagination of Africa. In the eyes of the Europeans, they contributed to the reduction of Africa to a human reservoir and a provider of raw materials, an El Dorado, in many ways. In the same vein, Africans were reduced to “the enslaveable other” and also to “victims” in need of protection and “civilization,” both humanitarian and religious.13

Likewise, both were put forward as reasons to legitimize the pan-European drive for territorial acquisition in the last decades of the 19th century, a process that was accompanied by the formation of international law, which some authors see as a by-product of colonialism (partial or, to some of them, even absolute).14 Subsequently, during the interwar period and the post-1945 global decolonization and developmentalist moments, the colonial condition, its enforcement, and its opposition shaped the historical unfolding of international law in different contexts, ways, and degrees.15 This process no doubt contributed to legitimize, regulate, and modulate diverse imperial ambitions and colonial trajectories, therefore contributing actively to the internationalization of African affairs.16

Although with different timings and distinct motivations, for those in the corridors of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and of the Colonies in Lisbon, Paris, or London, abolitionism gradually turned into a justificatory tool of colonial expansionism and commercialism. The invention of a “European” tradition by the moral declaration in Vienna (1815), which posited the “principles of humanity and universal morality” as a justification for an anti-slavery agenda, prospered thereafter. So did the absence of international legal agreements or mechanisms to sanction, effectively, the continuity of the trade. The “slow,” “incomplete,” and “uneven” demise of slavery was in some ways equivalent to the equally protracted and turbulent demise of the slave trade. The coexistence of two divergent tendencies—one aiming for legal abolition, the other characterized by the expansion of slave trading and slavery, for instance within sub-Saharan Africa—partially helps to explain such similarity.17

Abolitionism and anti-slavery agendas were not the “principal motive” behind the new imperialism associated with the scramble for Africa. They were, however, important aspects in the process, mobilized by many to justify arguments and plans for European territorial colonial expansion.18 Seven decades after the Vienna Congress, at the Berlin West African Conference, “moral exhortation” once again prevailed over concrete political and legal mechanisms that could give substance, and effectiveness, to anti-slavery declarations. Some years later, in 1889–1890, at the anti-slavery conference in Brussels, moral proclamations also abounded. Mechanisms of supervision and penalty were equally meagre, although the final Act was more relevant than the ones agreed upon in Vienna and Berlin. On both occasions, nonetheless, the articulation between abolitionism and political and economic expansionism (and the moral duty to “civilize”) grew stronger.19 After the convoluted suppression of the slave trade, the rise of “legitimate trade” in Africa demanded the relative stability of manpower.

Likewise, it required distinct colonial political and moral economies. These were gradually shaped—even challenged—by international norms and transnational actors.20 The gradual establishment of “minimum standards for what a civilized government should do,” which included the demonstration of a modicum of efforts to end the slave trade, was intimately related to the proclamation of novel modalities of political administration and of economic exploitation.21 At the same time, despite the patent shortcomings of these events, the internationalization of Africa was advanced in both events. In Brussels, the absence of two of the then African states recognized as independent—Ethiopia and Liberia—and of any African representative was telling. However, this fact does not diminish the relevance of the event, at the time and in the years to come. The debates over the slave trade, and liquor and arms trafficking, were connected to the overall motto of “effective occupation,” along with the possibilities and challenges connected to international regulation of political, economic, and social issues in the continent (and elsewhere).22

Abolitionism and anti-slavery were also a way to reinforce motivations related to projects of evangelization, “salvation,” or “civilization,” as Christian missionary revivalism shows, in different ways. The anti-slavery “crusade” of Charles-Martial-Allemand Lavigerie (French cardinal, Archbishop of Carthage and Algiers, and founder of the White Fathers), which partially aimed to offer a Catholic alternative to what was seen by some as the Protestant preeminence in the cause, is a suitable example of how the abolitionist cause served many purposes. It is also a good illustration of the multitude of actors involved in the internationalization of the anti-slavery cause and, at the same time, in the internationalization of African(-related) affairs. To other actors, abolitionism was also an opportunity to call for the moralization of the modi operandi of colonial extractivism and to advocate the need for a more manifest “human” side to it. The international and transnational anti-slavery dynamics entailed more than just the criticism of nefarious human trafficking; they gave voice to more comprehensive criticisms of imperial projects and colonial realities. Some merely aimed at reform, others pondered its justification altogether. Naturally, some individuals combined several of these instrumental and justificatory uses of abolitionism, or emphasized some in specific moments in time, and others in other moments.23

Throughout the century, in distinct ways, the historical intersections between the dynamics of abolitionism (and its diverse trajectories), territorial expansion, geopolitical rearrangements, bilateral and multilateral disputes, consultation and agreements, missionary revivalism (Catholic and Protestant), expansive trade, and scientific exploration were crucial to imagine Africa and think about its relevance, actual and prospective.24 This all led to the continent’s gradual constitution as an important international affair, to become a focus of different voices, arguments and interests, from those claiming for evangelization or “civilization” to those arguing for racial hierarchization or economic exploitation. The Berlin and the Brussels Conferences were, to a certain extent, the endpoint of this phase of internationalization, which was characterized by multilateral conferences focused on political issues and by other forms of organization of international life. “Rudimentary pieces of a system of intergovernmental collaboration,” these were visible in the emergence of public international unions, more concerned with social, economic, and cultural issues resulting from a world connecting, some of them with obvious political resonances. Africa was not a focus of these instances, but the fact that they dealt with topics such as health and agriculture, and in many ways responded to pressing issues regarding administrative jurisdictions—of the state, of administrations, and respective responsibilities—meant that such dynamics were soon transposed to other geographies, with significant differences. As spaces for collecting, sharing, and discussing information about themes that concerned governments, they were also instances that favored a modicum of standard setting and policy coordination between those involved. The potential for agreed regulation and room for arbitration were both present. Collaboration, not reducible to any kind of idealism, emerged as a fruitful possibility, one that enabled “the functional inadequacy of sovereignty” to be overcome.25 Simultaneously, the two meetings in Germany and Belgium paved the way for a further functional integration of Africa in international society in the early 20th century.26

The 19th-century “conference system,” a series of about thirty events of mutual, multilateral consultation about (geo)political issues, did not entail the institutionalization of internationalization, which is the creation of enduring multilateral, international institutions. In the 19th century, they were ad hoc and mostly aimed at the status quo in the concert of European interstate interactions, including in relation to the “competitive game of imperialism.” Nonetheless, they met some of the requirements for the development of an international organization, namely an “awareness of the problems which arise out of their coexistence, and, on this basis, come to recognize the need for creation of institutional devices and systematic methods for regulating their relations with each other.” The “diplomacy by conference” connected to the concert system, as Inis L. Claude termed it, was more shaped by an “awareness of the problems of international collaboration than to their solution, and more to opening up the possibilities of multilateral diplomacy than to realizing them.” It did not generate stable institutions, a “rule of law” or go beyond a rather restricted “great power” nature and composition. It was “an orchestra without a conductor or regular rehearsals,” “the initiation, not the consummation, of a trend toward international control of the subjects with which they were concerned.” But, among other important contributions to the subsequent institutionalization of dynamics of internationalization, it created the “prototype of a major organ of modern international organization—the executive council of the great powers,” as exemplified by the Bureau of the International Telegraphic Union (1868). As another important aspect, these dynamics were also connected to the multiplication of actors and organizations, from humanitarian organizations to variegated interest groups, capable of intervening in affairs and processes traditionally monopolized by statesmen “wearing the mantle of sovereignty.” The diversification of topics, experts and expertise was evident. Moreover, “small” powers gradually gained a more central place at the table, especially after the Hague Peace Conferences of 1899 and 1907.27

During this period, before World War I, some major events not related to multilateral gatherings contributed to the strengthening of the dynamics of internationalization in relation to the African continent. Indeed, cases such as the Boer War, the atrocities of King Leopold’s regime in the Congo, and the “modern slavery” accusations regarding the “slave cocoa ” of São Tomé and Príncipe became internationalized, debated, and amplified across the globe, involving a significant number of individuals and networks, with different motivations and interests, which were not necessarily directly connected with the issues at stake. They entailed more than bilateral diplomatic exchanges, local “scandals,” and metropolitan decisions. News about them was published in newspapers with international circulation; famous writers and publicists addressed them in opinion pieces or in works of fiction; and voices on the ground, including those connected to “travel writings,” reached many constituencies elsewhere, using diverse channels of communication.28 The prevailing conditions of concentration camps, such as the one in Bloemfontein, the evidence provided by Alice Harris’s photographs regarding the violent, punitive behaviors of the Force Publique in the Congo, and the testimonies provided by Henry Nevinson and others regarding the “slave cocoa” in the Portuguese colony became widely known and disputed.29 The “civilized savagery” shaping European colonialism in Africa became a recurrent subject of international interest.30 And this continued in the postwar momentum.

The “International” Institutionalized: The Interwar Period

The end of the first global conflict gave origin to the first moment of established institutionalization of international modalities of consultation, collaboration, and coordination: the formation of the League of Nations and its specialized agencies.31 The debates about the place and role of Africa after World War I were numerous and significant.32 At the League of Nations and some of its specialized agencies and committees, starting with the International Labour Organization (ILO) and ending with the League’s Mandates and Slavery Commissions, these debates were essentially dominated by imperial outlooks and colonial rationales.33 Far from being the beginning of the end of imperial and colonial projects, the interwar period saw their reinforcement. In this process, the mutually supporting intersections between imperialism and internationalism, which also included non-governmental organizations and varied pressure groups, predominated.34

Some of the main topics debated in Geneva had already been touched on at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, and certainly also debated at the Pan-African Congress, which took place in the same year, in the same city. In the first case, questions related to labor, social rights, and welfare were addressed in connection to disputes about the future of colonialism in the continent. Indisputably, the future of the former German colonies and the “morality of reparations” were at the forefront of the discussions, and not the need to radically transform existing forms of colonization, envisaging the redefinition of the continent’s political map. Africa was certainly more or less marginal in the ongoing debates; these were more focused on finding a postwar geopolitical modus vivendi. But, nonetheless, Africa deserved a place in negotiations, which is not reducible to debates over the responsibilities of the mandates’ regime.35 The mandates’ regime entailed significant changes regarding the international politics of colonialism. Despite the fact that the Permanent Mandates Commission allowed administering powers to control petitioning and claim-making from local populations, the knowledge about the realities of mandated territories nonetheless expanded internationally. For the first time, the League codified the idea that the “sacred trust of civilization” was more than a mere internal, sovereign matter. Self-determination was an established goal, although a very distant one in the majority of the mandated territories.36

In the meantime, at the Pan-African Congress, the fifty-seven participants from Africa, the United States of America, and the Caribbean agreed to sponsor a resolution stating that it was crucial to establish an international code for the protection of Africans. Moreover, it stated that compliance with the code should be overseen by an international bureau. After the early endeavors sponsored by the Trinidad-born barrister practicing in London, Henry Sylvester Williams, which had led to a similar previous meeting in London in 1900 in which only four African delegates were present, the internationalization of pan-Africanism gained momentum. As a result of the 1900 meeting, a petition was sent to Queen Victoria, channeled through the British government. It pointed to the (mis)treatment of Africans in Rhodesia and South Africa in relation to labor conditions and political and socio-economic rights. It was soon followed by similar calls for social change. The closing address of the gathering, “To the Nations of the World,” in which W. E. B. Du Bois uttered the famous sentence “the problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color line,” would also echo in the following decades and become increasingly more relevant.37

In 1919, Du Bois was again one of the major actors at the conference. As he recalled later in his The World and Africa (1947), the goal of the meeting, strongly fostered by his own ideas, was to bring Africa “under the guidance of international organization.” On January 19, 1919, the Chicago Tribune considered that his “dream” was “that the Peace Conference could form an internationalized Africa” (including the former German colonies and part of the Portuguese and Belgian ones). In its final resolutions, the Pan-African Congress reinforced these demands, calling for the establishment of a “code of law for the international protection of the natives of Africa, similar to the proposed international code for labor,” ensuring their “political, social, and economic welfare.”38 In the following meetings—1921 (London, Brussels, and Paris), 1923 (London and Lisbon) and 1927 (New York)—, similar issues were tackled and analogous claims were made (at the same time, two pan-Asian meetings occurred in Nagasaki, in 1926, and Shanghai, in 1927, in which congruent thoughts were exchanged).39 They were restated in a more assertive way in 1945, in Manchester, with the presence of leading figures such as George Padmore, Du Bois, Jomo Kenyatta, and Kwame Nkrumah, the latter founding the Pan-African Federation on the eve of the meeting. The end of colonialism was to be a result of international “guidance,” as well.40

At the same time, a different modality of international engagement with colonialism—namely between “the East” and Africa—was emerging as a consequence of the first triumphant socialist revolution, in 1917. The constellation of international and transnational anti-colonial networks was plural, connecting different geographies, and placing diverse traditions and repertoires of protest into dialogue, and competition.41 First at Baku in 1920, the Comintern’s Congress of the Peoples of the East called for a “holy war, above all against British imperialism.”42 Then in Brussels in 1927, the first International Congress against Imperialism and Colonialism led to the official establishment of the League against Imperialism and for National Independence, the colonial question (and particularly the African continent) emerged as a global topic of intervention and strategic dispute.43

From the 1920s onwards, the multifaceted aspects of the welfare of African communities and individuals started to be looked into more systematically, even though this process was clearly shaped by the scarcity and unreliability of information. Moreover, that information, in many ways and with diverse purposes, was filtered by the outlooks and interests of colonial and mandatory powers in Africa. It continued to be shaped by longstanding racialized assumptions and “civilizing doctrines,” which owed more to proclamations than to practices, more to de jure fictions than to de facto realities.44 Yet, despite all shortcomings, the new institutionalized framework at the League of Nations and related organizations offered new possibilities for non-European participation in international debates or, at least, reframed the terms of discussions about Africa, for instance with the creation of the petitioning rights despite its limits.45

At the League of Nations, in the Permanent Mandates Commission, concerns about education, child welfare, nutrition and health (especially tropical diseases) helped to strengthen a connection to Africa and its heterogeneity of societies, economies, and cultures (none African territory was classified as class A mandate).46 Also at the League, in its associated Commission, the problem of slavery continued to condition the international engagement with Africa, from Ethiopia to Angola and Mozambique. The creation of the first international legal instrument to tentatively administer the persisting issue of slavery was a major moment of internationalization of African affairs. At the ILO, the question of forced labor in Africa emerged as a fundamental avenue for the internationalization of the continent and its “problems.” In fact, the associated 1930 Convention (no. 29) marks a similar achievement, despite all flaws and inconsequentialities. It was the first international instrument to regulate modalities of coerced labor analogous to slavery, shaping future debates that emerged from the extension of forced labor practices to the European continent on a substantial scale.47 The constitution of ILO’s Native Labour Experts Committee, which prepared three more conventions during the 1930s (on contracts, penal sanctions, and recruitment for “native” workers), reveals the ways through which social policies in the continent emerged as a fundamental topic of international regulation. This concerned freedom at work, but also shed light on the prevailing prejudices regarding the African worker, their family organization, their productivity and their mobility, among other aspects.48

In all these events and processes, the role played by modalities of imperial internationalism—that is, “discourses and projects promoted by groups and institutions aiming at developing forms of internationalism dealing with imperial and colonial affairs, namely through international organizations,” in Africa and elsewhere—was as decisive as it is understudied. This was especially true regarding forms of religious internationalism, such as those promoted by the International Missionary Council (IMC), created in 1921.49 Among other things, the IMC led one of the first enquiries over the effects of “industrialism” in Africa, touching on issues related to labor conditions or dynamics of migration in the continent.50 The Anti-Slavery and Aborigines Protection Society (ASAPS) was one of the most important organizations that constantly checked the harmony between the precepts of “civilization” and the everyday realities of the colonial enterprises, being another example of the importance of groups and modalities of imperial internationalism. The Geneva-based Bureau International pour la Défense des Indigènes (BIDI), created in 1913 and led by René Claparède, was another important case.51 With different aims, another noteworthy example was the International Colonial Institute (ICI), which looked to move the process of internationalization of African affairs in the direction of European colonial powers and their (geo)political and economic interests since the late nineteenth century, reacting to existing trends of increasing international supervision over the continent.52 Despite the differences between these groups, to which we could add the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom among others, they all reveal the multiplicity of voices and arguments that conditioned the engagement of the League of Nations with the African continent, significantly shaping the historical trajectories of the internationalization of African affairs. Their role was important in the definition of national “native policies.” It was also relevant in the definition of how interwar international organizations dealt with Africa, its resources, and population. This would continue to be true after World War II.53

The International Decolonization of Africa

World War II significantly impacted the ways in which international institutions interacted with the African continent. Its aftermath was marked by major geopolitical transformations, the reconfiguration of patterns and geographies of production, consumption, and trade, and the increasing political and diplomatic challenges to imperialism, colonialism, and racism. This resulted in a global decolonization momentum, in some cases marked by prominent violent conflicts.54 All these aspects greatly influenced the nature and the scope of the multifarious involvement of international organizations with African territories. The new global order organized around the United Nations (UN) system preserved some of the imperial, hierarchical structures and norms that characterized the interwar years, but offered new possibilities for anti-colonial action and dissension.55 And it proved malleable enough to adjust to the evolving historical dynamics that led to widespread trajectories of decolonization.56

The negotiators around the new UN Charter spent considerable time considering the provisions that regulated the devices of international oversight of colonial territories. Initial efforts by the Roosevelt administration aimed at a considerable expansion of the mandates system (renamed “trusteeship territories”) in order to include all “dependent” territories.57 This was met with fierce resistance by colonial powers such as the British and the French, two crucial political and military allies that could not admit that their colonial territories had become the subject of an international mandate. The trusteeship system entailed new forms of accountability and, perhaps more importantly, established self-determination as the expected political outcome.58 In the end, an institutional and political distinction was established between the “trusteeship territories,” under increasing scrutiny, and colonies. Under the trusteeship system, direct petitioning from local populations was allowed. In the case of the remaining colonial worlds, the administering powers were only required to send information about economic, social, and educational progress.

However, major geopolitical and institutional dynamics soon challenged the relatively conservative UN normative framework for “non-self-governing” territories, especially in Africa. The accession to independence by former Asian and Middle Eastern colonies such as India, Pakistan, Syria, and Lebanon, among others, as a result of the seismic impacts of the global conflict, deeply transformed the political and diplomatic dynamics within the UN system.59 As a consequence, those societies that remained under colonial rule came under observation more frequently by the UN structure. This happened in rather different political circumstances: unlike the League of Nations, the UN became a much more favorable arena for legitimate representatives of the Global South to challenge Western hegemony across the globe. Accession to sovereign statehood by former colonies facilitated the inclusion of debates about sensitive topics, especially for the remaining imperial powers (e.g., forced labor or scarcity of health provision), in the UN agenda. The political circumstances in which these occurred changed dramatically.

Within a short period of time, debates on the colonial question changed considerably, and meaningfully. Specific events fostered or enhanced the internationalization of the colonial question, especially those in relation to the African continent. Colonial powers insistently evoked Article 2(7) of the UN Charter in order to argue that debates about African colonies were a domestic matter and, as such, beyond UN scope. Anti-colonial voices, on the contrary, argued that the Charter allowed for discussions on topics related to political self-determination. The mobilization of Article 73, for example, enabled such process. Different political and juridical expedients were mobilized with that in view. For instance, when raising the question of the actual living conditions of subjects of Indian descent in South Africa even before the institution of Apartheid, the delegation of India invoked existing international treaties established during British rule. That was an essentially bilateral dispute and, accordingly, something that the UN had the right, and obligation, to discuss. A few years later, however, when Apartheid was added to the General Assembly agenda, human rights violations and threats to international security were increasingly put forward as main justifications for the UN to intervene in what Pretoria’s government alleged was under strict sovereign prerogatives.60 That was to become a recurrent pattern, especially in the context of the several turbulent episodes of imperial retreat in French North Africa and British East Africa, characterized by frequent resource to extra-judicial measures and punitive violence. Frequent protests and even boycotts by colonial powers did not prevent the growing internationalization of a number of processes related to trajectories of decolonization, for instance allowing for representatives of African anti-colonial movements to be heard as witnesses in various UN bodies. Particularly violent struggles for independence, such as that in Algeria, acquired a prominent role in the regular debates taking place at the UN headquarters and, in turn, were particularly responsive to developments there.61

These trends led to the multiplication of specific bodies dealing with the question of political self-determination, such as the Committee on Information from Non-Self-Governing Territories.62 Coeval developments regarding the consolidation of a human rights regime provided new institutional opportunities to challenge the denial of self-determination to most African territories.63 Additionally, the terms of debate about the colonial situations changed. The interwar argument about “special circumstances,” which considered that colonial societies and populations were not yet prepared for “modern” political and social relations, and, consequently, were in need of a particularistic international legal framework, grew increasingly untenable.64 Access to education, political enfranchisement, health services and facilities, and social benefits, among other relevant topics, were mobilized by anti-colonial critics as evidence of the essentially discriminatory nature of colonialism. The same topics could also be invoked by imperial advocates, as evidence of material and social progress within a colonial polity. The endorsement of particular colonial policies and programs by specialized agencies, such as the ILO or the World Health Organization (WHO), could strengthen the colonial powers’ argument that the welfare of “native” populations was not dependent on the juridical–constitutional status of the respective territories. Although a refusal to participate in particular debates regarding African colonies did occur, most governments of empire-states engaged with discussions within international institutions on topics such as education, medical services, or labor, providing statistical and technical information, and getting involved in inter-territorial or international schemes of cooperation or training.65 In the meantime, these organizations also adapted to the new political circumstances. In the late 1940s, the ILO’s interwar “native labor code,” for instance, was complemented by a set of conventions and programs that aimed to transfer “Western” institutions and devices of social policy and welfare to African territories in line with intensifying demands around non-discrimination.66

Increasingly, at least in theory, the policies and the norms of specialized agencies related to diverse topics acquired a universalizing ethos that aimed to overcome the persisting colonial and particularistic approaches to “non-metropolitan territories.” Explicit racist formulations, connected to biological or socio-cultural rationales and expressions, became less salient in the discourses and norms of international institutions. These new tendencies and related languages could, and were, used by those who wanted to put an end to European colonialism. New geopolitical and institutional contexts concurred to this outcome. Cold War dynamics and, particularly, the commitment of the socialist world to the anti-colonial cause substantially shaped late colonialism and decolonization, including in their international dimensions. Often voting with the newly independent states, socialist states contributed to the increase of international scrutiny of European colonial powers. By supporting several anti-colonial movements, it further internationalized their arguments and purposes.67 The gradual political and diplomatic reorientation of some Western Hemisphere states towards a symbolic identification with the Third World, on one hand, and the global economic competition over African resources, on the other, also contributed to a further internationalization of the African colonial question (although in unequal and nonlinear ways).68

They also provided new tools and repertoires to colonial powers that could be used to legitimize colonial rule under novel, supposedly non-discriminatory and equalitarian guises.69 Along the way, diverse colonial societies in Africa were subject to an unprecedented degree of internationalization, despite notable exceptions. The limits of the possibilities for local, African actors to gain access to these international fora were significant. The same happened to the ways in which they were able to participate in this expansion of external interference. But the salience of the colonial question in international institutions was undeniable, and they were actors, not passive agents. They interacted with, opposed, subverted, and gave instrumental use to the multiple ways in which international and transnational organizations tried to intervene, in Geneva or New York, and locally, across Africa.70

The approaches to African colonial territories by international institutions comprised new economic dynamics, made up of constraints but also opportunities. This process was marked by the establishment and institutionalization of international development, technical assistance, aid, and economic cooperation and by the strengthening of colonial development, both with clear historical antecedents.71 Among others, these were interconnected processes that did in fact transform the ways in which international institutions gathered technical, statistical, or political information about African societies. These institutions also debated about how to deal with their problems and challenges frequently, sometimes in a contentious way. Equally, those interconnected processes shaped how international institutions actually interfered in African territories. Formerly a traditional reserve of imperial and colonial sovereignties, many times preserved by the use and abuse of colonial clauses, including those guaranteed by international agreements in international forums, Africa was now more exposed to modalities of political, technoscientific, and economic interference by international agencies, including of an inter-imperial nature.72 Institutions such as the International Institute of Differing Civilizations (INCIDI, 1948) and the Commission for Technical Cooperation in Africa South of the Sahara (CCTA, 1950) were crucial in this respect, offering alternatives to international approaches to development, aid, or technical assistance.73

This was not an abrupt and straightforward process, however. As pressures for decolonization mounted, imperial powers reinvigorated their political and economic developmental plans for Africa. This was partially in connection to efforts to rejuvenate European societies and economies, some of them connected to US financial and technical assistance, through Point IV of the Marshall Plan, and with Cold War dynamics more broadly.74 As a consequence, the approaches by international institutions to Africa were cautious, ambivalent and gradualist, necessarily constrained by persisting imperial outlooks, opposing colonial polities and, also, scarce resources, although the UN had more operative conditions than the League of Nations.75 Heterogeneous and dynamic, especially in a context shaped by momentous social change throughout the globe, international institutions were spaces of dispute between pro-imperial, reformist, or anti-colonial forces, along with actors with their own interests in expanding the scope and degree of their activities.76 These were truly “force fields” attracting numerous voices, arguments, and interests.

Even before decolonization spread to Africa, leading to the abrupt increase of membership in international institutions, the consequences of these dynamics were felt in the internal organization and in the procedures of several of these bodies. Intentions of technical cooperation across regional lines, which shared similar features, could be better achieved through regionalization, and colonial powers were aware of that. Yet the extension of regionalization of international institutions across the continent (i.e., the creation of regional branches) was always a contested problem, with clear political and diplomatic overtones dependent on specific historical circumstances. Besides colonial powers’ unwillingness to accept the inclusion of African independent states, such as Liberia and, later on, Morocco or Egypt, there was an evident fear that the institutional autonomization of the African continent within international institutions would mean a geopolitical autonomization from Europe. That had palpable consequences: for instance, the end of the ILO Committee of Experts on Social Policy in Non-Metropolitan Territories and the associated creation of ILO’s African regional branch resulted in the extension of tripartite procedures for all African territories. These processes of regionalization had different timings: at the WHO, it took place in the early 1950s, with the creation of AFRO, whose headquarters were in Brazzaville, while at the ILO, the first African Regional Conference only occurred in 1960, in Lagos. The UN Economic Commission for Africa, in turn, held its first meeting in 1958.77

Plans for intervention through “vocational training” for labor, eradication programs on “tropical diseases,” and education campaigns in Africa multiplied, with different degrees of scope and (in)success. The result was not only a higher level of intervention by international institutions in local policy-making and policy assessment, but also a growing circulation of international officials, experts and technicians, and an increasing transfer of knowledge, models, and plans. However, imperial powers themselves devised their own technical “specialized” agencies, in order to foster cooperation on a number of issues such as African “productivity,” “rural welfare,” or “trypanosomiases.” They also served to counter international meddling by the new post-colonial states and international institutions. Two models of inter-African cooperation were, in fact, competing during the late 1940s and 1950s. One was sponsored by inter-imperial institutions such as the CCTA and INCIDI, the other by the UN’s system and related specialized agencies. No doubt internally heterogeneous in relation to national agendas, political, or economic expectations, scientific traditions or technical capacities, both sides aimed to redefine the ways in which African societies, economies, and cultures could be integrated into renewed international, regional, imperial, or colonial frameworks. This competition, which included some instances of collaboration, for instance, regarding sanitary cooperation programs, also had a visible impact on the ways in which regionalization within specialized agencies evolved, as colonial powers often argued that there was an unnecessary functional overlapping.

In the meantime, Eurafrican projects and fantasies were born out of these drives, shaping the relationship between the European integration project and a growingly independent Africa, as well. Indeed, at the time of its creation, the new European Economic Community (EEC) was not a mere international institution. It was inter-continental, including Algeria and a substantial number of associated territories in the African continent. Therefore, the relevant intersections between the process of European integration and Africa predated the Yaoundé convention of 1963, between independent African states and the EEC.78

In all these dynamics, the role played by non-governmental institutions was pivotal, albeit in varying degrees. Humanitarian and philanthropic organizations, such as the International League for Human Rights, the resilient Anti-Slavery Society, the World Council of Churches, the World Federation of Trade Unions, and the American Federation of Labor were important in different ways, sometimes sharing information, networks and agendas.79 So were the increasingly active, and effective, networks and organizations of black internationalism that comprised activists, unions, nationalist movements, and even those organizations that aimed to bridge the connections between different African-origin diasporas, including the crucial transatlantic connections. Taken individually and combined, these transnational connections, some more stable and effective than others, spread arguments and repertoires of action for (frequently radical) change in African societies (and elsewhere), articulating human and material resources across time and space.80 For instance, Anti-Slavery Society played a pivotal role in denouncing Portuguese practices of “forced labor” during late colonialism at the UN and the ILO. Relying on their own informants, the Society also engaged systematically with the emerging anti-colonial movements from Portuguese colonies.81

In different degrees, many of these actors understood that the international organizations could play a fruitful role in their quest, to their own advantage. Despite the caution, ambivalence and gradualism that characterized many of such organizations and related specialized agencies, they could nonetheless be of use, amplifying anti-colonial idioms and setting anti-colonial and anti-racism norms.82 Producing, collecting, and disseminating critical information about many aspects of Africa societies and economies was critical to demonstrate the detrimental effects of colonialism or, later, dependency, thus globalizing anti-colonialism. The abuse of human rights, violent population control, forms of “repressive developmentalism,” economic inequality, fiscal and labor exaction, lack of educational provisions or political and social exclusion, including the problem of refugees, became recurrently the object of petitions, formal enquiries and declarations, public denunciations and, later on, threats of expulsion.83 Colonialism, progress, the “civilizing mission,” and even promises of political and socio-economic development were on trial.84

International Institutions, Late Decolonizers and Post-colonial Africa

As decolonization spread across the African continent, international institutions had to adapt to the related inclusion of new member states in a number of ways. It was not only the voting dynamics that changed; the contents and mechanisms of intervention were also substantially transformed. Indeed, periodization is always risky. The Year of Africa, in 1960, when several French and British colonies achieved independence and entered the UN system (and most of those remaining were afforded a timetable for the transfer of power), it was also a period when the enduring white powers in Africa displayed their commitment to oppose significant political change, by the extensive and deadly use of force, if necessary. In the same year, the Sharpeville massacre in South Africa generated an international uproar that led to the country’s inclusion on the UN Security Council’s agenda.85 The following year, the cycle of violence in the Portuguese colony of Angola led to a similar process. Liberia’s government delegation argued that Portuguese repressive actions violated the principles of the UN Charter and of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. A sub-committee responsible for dealing with the Angolan situation was therefore created.86 The UN had already produced a document that condemned the remnants of colonialism, the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, on December 14, 1960. An outcome of a diplomatic move by the Soviet Union, the process was embraced by African and Asian delegates at the UN, exemplifying the ways in which former colonial territories asserted their newly acquired right of self-determination within international institutions, with diverse purposes in view.87 A new committee focused on the implementation of the declaration was formed. The evolution of international norms, instruments, and procedures facilitated the ultimate delegitimization of colonialism as an acceptable modality of statehood. In 1965, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination generated new instances of international scrutiny of the resisting “white” regimes in Africa. Finally, in 1966, after almost twenty years of fierce debate, two international covenants on human rights—split between civil and political, and economic, social, and cultural rights—turned self-determination into a key basic right. The rhetorical and diplomatic association of white rule with violations of fundamental human rights and threats to international peace and security became more effective in the new circumstances.88 That same year, a resolution of the UN Security Council imposed sanctions against Rhodesia. It was just one example of this convoluted, but cumulative, and consequential process.89

The increasing hostility displayed against white minority rule at the UN had broader consequences in many ways. For instance, the UN’s specialized agencies were directly intimated to abide by the terms of the several declarations and resolutions approved by the UN General Assembly and Security Council regarding decolonization and racial discrimination. In this respect and others, however, more studies are needed, based on multiple archives and actors. For example, while the South African government showed a defiant attitude regarding tendencies of international scrutiny or intervention, leading to the abandoning of the ILO when confronted by post-colonial governments aiming to expel the country from the organization, the Portuguese government strove to keep its membership in different international institutions. Despite these efforts, the Portuguese were expelled from the African Regional Branch of the WHO in 1966 (but succeeded in remaining in the ILO). As a consequence, all the relevant cooperation programs with the WHO in Africa were cancelled.90 At the same moment in time, white powers envisaged new forms of international cooperation in order to resist decolonization. That was the case of the secret military agreement named ALCORA, which involved Portugal, South Africa, and Rhodesia. It was also the case of programs such as the one created in the 1960s to combat the expansion of the vectors of trypanosomiases.91 The diversity of engagements of colonial powers in Africa with international organizations needs to be acknowledged, and studied, in a more detailed manner.

Undoubtedly, decolonization entailed a substantial reconfiguration of the cartography of the presence of international institutions in Africa.92 Pan-African projects moved forward, such as in the All-African People’s Conference and in the Conference of Independent African States. Both organized in Accra and sponsored by Ghanaian Prime Minister (then President) Kwame Nkrumah, they represented initial efforts for the political unity of the continent.93 Yet the creation of the Organization of African Unity in Addis Ababa in 1963 was an obstacle to the formation of a continental polity, while it absorbed former late colonial endeavors such as the CCTA. International rivalries, some of them with clear Cold War connections, gave origin to a regional organization that established territorial integrity as an unquestionable cornerstone. They also caused an intensification of the struggle against the remaining colonial powers or white minority regimes.94 The “federal moment” proved to be short-lived. Instead, several sub-regional organizations, such as the Economic Community of West African States and the Southern Africa Development Coordination Conference (which became the Southern African Development Community in 1992), became important instruments for international cooperation and integration later on.95 At the same time, several African governments sought for diverse forms of international and transnational exchanges, with a view to transform structural socio-economic inequalities on a global scale. In this respect, projects of a united and redefined “Third World” agenda and of a New International Economic Order were revealing (and vital) examples of attempts to establish new forms of engagement with international dynamics.96

Furthermore, post-colonial nation-building was connected with the expansion of instances of intervention in the continent by “universal” international organizations.97 The “Congo crisis,” instigated in a crude way by the “imperialism of decolonization,” became noticeably internationalized, allowing for a direct military intervention by the UN (on the request of the Congolese government). The conflict turned into a Cold War “hotspot,” also involving post-colonial states such as Ghana and India.98 In 1967, the secession of Biafra witnessed a different kind of internationalization (triggering the formation of new non-governmental organizations such as Médecins Sans Frontières and allowing for the intervention of colonial powers such as Portugal and several religious organizations and networks). The consequences proved to be particularly resilient in Western imaginaries about Africa.99 Even in less violent contexts, a developmentalist ethos, clearly shaped by international organizations and their (in)balances of power, survived decolonization virtually everywhere in the continent. That fact opened up new possibilities for international organizations (including the evolving EEC) and its experts (several of them former colonial officials) to interfere in African societies, in the everyday life of its diverse population.100 Several of these processes still resonate in the early 21st century.

The history of international organizations in colonial Africa, including the history of instances and dynamics of internationalization that were not clearly institutionalized, is a rich and variegated one. It cannot be detached from the long history of European colonialism in the continent, from its inception until its formal demise. This article aimed to offer a plausible and documented narrative about the ways in which international and transnational institutions, networks, experts, and other actors shaped the history of the continent, and also about how African actors influenced the ways in which international institutions addressed and acted upon the continent, its polities, populations, and resources. Given the considerable complexity of both aspects in history, other narratives, based on other examples and illustrations, are possible.

The historical intersections between the dynamics of internationalization, international organizations and colonial Africa were not a rectilinear process. Efforts of imperial consolidation through international organizations produced unintended consequences. Normative and institutional structures that aimed to preserve and strengthen colonialism, constraining the impulses of emancipation or the renegotiation of power relations, nonetheless opened new possibilities for African participation in multiple debates and decision-making processes, even in circumstances characterized by unequal material and symbolic resources. Likewise, the formal decolonization of states and international organizations (and their norms and standards) often coexisted with the resilience of hierarchical and civilizational mindsets. This was noticeable, for instance, within the agendas and programs of “international development,” “economic growth,” educational uplifting, aid or technical assistance, all prolonging dynamics of technical internationalism.101

In the three last decades, international historiography has tackled some of these issues. It offers numerous, and mostly increasingly fruitful, contributions to understand how the African continent, in its rich diversity, became a subject and an actor on the global arena, in constant interaction with other geographies and actors, in an empirical and analytically sound manner. Notwithstanding this fact, much research is still to be done about the “colonial moment,” but also about the post-colonial one (with its varying chronologies and implications).102 For example, more research is needed on the myriad South–South relations and between the “Third” and “Second” Worlds in the colonial and post-colonial periods, how they shaped the ways Western and Eastern societies looked upon themselves or reconsidered their geopolitical or geo-economic interests.103 More research is also needed on diverse African actors, individuals and institutions, focusing on their engagement with the constraints posed and possibilities offered by multiple international organizations and respective bodies.104


This article offers a synthesis of some of the most important existing research on these issues, while also pointing to future investigations. It first addressed the dynamics of internationalization of African affairs in the long 19th century. Instances of multilateral exchange and regulation were established, even if in a rather ad hoc manner, enabling important exercises of imperial comparison and competition, and establishing markers that could be mobilized to distinguish modalities of colonial rule, at colonial, national, and international levels. The article then focused on the institutionalization of several instances of internationalization, related to many actors, motivations, and topics, and with distinct scope and consequence. Scrutiny of African colonial realities increased, new forms of knowledge gathering and inspection emerged and, undoubtedly with restrictions, new possibilities for African participation appeared. These opportunities expanded after 1945, despite the resistance from the remaining colonial powers. The new UN system, thought to be a device for imperial preservation, became a space that allowed for diverse initiatives by those who opposed colonial rule and, more broadly, combated European and Western domination. In the 1950s and 1960s, debates on the legitimacy of colonialism in Africa became increasingly internationalized, accompanied by countering dynamics of international and inter-imperial cooperation that aimed to resist decolonization, or administer its course and results. The dynamics of internationalization interacted with trajectories of imperial preservation, of imperial reform, and of imperial demise. Although political and diplomatic concerns often constrained the modalities of international interaction and cooperation, the historical dynamics of internationalization impacted on African realities. They also shaped the ways in which the continent was defined as a topic of global debate or was imagined as a space of (military, economic, and humanitarian) intervention. In the meantime, international institutions were forced to adapt to the historical political and socio-economic trajectories of colonialism and decolonization in Africa. Their history is significantly influenced by these two phenomena and by the plethora of actors involved in them. In relation to all these aspects, there is a lot to be properly understood and assessed, and more studies are welcomed.

Discussion of the Literature

The study, empirically grounded and based on multidimensional and comparative approaches, of the dynamics of internationalization of African affairs in the long 19th century is still to be done. There are plenty of national histories about the political, economic, or religious or missionary expansionism towards Africa, dealing with the diverse historical trajectories that characterized the motivations possessed, and the options made, by the British, the French, the Portuguese, the Germans, and the Italian authorities, or by King Leopold II, of Belgium, who managed to create a political entity out of a commercial project with additional scientific and humanitarian justifications. There are also considerable volumes dealing with the ways in which specific (existing or aspiring) colonial powers negotiated a balance between ambitions, constraints, and possibilities, competing but also collaborating in the scramble for Africa. The well-known books by Thomas Pakenham, Scramble for Africa (1991), and Henri Wesseling, Le partage de l’Afrique (1880-1914) (2003), are two examples. Finally, there are some important works that deal with key elements of the historical dynamics of internationalization or the mechanics of internationalism, for instance focusing on important international gatherings that dealt with African affairs or dealing with specific topics from international, transnational, or global perspectives, not merely national. In the first case, the collective work edited by Stig Forster, Wolfgang J. Mommsen, and Ronald Robinson, Bismarck, Europe, and Africa: The Berlin Africa Conference, 1884–1885 and the Onset of Partition (1988), stands out. In the second case, related to the study of the internationalization of specific issues, which included Africa and its colonial territories, the works by Suzanne Miers, namely Britain and the Ending of the Slave Trade (1975), Antony Anghie’s Imperialism, Sovereignty and the Making of International Law (2007), the collective work edited by William Mulligan and Maurice Bric, A Global History of Anti-slavery Politics in the Nineteenth Century (2013), and the books by Amalia Ribi Forclaz, Humanitarian Imperialism: The Politics of Anti-Slavery Activism, 1880–1940 (2015) and Miguel Bandeira Jerónimo, The “Civilizing Mission” of Portuguese Colonialism, 1870–1930 (2015) are some informative examples. However, there is no monograph focused on a systematic historical understanding of the variegated ways in which Africa became a subject of international concern throughout the long 19th century, incorporating but going beyond histories focused on national or institutional cases and trajectories or on diplomatic bilateralism, dealing with diverse topics, articulating political, economic and sociocultural dynamics. Additionally, trying to bring more African voices and perspectives to the table should be an aim, too. Works that offer an international, transnational, and global history of the 19th century, such as Jurgen Osterhammel’s The Transformation of the World. A Global History of the Nineteenth Century (2014) or Pierre Singaravélou and Sylvain Venayre’s edited volume Histoire du monde au XIXe siècle (2017), or that explore the relevance of the mechanics of internationalism in the century, such as Martin H. Geyer and Johannes Paulmann’s edited volume The Mechanics of Internationalism: Culture, Society, and Politics from the 1840s to the First World War (2001), including in its interaction with a particular society, as Daniel Laqua does in his The Age of Internationalism and Belgium, 1880–1930: Peace, Progress and Prestige (2013), are excellent examples of how fruitful those analytical options may be in the study of the internationalization (and transnationalization) of African affairs. Paul Gordon Lauren’s Power and Prejudice: The politics and diplomacy of racial discrimination (1988) and Marylin Lake and Henry Reynolds’ Drawing the Global Colour Line: white men’s countries and the question of racial equality (2008) are key to understand the global dynamics of racism and anti-racism, including their internationalization. More needs to be done to recover its historical manifestations.

The study of the intersections between dynamics of internationalization, visions, and repertoires of internationalism and the history of the African continent, mainly in what relates to colonial Africa (the main focus of this article), has gained momentum regarding the interwar period and, even more, the post-World War II moment. The renewed interest on the history of internationalism—represented for instance by the edited volumes by Daniel Laqua, Internationalism Reconfigured (2011); Daniel Gorman, The Emergence of International Society in the 1920s (2012); Glenda Sluga and Patricia Clavin, Internationalisms: A Twentieth-Century History (2017); Miguel Bandeira Jerónimo and José Pedro Monteiro, Internationalism, Imperialism and the Formation of the Contemporary World (2018); and Alanna O’Malley and Simon Jackson, The Institution of International Order: From the League of Nations to the United Nations (2018)—and the critical and compelling historiographical revisions of the historical role played by the League of Nations—visible for instance in Michael Callahan’s A Sacred Trust: The League of Nations and Africa, 1929–1946 (2004); Iris Borowy’s Coming to Terms with World Health: The League of Nations Health Organisation, 1921–1946 (2009); Yann Decorzant’s La Société des Nations et la naissance d’une conception de la régulation économique internationale (2011); Patricia Clavin’s Securing the World Economy: The Reinvention of the League of Nations, 1920–1946 (2013); Susan Pedersen’s The Guardians: The League of Nations and the Crisis of Empire (2015)—contributed greatly, and frequently innovatively, to a new impetus on the investigation of the historical forms of engagement between international organizations (and specialized agencies) and several areas of the world, including Africa and its territories and populations, especially those under colonial or mandated powers.

This has been even more noticeable in the literature focused on the aftermath of World War II. Older, but still valuable, works from authors such as Yassin El-Ayouty, The United Nations and Decolonization: The role of Afro-Asia (1971), the book edited by Yassin El-Ayouty and Hugh C. Brooks, Africa and International Organization (1974); and Evan Luard, A History of the United Nations, Volume 2: The age of decolonization, 1955–1965 (1989), already valued the role played by international institutions in late colonialism and decolonization, and vice-versa. In many ways, they paved the way for future research. However, since the early 21st century, the historiographies of late colonialism and decolonization, and internationalism increasingly engaged on a fructuous debate: Neta Crawford’s Argument and Change in World Politics: Ethics, Decolonization and Humanitarian Intervention (2002), for instance, offers a history of the ways in which international institutions and an evolving “ethical argument” made decolonization politically untenable; and Matthew Connelly’s A Diplomatic Revolution: Algeria’s Fight for Independence and the Origins of the Post-Cold War Era (2003) shows how the UN system played a pivotal role in the protracted Algerian struggle for independence, which cannot be understood merely in a metropole–colony framework, are just two important examples. Vijay Prashad’s The Darker Nations: a people’s history of the Third World also called into attention the historical significance of a global construction of the ‘Third World’, a concept which history merited renewed attention in the last few years.

Partially in result of the contributions by transnational history, by a renewed international history and by global history, the study of the historical intersections between international and transnational organizations and late colonialism and decolonization has expanded. For instance, Bonny Ibhawoh’s Imperialism and Human Rights: Colonial discourses of rights and liberties in African history (2007), Roland Burke’s Decolonization and the Evolution of International Human Rights (2010) and Steven Jensen’s The Making of International Human Rights: The 1960s, Decolonization and the Reconstruction of Global Values (2016) convincingly argued that human rights, its associated discourses, norms, and mechanisms, were intrinsically connected to the historical trajectories of colonialism and decolonization. The often violent nature of this historical intersection was aptly traced by works such as Fabian Klose’s Human Rights in the Shadow of Colonial Violence: The Wars of Independence in Kenya and Algeria (2013). On different level, works such as Daniel Maul’s Human Rights, Development and Human Rights: The International Labour Organization, 1940–1970 (2012) and Jessica Pearson’s The Colonial Politics of Global Health: France and the United Nations in Postwar Africa (2018) showed how the historical evolution of several specialized agencies after 1945 was inseparable from the demise of European colonial empires and vice-versa. Equally revealing, and important, is the literature focusing on the impact of international development in Africa, both colonial and post-colonial contexts. Joseph Hodge’s Triumph of the Expert: Agrarian Doctrines of Development and the Legacies of British Colonialism (2007), the volume edited by Joseph M. Hodge, Gerald Hodl and Martina Kopf, Developing Africa. Concepts and practices in twentieth-century colonialism (2014) or Corinna Unger’s International Development: A Postwar History (2018) are just three examples that offer plenty instances of intersection between international and colonial arguments and repertoires of developmentalism, including in Africa.

The impact of decolonization and of the Third World in the history of international organizations has also been subject to increasing historical inquiry. Jeffrey James Byrne’s Mecca of Revolution: Algeria, Decolonization and the Third World Order (2016) or Alanna O’Malley’s The Diplomacy of Decolonisation: America, Britain and the United Nations during the Congo Crisis, 1960–1964 (2018), for instance, show how increasing South–South connections shaped the global order from the 1960s onwards, among other important aspects these works deal with. The analysis of the efforts by Global South actors to reshape the world order after decolonization is also meriting some important work: the special issue “Toward a History of the New International Economic Order” (2015), published in Humanity and Adom Getachew’s Worldmaking After Empire: the rise and fall of self-determination (2019), are two revealing examples.

As a consequence, the historical intersections between distinct manifestations of internationalism and the colonial and post-colonial dynamics after 1945 is a vibrant and expanding field of historical research. However, there are still several areas of research that need more investigation. For instance, more work is needed to assess how distinct colonial governments and imperial administrations used international institutions as instruments to reinvent their capacity to resist decolonization, or shape its aftermath. A social history of the establishment of diverse networks of anti-colonial activism is another area that could be developed, bringing the “colonial” and the “international” levels of analysis closer. The role played by these networks in the shaping and reshaping of international organizations, on many issues and in relation to many topics, is another field that needs to be improved, although good signs are emerging, and more are coming.

As the transfer of political power became a reality, the historical interactions between Africa and international institutions nonetheless persisted. The number of works dealing with the international dimensions of the African continent is vast. But we should mention a few examples that allow for a better understanding of post-colonial Africa in this respect. Ali Mazrui’s Africa’s International Relations: The diplomacy of dependency and change (1977) provides critical insights on the topic. The Historical Dictionary of International Organization in sub-Saharan Africa (1994) by Terry M. Mays and Mark. W. DeLancey also gathers important information for the post-colonial era. More recent books have also reflected upon contemporary dimensions of Africa’s international relations. Here are three examples: Sola Akinrinade and Amadu Sesay (eds.), Africa in the Post-Cold War International System (1998); Elizabeth Schmidt, Foreign Intervention in Africa: From the Cold War to the War on Terror (2013); and the volume edited by Marta Iñiguez de Heredia and Zubairu Wai, Recentering Africa in International Relations: Beyond lack, peripherality and failure (2018).


This research was co-financed by Programa Operacional Competitividade e Internacionalização (POCI) —Fundo Europeu de Desenvolvimento Regional (FEDER) through COMPETE 2020—and by national funds through the Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT), in association with the research projects “The Worlds of (Under)Development: Processes and Legacies of the Portuguese Colonial Empire in a Comparative Perspective (1945–1975)” (PTDC/HAR-HIS/31906/2017 | POCI-01–0145-FEDER-031906), and “Rights of Belonging, Rules of Exclusion: The Politics and Policies of Citizenship in Portuguese Late Colonialism (1945–1975)” (CEECIND/01714/2017/CP1402/CT0004).

Primary Sources

To study the dynamics of internationalization of African affairs the long 19th century, the best archival sources are those related to national archives, especially those of “old” (Great-Britain, France, Portugal) and “new” colonial powers (King Leopold II’s Congo Free State, Italy, and Germany). In each case, from Lisbon to Brussels and Berlin, from Kew (London) to Paris and Aix-en-Provence, it is important to mine the collections of the archives related to foreign affairs and to the colonies. The archives of the Anti-Slavery Society, in Oxford, those at the Vatican (e.g., the Archivio Segreto and the Propaganda Fide archives), and those of several missionary bodies involved in the missionary expansion in Africa (e.g., the Baptist Missionary Society, in Oxford, United Kingdom, or the Congregation of the Holy Spirit, in Paris, France) are also of special relevance. They all collaborated in the gathering and dissemination of relevant information about the continent, its resources and populations, and acted as active actors in the shaping of early forms of international scrutiny and cooperation focused on them. In this respect, there is a lot to be done relating to other actors, namely those numerous organizations that fed the mechanics of internationalism, from Chambers of Commerce to Geographical Societies. Many newspapers, national but with growing international circulation, are also important sources of information.

The emergence of the League of Nations and related specialized agencies brought about the appearance of other important loci of information that is crucial to any attempt of understanding the historical transformations in the dynamics of internationalization of African colonial affairs. Evidently, they are also crucial to investigate the historical engagements between international organizations and the continent. The archives in Geneva—of the League of Nations, of the International Labour Organization, or the World Health Organization, for instance—are of paramount importance to any such quest. Also in Geneva, the archives of the World Council of Churches, which shares important collections with the archives of the International Missionary Council (IMC) in London (at the School of African and Oriental Studies, SOAS) and New Haven, CT (Yale University), is also relevant. A nebula of transnational organizations that advanced distinct modalities of imperial internationalism are also of special importance. The Anti-Slavery Society and the IMC, or the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (with archives at the Swarthmore College, Pennsylvania, United States) and the International African Institute (with archives at the London School of Economics, London), are just four examples of organizations that were pivotal in the interwar engagement of international organizations with colonial Africa. The expansion of information about Africa, its populations, and resources in the interwar period was immense, resulting from the new informational economy that the international organizations and the empire-states promoted, but also from a multiplication of publications about them. The establishment of the variegated expert on Africa, publishing about its social and natural realities, and the increase of institutions devoting themselves to the continent’s developments also contributed to this fact. The publications of the International Colonial Institute or of the International African Institute are just two examples.

Similarly, the study of the interactions between intergovernmental and non-governmental institutions after 1945 and, especially, during the global decolonization process can benefit immensely from research carried out in several national archives of former imperial metropoles. In fact, as the dynamics of internationalization grew stronger after 1945, several domains of colonial societies—from labor to education, agriculture, or sanitary and medical facilities and programs—became increasingly and intimately connected with the production and circulation of specific norms, reports, programs formulated and enacted by international institutions, which then expanded in number and scope. Denunciations by non-governmental institutions became also more frequent and visible. These dynamics are clearly discernible in the national archives of the former colonial powers. But they can be also traced in the archives of a number of post-colonial states in Africa, which are crucial to these studies, providing insightful information about the entanglements between the “international” and the “local” and, therefore, contributing to the formulation of new research questions. The archives of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), located in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), can also be useful.

The expansion of the number of international institutions and the widening of the scope of their intervention on the ground means that their archives are pivotal to new research. For instance, at the United Nations Archives (split between New York and Geneva) official information and exchanges between the organization’s staff and several individuals, groups, and institutions are abundant, and decisive to any grounded investigation. The same can be said of several transnational institutions born after 1945, such as the Amnesty International, which archives are located at Warwick University, United Kingdom, or several socialist- or labor-related organizations whose trail can be found in the International Institute of Social History archives, in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Finally, some of these archives benefited from efforts of substantial digitization in the last few years. That is the case of the United Nations archives website, which now provides a considerable amount of digitized official and non-official documents. Specialized agencies undertook similar efforts. The ILO project LABORDOC, which allows for the consultation of conventions and recommendations, records of proceedings of conferences and committees, and also of varied reports is one important tool. UNESCO also created UNESDOC and WHO the website IRIS. These are extremely useful tools, but they still cover a limited amount of sources if compared to those available in physical archives. The ALUKA project can also be of help to provide substantial information on the international dynamics of decolonization (unfortunately, most scholars and students across the world cannot have access to this repository).

Links to Digital Materials

Further Reading

  • Anghie, Antony. Imperialism, Sovereignty and the Making of International Law. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007.
  • Burke, Roland. Decolonization and the Evolution of International Human Rights. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010.
  • Byrne, Jeffrey James. Mecca of Revolution: Algeria, Decolonization, and the Third World Order. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016.
  • Callahan, Michael. A Sacred Trust: The League of Nations and Africa, 1929–1946. Brighton, UK: Sussex Academic Press, 2004.
  • Cooper, Frederick. Decolonization and African Society: The Labor Question in French and British Africa. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1996.
  • Connelly, Matthew. A Diplomatic Revolution: Algeria’s Fight for Independence and the Origins of the Post-Cold War Era. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.
  • El-Ayouty, Yassin. The United Nations and Decolonization: The role of Afro-Asia. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1971.
  • Forster, Stig, Wolfgang J. Mommsen, and Ronald Robinson, eds. Bismarck, Europe, and Africa: The Berlin Africa Conference 1884–1885 and the Onset of Partition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988.
  • Garavini, Giuliano. After Empires: European Integration, Decolonization, and the Challenge from the Global South, 1957–1968. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.
  • Getachew, Adom, Worldmaking after empire: The rise and fall of self-determination. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2019.
  • Ibhawoh, Bonny, Imperialism and Human Rights: colonial discourses of rights and liberties in African History. New York: State University of New York Press, 2007.
  • Jensen, Steven. The Making of International Human Rights: The 1960s, Decolonization and the Reconstruction of Global Values. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2016.
  • Jerónimo, Miguel Bandeira, and José Pedro Monteiro, eds. Internationalism, Imperialism and the Formation of the Contemporary World. London: Palgrave, 2018.
  • Jones, Phillip W. International Policies for Third World Education: UNESCO, Literacy and Development. London: Routledge, 1988.
  • Kent, John. The Internationalisation of Colonialism. Britain, France and Black Africa, 1939–56. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992.
  • Manela, Erez. The Wilsonian Moment: Self-Determination and the International Origins of Anti-colonial Nationalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.
  • Maul, Daniel. Human Rights, Development and Decolonization: The International Labour Organization, 1940–1970. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.
  • Miers, Suzanne. Slavery in the Twentieth Century: The Evolution of a Global Problem. Walnut Creek, CA: Altamira Press, 2003.
  • O’Malley, Alanna, and Simon Jackson, eds. The Institution of International Order: From the League of Nations to the United Nations. London: Routledge, 2018.
  • Pearson, Jessica. The Colonial Politics of Global Health: France and the United Nations in Postwar Africa. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2018.
  • Pedersen, Susan. The Guardians: The League of Nations and the Crisis of Empire. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015.
  • Sayward, Amy L. The United Nations in International History. London: Bloomsbury, 2017.
  • Thomas, Martin, and Andrew S. Thompson, eds. The Oxford Handbook of the Ends of Empire. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018.
  • Unger, Corinna. International Development: A Postwar History. London: Bloomsbury, 2018.
  • Westad, Odd Arne. The Global Cold War: Third World Interventions and the Making of Our Times. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005.


  • 1. International or intergovernmental organizations are understood in this article as organizations established by a treaty or other instrument governed by international law and possessing its own international legal personality. What is meant by internationalization is “the intensification of societal interdependence,” the “increase in the degree of ‘internationality’ of decision-making,” as well as “the proliferation of international decision-making” over subjects that were traditionally the reserve of imperial or state sovereignty. See Kjell Goldmann, Transforming the European Nation-State: Dynamics of Internationalization (London: SAGE Publications, 2001), 9 and 15.

  • 2. The decision to address both “traditional” intergovernmental institutions and international non-governmental organizations has to do with two major analytical points. The first point stresses that internationalization did occur beyond the strict limits of intervention of the former. The second refers to the fact that the history of international institutions in Africa is strongly associated with “private,” “non-state” activities in the continent. Philanthropic, humanitarian, and anti-colonial networks were constant providers of ideas, data, arguments, and repertoires of intervention to intergovernmental institutions. They also took advantage of the possibilities opened up by the latter in order to further their involvement in the continent, on diverse affairs, with distinct resources and aims. Sandrine Kott, “Towards a Social History of International Organizations: The ILO and the Internationalization of Western Social Expertise,” in Internationalism, Imperialism and the Formation of the Contemporary World, ed. Miguel Bandeira Jerónimo, and José Pedro Monteiro (London: Palgrave, 2018), 33–57.

  • 3. Accordingly, this text proceeds by illustration rather than aiming to provide usable, but not useful, grand, coherent narratives or typologies. Naturally, given the nature of this exercise and also the scarcity of literature focused on the topic, it does not aim at an extensive data collection.

  • 4. The analytical problems these divisions may cause have been acknowledged. Debates about periodization are fundamental, but they cannot be entertained here.

  • 5. Due to the constraints posed by this kind of exercise, some possible avenues of research will only be pointed to.

  • 6. For instance, William Mulligan and Maurice Bric, eds., A Global History of Anti-slavery Politics in the Nineteenth Century (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013). See also Joel Quirk, The Anti-slavery Project: From the Slave Trade to Human Trafficking (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011), esp. 54–110; for an overall appreciation of the Congress, see Mark Jarrett, The Congress of Vienna and its Legacy: War and Great Power Diplomacy After Napoleon (London: I. B. Tauris, 2014); Brian E. Vick, The Congress of Vienna: Power and Politics After Napoleon (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014). For the connection with the slave trade, see, from a long list of relevant literature, Leslie Bethell, The Abolition of the Brazilian Slave Trade: Britain, Brazil and the Slave Trade Question, 1807–1869 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1970); Matthew Mason, “Keeping up Appearances: The International Politics of Slave Trade Abolition in the Nineteenth-Century Atlantic World,” The William and Mary Quarterly 66, no. 4 (2009): 809–832; Seymour Drescher and Paul Finkelman, “Slavery,” The Oxford Handbook of the History of International Law (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 890–916; Stig Forster, Wolfgang J. Mommsen, and Ronald Robinson, eds., Bismarck, Europe, and Africa: The Berlin Africa Conference 1884–1885 and the Onset of Partition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988); and Suzanne Miers, Britain and the Ending of the Slave Trade (London: Longman, 1975), esp. 236–291.

  • 7. Imanuel Geiss, The Pan-African Movement: A History of Pan-Africanism in America, Europe and Africa (London: Methuen, 1974); Marika Sherwood, Origins of Pan-Africanism: Henry Sylvester Williams, Africa, and the African Diaspora (London: Routledge, 2011); and Hakim Adi, Pan-Africanism: A History (London: Bloomsbury, 2018), 19–23.

  • 8. Odd Arne Westad, The Global Cold War: Third World Interventions and the Making of Our Times (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005).

  • 9. Akira Iriye, Global Interdependence: The World After 1945 (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 2013).

  • 10. Martin Shipway, Decolonization and Its Impact (Oxford: Blackwell, 2008); Martin Thomas, Bob Moore, and Larry Butler, Crises of Empire (London: Hodder Education, 2008); and Miguel Bandeira Jerónimo and António Costa Pinto, eds., The Ends of European Colonial Empires (Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave, 2015).

  • 11. For some general, still rewarding appraisals, see, for instance, John E. Flint, ed., The Cambridge history of Africa: from c.1790 to c.1870 5 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1976); Roland Oliver and G. N. Sanderson, eds., The Cambridge History of Africa: From 1870 to 1905 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1985); Jacob F. Ade Ajayi, ed., Africa in the Nineteenth Century until the 1880s, General History of Africa VI (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989); and Catherine Coquery-Vidrovitch, Africa and the Africans in the Nineteenth Century: A Turbulent History (London: M.E. Sharpe, 2009; French original published in 1999).

  • 12. The literature on these topics is extensive. For a fundamental start, see several contributions in David Eltis, Stanley L. Engerman, Seymour Drescher, and David Richardson, eds., The Cambridge World History of Slavery. Vol. 4, ad 1804–ad 2016 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2017). For major works focused on Africa, see Suzanne Miers and Martin A. Klein, eds., Slavery and Colonial Rule in Africa (London: Frank Cass, 1999); Paul E. Lovejoy, Transformations in Slavery: A History of Slavery in Africa, 3rd ed. (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2012); Sean Stilwell, Slavery and Slaving in African History (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2014).

  • 13. Frederick Cooper, “Africa in World History,” in The Cambridge World History. Vol. 7, Production, Destruction and Connection, 1750–Present, Part 1: Structures, Spaces, and Boundary Making, ed. J. R. McNeill and Kenneth Pomeranz (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2015), 557. See also his Africa in the World: Capitalism, Empire, Nation-State (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014). For the question of exploration, see Dane Kennedy, The Last Blank Spaces. Exploring Africa and Australia (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2015).

  • 14. Antony Anghie, “Finding the Peripheries: Sovereignty and Colonialism in Nineteenth-Century International Law,” Harvard International Law Journal 40, no. 1 (1999): 1–71; Martti Koskenniemi, The Gentle Civilizer of Nations: The Rise and Fall of International Law, 1870–1960 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2002); Antony Anghie, Imperialism, Sovereignty and the Making of International Law (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007). See also several articles in The Oxford Handbook of the History of International Law (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012).

  • 15. See Balakrishnan Rajagopal, International Law from Below: Development, Social Movements and Third World Resistance (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003); Sundhya Pahuja, Decolonizing International Law: Development, Economic Growth and the Politics of Universality (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2011).

  • 16. Susan Zimmermann, “The Long-Term Trajectory of Anti-Slavery in International Politics: The Long-Term Consequences of the Abolition of the Slave Trade,” in Humanitarian Intervention and Changing Labor Relations, ed. Marcel van der Linden (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2011), 433–497.

  • 17. Seymour Drescher, “European Antislavery: From Empires of Slavery to Global Prohibition,” 378, and Gareth Austin, “Slavery in Africa, 1804–1936,” pp. 174–196, both in Eltis et al., Cambridge World History of Slavery. Vol. 4, 373–398, 378, 174–196, and 193, respectively. See also Suzanne Miers and Richard Roberts, eds., The End of Slavery in Africa (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1988).

  • 18. For a synthesis of the main dynamics and debates regarding the new imperialism, see Andrew Porter, European Imperialism, 1860–1914 (London: Macmillan, 1994). See also Michael W. Doyle, Empires (New York: Cornell University Press, 1986), 141–134; Thomas Pakenham, Scramble for Africa (New York: Random House, 1991); and Henri Wesseling, Le Partage de l’Afrique (1880-1914) (Paris: Denoël, 2003).

  • 19. Drescher, “European Antislavery,” 389, 390. For the scramble, see Albert Wirz and Andreas Eckert, “The Scramble for Africa: Icon and Idiom of Modernity,” in From Slave Trade to Empire European Colonisation of Black Africa 1780s–1880s, ed. Olivier Pétré-Grenouilleau (London: Routledge, 2004), 133–153. For the Berlin conference and slavery, see Miers, Ending of the Slave Trade, 169–189.

  • 20. Robin Law, ed., From Slave Trade to “Legitimate” Commerce (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1995). See also Zimmermann, “Long-Term Trajectory.”

  • 21. Frederick Cooper, “Networks, Moral Discourse, and History,” in Intervention and Transnationalism in Africa, ed. Thomas Callaghy, Ronald Kassimir, and Robert Latham (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 34.

  • 22. Miers, Ending of the Slave Trade, 240–257, 261–270, 272–284.

  • 23. Andrew Porter, Religion versus Empire? British Protestant Missionaries and Overseas Expansion, 1700–1914 (Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2004); John Stuart, “Beyond sovereignty? Protestant missions, empire and transnationalism, 1890–1950,” in Beyond sovereignty. Britain, Empire and Transnationalism, c. 1880–1950, ed. Kevin Grant, Philippa Levine, and Frank Trentmann (London: Palgrave, 2007), 103–125; Daniel Laqua, “The Tensions of Internationalism: Transnational Anti-Slavery in the 1880s and 1890s,” The International History Review 33, no. 4 (2011): 705–726; and Miguel Bandeira Jerónimo, A Diplomacia do Império. Política e Religião na Partilha de África (1820-1890) (Lisbon: Edições 70, 2012). For Lavigerie, see François Renault, Lavigerie: l’esclavage africain et l’Europe: 1868–1892, 2 vols. (Paris: E. de Boccard, 1971); J. Dean O’Donnell, Jr., Lavigerie in Tunisia: The Interplay of Imperialist and Missionary (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1979).

  • 24. See Seymour Drescher, Abolition: A History of Slavery and Antislavery (New York: Cambridge University Press. 2009).

  • 25. Emily Rosenberg, ed., A World Connecting, 1870-1945 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012); Martin H. Geyer and Johannes Paulmann, eds., The Mechanics of Internationalism: Culture, Society, and Politics from the 1840s to the First World War (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001). For the agencies, see Inis. L. Claude, Swords into Plowshares: The Problems and Progress of International Organization. 2nd ed., rev. and enl. (New York: Random House, 1963), 35–37, 40.

  • 26. For a rich, global analysis of the 19th century, see Jurgen Osterhammel, The Transformation of the World. A Global History of the Nineteenth Century (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2014), and Pierre Singaravélou and Sylvain, eds., Histoire du monde au XIXe siècle (Paris: Fayard, 2017). For a more specific impact of both conferences, beside Suzanne Miers’s pioneering works, see Amalia Ribi Forclaz, Humanitarian Imperialism: The Politics of Anti-Slavery Activism, 1880–1940 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015) and Miguel Bandeira Jerónimo, The “Civilizing Mission” of Portuguese Colonialism, 1870–1930 (London: Palgrave, 2015).

  • 27. Bob Reinalda, Routledge Handbook of International Organization (Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2013), 26–27; Inis L. Claude, Swords into Plowshares, 19, 24, 26, 28, 36, 38–39.

  • 28. On the Boer war, see, for instance, Keith M. Wilson, ed., The International Impact of the Boer War (New York: Palgrave, 2011). On the Congo, see Adam Hochschild, King Leopold’s Ghost. A Story of Greed, Terror and Heroism in Colonial Africa (London: Mariner-Houghton Mifflin Co, 1999), and Martin Ewans, European Atrocity, African Catastrophe. Leopold II, the Congo Free State and its Aftermath (London: Routledge, 2002). On São Tomé e Principe, see Lowell J. Satre, Chocolate on Trial: Slavery, Politics and the Ethics of Business (Athens: Ohio University Press 2005), Catherine Higgs, Chocolate Islands: Slavery and Colonial Africa (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2012), and Jerónimo, “Civilizing Mission.” On travel writing, see Roberts Burroughs, Travel writing and atrocities: eyewitness accounts of colonialism in the Congo, Angola, and the Putumayo (New York: Routledge, 2011). For Leopold II, the Belgium society, and dynamics of internationalism, see also Daniel Laqua, The Age of Internationalism and Belgium, 1880–1930: Peace, Progress and Prestige (Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2013), esp. 45–79.

  • 29. See, for instance, Birgit Susanne Seibold, Emily Hobhouse and the Reports on the Concentration Camps During the Boer War, 1899–1902: Two Different Perspectives (New York: Columbia University Press, 2011). For a general assessment, see Bill Nasson, The War for South Africa. The Anglo-Boer War, 1899–1902 (Cape Town: NB Publishers, 2010); For instance, see Sharon Sliwinski, “The Childhood of Human Rights: The Kodak on the Congo,” Journal of Visual Culture 5, no. 3 (2006): 333–363 and T. Jack Thompson, Light on Darkness? Missionary Photography of Africa in the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries (Grand Rapids, MC: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2012), 165–206; Henry W. Nevinson, A Modern Slavery (London: Harper and Brothers, 1906), 111–115. See also Angela John, War, Journalism and the Shaping of the Twentieth Century: The Life and Times of Henry W. Nevinson (London: I. B. Tauris, 2006)

  • 30. Kevin Grant, A Civilised Savagery: Britain and the New Slaveries in Africa, 1884–1926 (New York: Routledge, 2005).

  • 31. See, above all, Susan Pedersen, The Guardians: The League of Nations and the Crisis of Empire (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015). See also Daniel Laqua, “Transnational Intellectual Cooperation, the League of Nations and the Problem of Order,” Journal of Global History 6, no. 2 (2011): 223–247; Yann Decorzant, La Société des Nations et la naissance d’une conception de la regulation économique internationale (Brussels: Peter Lang, 2011); Daniel Gorman, The Emergence of International Society in the 1920s (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2012); Patricia Clavin, Securing the World Economy: The Reinvention of the League of Nations, 1920–1946 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013).

  • 32. Michael Callahan, Mandates and Empires. The League of Nations and Africa, 1914–1931 (Brighton, UK: Sussex Academic Press, 2008); Michael Callahan, A Sacred Trust: The League of Nations and Africa, 1929–1946 (Brighton, UK: Sussex Academic Press, 2004). For Africa and World War I, see Hew Strachan, The First World War in Africa (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).

  • 33. Daniel Maul, “The International Labour Organization and the Struggle against Forced Labour from 1919 to the Present,” Labor History 48, no. 4 (2007), 477–500; Véronique Dimier, “‘L’internationalisation’ du débat colonial. Rivalités franco-britanniques autour de la commission permanente des mandates,” Outre-mers 89, no. 2 (2002): 333–360; Susan Pedersen, “The Meaning of the Mandates System: An Argument,” Geschichte und Gesellschaft 32 (2006): 560–582; Callahan, Mandates and Empires; Suzanne Miers, Slavery in the Twentieth Century: The Evolution of a Global Problem (Walnut Creek, CA: Altamira Press, 2003).

  • 34. Erez Manela, The Wilsonian Moment: Self-Determination and the International Origins of Anti-colonial Nationalism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007); Miguel Bandeira Jerónimo, “A League of Empires: Imperial Political Imagination and Interwar Internationalisms,” in Internationalism, Imperialism and the Formation of the Contemporary World, ed. Miguel Bandeira Jerónimo and José Pedro Monteiro (London: Palgrave, 2018), 87–126.

  • 35. George Louis Beer, African Questions at the Paris Peace Conference. With Papers on Egypt, Mesopotamia and the Colonial Settlement, 2nd ed. (London: Dawsons of Pall Mall, 1968 [1923]); League of Nations Archive, R13, Dossier 2372, Memorandum by G. S. Spicer, “Some of the Principal Points Concerning Africa to be Dealt with at the Peace Conference,” January 17, 1919. See also Leonard V. Smith, Sovereignty at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018), 64.

  • 36. Susan Pedersen, “Samoa on the World Stage: Petitions and Peoples before the Mandates Commission of the League of Nations,” Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 40, no. 2 (2012): 231–261.

  • 37. Geiss, Pan-African Movement; Peter Olisanwuche Esedebe, Pan Africanism: The Idea and Movement, 1776–1991 (Washington, DC: Howard University Press, 1994), 3–94; Adi, Pan-Africanism, 46–48; Andreas Eckert, “Bringing the ‘Black Atlantic’ into Global History: The Project of Pan-Africanism,” in Competing Visions of World Order: Global Moments and Movements, 1880s–1930s, ed. Sebastian Conrad and Dominic Sachsenmeier (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), 237–257.

  • 38. See also W. E. B. Du Bois, The World and Africa and Color and Democracy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), 5–8.

  • 39. Torsten Weber, “From Versailles to Shanghai: Pan-Asianist Legacies of the Paris Peace Conference and the Failure of Asianism from Below,” in Asia after Versailles. Asian Perspectives on the Paris Peace Conference and the Interwar Order, 1919–33, ed. Urs Matthias Zachmann (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2017), 77–98.

  • 40. Leslie James, George Padmore and Decolonization from Below. Pan-Africanism, the Cold War, and the End of Empire (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), 60–66; Hakim Adi and Marika Sherwood, eds., The 1945 Pan-African Congress Revisited (London: New Beacon Books, 1995).

  • 41. On these networks, see Jennifer Boittin, Colonial Metropolis: The Urban Grounds of Anti-Imperialism and Feminism in Interwar Paris (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2010); Marc Matera, Black London: The Imperial Metropolis and Decolonization in the Twentieth Century (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2015); Michael Goebel, Anti-Imperial Metropolis: Interwar Paris and the Seeds of Third World Nationalism (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2015).

  • 42. John Riddell, ed., To See the Dawn: Baku, 1920—First Congress of the Peoples of the East (New York: Pathfinder Press, 1993); Robert J. C. Young, Postcolonialism: An Historical Introduction (London: Wiley Blackwell, 2016), 134–139

  • 43. Fredrik Petersson, “Hub of the Anti-Imperialist Movement,” Interventions: International Journal of Post-Colonial Studies 16, no. 1 (2014), 49–71. See also Jürgen Dinkel, The Non-Aligned Movement: Genesis, Organization and Politics (1927–1992) (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2018), 16–41. More generally see Oleksa Drachewych and Ian McKay, eds., Left Transnationalism. The Communist International and the National, Colonial, and Racial Questions (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2020).

  • 44. Alice L. Conklin, A Mission to Civilize. The Republican idea of Empire in France and West Africa, 1895–1930 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1999); Boris Barth and Jürgen Osterhammel, eds., Zivilisierungsmissionen: Imperiale Weltverbesserung seit dem 18. Jahrhundert (Konstanz, Germany: UVK, 2005); and Jerónimo, “Civilizing Mission.”

  • 45. Tilman Dedering, “Petitioning Geneva: Transnational Aspects of Protest and Resistance in South West Africa/Namibia After the First World War,” Journal of South African Studies 35, no. 4 (2009): 785–801; and Pedersen, “Samoa.”

  • 46. Peter Kallaway, “Welfare and Education in British Colonial Africa, 1918–1945,” in Education and Development in Colonial and Postcolonial Africa. Policies, Paradigms, and Entanglements, 1890s–1980s, ed. Damiano Matasci, Miguel Bandeira Jerónimo, and Hugo Dores (London: Palgrave, 2020), 31–54; Dominique Marshall, “Children’s Rights in Imperial Political Cultures: Missionary and Humanitarian Contributions to the Conference on the African Child of 1931,” International Journal of Children’s Rights 12 (2004): 273–318; Iris Borowy, Coming to Terms with World Health: The League of Nations Health Organisation, 1921–1946 (Frankfurt am Main, Germany: Peter Lang, 2009). See also Samuel Coghe, “Between Inter-Imperial Learning and National Prestige: The Politics of Mass Chemoprophylaxis against Sleeping Sickness in Portuguese Colonial Africa,” Portuguese Studies Review 25, no. 1 (2017): 16–44.

  • 47. Frederick Cooper, “Conditions Analogous to Slavery: Imperialism and Free Labor Ideology in Africa,” in Beyond Slavery: Explorations of Race, Labor, and Citizenship in Postemancipation Societie, ed. Frederick Cooper, Thomas C. Holt, and Rebecca J. Scott (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000), 107–149.

  • 48. Besides Miers, Forclaz, and Jerónimo’s works, see also the important works by Luis Rodriguez-Pinero, Indigenous Peoples, Postcolonialism, and International Law: The ILO Regime 1919–1989 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), 17–52; Jean Allain, The Slavery Conventions: The Travaux Préparatoires of the 1926 League of Nations Convention and the 1956 United Nations Convention (Leiden, The Netherlands: Martinus Nijhoff, 2008), 31–172; Susan Zimmermann, “‘Special Circumstances’ in Geneva: The ILO and the World of Non-Metropolitan Labour in the Interwar Years,” in ILO histories: Essays on the International Labour Organization and its Impact on the World during the Twentieth Century, ed. Jasmien Van Daele, Magaly Rodriguez Garcia, Geert Van Goethe, and Marcel van der Linden (Bern, Switzerland: Peter Lang, 2010), 221–250; Lars Thomann, Steps to Compliance with International Labour Standards: The International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Abolition of Forced Labour (Wiesbaden: VS Verlag fur Sozialwissenschaften, 2012).

  • 49. Jerónimo, “League of Empires,” n1, 113.

  • 50. J. Merle Davis, Modern Industry and the African (London: Macmillan, 1933). See also Frederick Cooper, “Development, Modernization, and the Social Sciences in the Era of Decolonization: The Examples of British and French Africa,” in Ends of European Colonial Empires, ed. Miguel Bandeira Jerónimo and António Costa Pinto (Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave, 2015), 20–21. See also his Decolonization and African Society: The Labor Question in French and British Africa (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 52–53.

  • 51. Emmanuelle Sibeud, “Entre geste impériale et cause internationale: défendre les indigènes à Genève dans les années 1920,” Monde(s), histoire, espaces, relations 6, no. 2 (2014), 23–43; Amalia Ribi, “‘The Breath of a New Life’?: British Anti-Slavery Activism and the League of Nations,” in Internationalism Reconfigured, ed. Daniel Laqua (London: I. B. Tauris, 2011), 93–113; Jerónimo, “Civilizing Mission.”

  • 52. Ulrike Lindner, “New Forms of Knowledge Exchange between Imperial Powers: The Development of the Institut Colonial International (ICI) since the End of the Nineteenth Century,” and Florian Wagner, “Private Colonialism and International Co-operation in Europe, 1870–1914,” in Imperial Co-operation and Transfer, 1870–1930, ed. Volker Barth and Roland Cvetkovski (London: Bloomsbury, 2015), 57–78 and 79–103.

  • 53. For more on this, see Miguel Bandeira Jerónimo, “Developing Civilisation? Imperial Internationalism at the League of Nations (1920s–1930s),” Histoire&Politique 40 (2020); idem, “Imperial internationalisms in the 1920s: the shaping of colonial affairs at the League of Nation,” Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, special issue: Imperialism, Internationalism and Globalisation in Twentieth Century Africa, Vol. 48, n°5 (2020).

  • 54. For Africa, see Frederick Cooper, Africa since 1940: The Past of the Present (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press). Regarding the impact of World War II, see Thomas et al., Crises of Empire, 15–42, 113–135, 244–278; and Shipway, Decolonization, 61–86. Regarding the evolution of debates on the racial question at international institutions, see Neta Crawford, Argument and Change in World Politics: Ethics, Decolonization and Humanitarian Intervention (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 249–342; and Todd Shepard, “Algeria, France, Mexico, UNESCO: A Transnational History of Anti-Racism and Decolonization, 1932–1962,” Journal of Global History 6, no. 2 (2011): 273–297. For ideological dimensions, see Frank Gerits, The Ideological Scramble for Africa the US, Ghanaian, French and British Competition for Africa’s Future, 1953–1963 (Florence: PhD Thesis, History and Civilization of the European University Institute, 2014).

  • 55. Mark Mazower, No Enchanted Palace: The End of Empire and the Ideological Origins of the United Nations (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2009).

  • 56. Evan Luard, A History of the United Nations, Volume 2: The Age of Decolonization, 1955–1965 (Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 1989); Amy L. Sayward, The United Nations in International History (London, UK: Bloomsbury, 2017); Thomas G. Weiss and Sam Daws, The Oxford Handbook on the United Nations (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018). For other proposals, see Glenda Sluga and Sunil Amrith, “New Histories of the U.N.,” Journal of World History 19, no. 3 (2008): 251–274.

  • 57. Ramendra Nath Chowdhuri, International Mandates and Trusteeship Systems. A Comparative Study (The Hague, The Netherlands: Martinus Nijhoff, 1955).

  • 58. William Roger Louis, Imperialism at Bay: The United States and the Decolonization of the British Empire, 1941–1945 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1978); Victor Pungong, “The United States and the International Trusteeship System,” in The United States and Decolonization: Power and Freedom, ed. David Ryan and Victor Pungong, (Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2000), 85–101; Jessica Pearson, “Defending Empire at the United Nations: The Politics of International Oversight in the Era of Decolonisation,” Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 45, no. 3 (2017), 525–549.

  • 59. On the evolution of India’s engagement with decolonization in Africa, see Gerard McCann, “From Diaspora to Third Worldism: India and the Politics of Decolonizing Africa,” Past & Present 218, no. 8 (2013), 258–280.

  • 60. Yassin El-Ayouty, The United Nations and Decolonization: The Role of Afro-Asia (The Hague, The Netherlands: Martinus Nijhoff, 1971); and J. Brits, “Tiptoeing along the Apartheid Tightrope: the United States, South Africa and the United Nations in 1952,” The International History Review 27, no. 4 (2005): 754–779.

  • 61. David A. Kay, “The Politics of Decolonization: the New Nations and the United Nations Political Process,” International Organization 21, no. 4 (1967): 786–811; Matthew Connelly, A Diplomatic Revolution: Algeria’s Fight For Independence and the Origins of the Post-Cold War Era (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002); Ryo Ikeda, The Imperialism of French Decolonisation: French Policy and the Anglo-American Response in Tunisia and Morocco (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015); and Fabian Klose, Human Rights in the Shadow of Colonial Violence: The Wars of Independence in Kenya and Algeria (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013).

  • 62. For self-determination, see Bradley Simpson, “Self-Determination and Decolonization,” in The Oxford Handbook of the Ends of Empire, ed. Martin Thomas and Andrew S. Thompson (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018), 417–435; Adom Getachew, Worldmaking after Empire: The Rise and Fall of Self-Determination (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2019).

  • 63. Roland Burke, Decolonization and the Evolution of International Human Rights (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010); and Meredith Terretta, “‘We had been Fooled into Thinking that the UN Watches Over the Entire World’: Human Rights, UN Trust Territories, and Africa’s Decolonization,” Human Rights Quarterly 34, no. 2 (2012): 329–360.

  • 64. See Zimmerman, “‘Special Circumstances’.”

  • 65. Among others, see Damiano Matasci, “Assessing Needs, Fostering Development: UNESCO, Illiteracy and the Global Politics of Education,” Comparative Education 53, no. 1 (2017): 35–53; Jessica Pearson, The Colonial Politics of Global Health: France and the United Nations in Postwar Africa (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2018); Marcos Cueto, Theodore Brown, and Elizabeth Fee, eds., The World Health Organization: A History (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2019); and Miguel Bandeira Jerónimo and José Pedro Monteiro, “Colonial Labour Internationalized: Portugal and the Decolonization Momentum,” International History Review 42, no. 3 (2020): 485–504.

  • 66. Daniel Maul, Human Rights, Development and Decolonization: The International Labour Organization, 1940–1970 (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), 86–120.

  • 67. Piero Gleijeses, Conflicting Missions: Havana, Washington and Africa, 1959–1976 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002); Elizabeth Schmidt, Cold War and Decolonization in Guinea, 1946–1958 (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2007); Vladmir Shubin, The Hot “Cold War”: The USSR in Southern Africa (London: Pluto Press, 2008); Ilya V. Gaiduk, Divided Together: The United States and the Soviet Union in the United Nations, 1945–1965 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2012); Natalia Telepneva, Our Sacred Duty: The Soviet Union, the Liberation Movements in the Portuguese Colonies and the Cold War, 1961–1975 (London: PhD dissertation, London School of Economics, 2014); and Frederik Petersson, “The Labour and Socialist International and the ‘Colonial problem’: Mobilisation by necessity or force, 1925–1928,” in The Internationalisation of the Labour Question: Ideological Antagonism, Workers’ Movements and the ILO since 1919, ed. Stefano Belucci and Holger Weiss (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2020), 119–143.

  • 68. Jason Parker, “‘An Assembly of Peoples in Struggle’: How the Cold War made Latin America part of the ‘Third World’,” in Internationalism, Imperialism and the Formation of the Contemporary World, ed. Miguel Bandeira Jerónimo, and José Pedro Monteiro, (London: Palgrave, 2018), 307–326; and Jerry Dávila, Hotel Trópico: Brazil and the Challenges of African Decolonization, 1950–1980 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010).

  • 69. Shepard, “Algeria, France”; José Pedro Monteiro, “The International Dimensions of Resistance: Portuguese Colonial Labour Policies and its Critics Abroad,” in Resistance and Colonialism: Insurgent Peoples in World History, ed. Nuno Domingos, Miguel Bandeira Jerónimo, and Ricardo Roque (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019), 313–337.

  • 70. Edward H. Judge and John W. Langdon, The Struggle Against Imperialism. Anti-colonialism and the Cold War (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2018); and Christopher J. Lee, “Anti-Colonialism: Origins, Practices, and Historical Legacies,” in The Oxford Handbook of the Ends of Empire, ed. Martin Thomas and Andrew S. Thompson (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018), 436–452.

  • 71. Amy L. S. Staples. The Birth of Development: How the World Bank, Food and Agriculture Organisation, and World Health Organisation Changed the World, 1945–65 (Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 2006); David Webster, “Development Advisors in a time of Cold War and Decolonization: The United Nations Technical Assistance Administration, 1950–1959,” Journal of Global History 6, no. 2 (2011): 249–272; Marc Frey, Sonke Kunkel, and Corinna Unger, eds., International Organizations and Development (1945–1990) (Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014); Corinna Unger, International Development: A Postwar History (London: Bloomsbury, 2018); Stephen J. Macekura and Erez Manela, eds., The Development Century: A Global History (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2018); Sara Lorenzini, Global Development: A Cold War History (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2019); Frederick Cooper, “Modernizing Bureaucrats, Backward Africans, and the Development Concept,” in International Development and the Social Sciences: Essays in the History and Politics of Knowledge, ed. Frederick Cooper and Randall Packard (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997), 64–92; Joseph M. Hodge, Gerald Hodl, and Martina Kopf, eds., Developing Africa. Concepts and Practices in Twentieth-century Colonialism (Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2014); Miguel Bandeira Jerónimo and António Costa Pinto, “A Modernizing Empire? Politics, Culture and Economy in Portuguese Late Colonialism,” in Ends of European Colonial Empires, ed. Miguel Bandeira Jerónimo and António Costa Pinto (Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave, 2015), 51–80; and Joseph M. Hodge, Triumph of the Expert: Agrarian Doctrines of Development and the Legacies of British Colonialism (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2007).

  • 72. John Kent, The Internationalisation of Colonialism. Britain, France and Black Africa, 1939–56 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992); and Miguel Bandeira Jerónimo and Hugo Gonçalves Dores, “Enlightened Developments? Inter-Imperial Organizations and the Issue of Colonial Education in Africa (1945–1957),” in Education and Development in (Post)Colonial Africa, ed. Gonçalves Dores, Jerónimo and Matasci, 237–262.

  • 73. The INCIDI was the successor of the Institut Colonial International (ICI).

  • 74. Nicholas J. White, “Reconstructing Europe through rejuvenating empire: The British, French, and Dutch Experiences Compared,” Past&Present 210, no. 6 (2011): 211–236; Daniel S. Chassé, “Towards a Global History of the Marshall Plan: European Post-War Reconstruction and the Rise of Development Economic Expertise,” in Industrial Policy in Europe After 1945: Wealth, Power and Economic Development in the Cold War, ed. Christian Grabas and Alexander Nützenadel (Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave, 2014), 187–212; Benn Steil, The Marshall Plan: Dawn of the Cold War (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018); Westad, Global Cold War; Michael E. Latham, “The Cold War and the Third World 1963–1975,” in Cambridge History of the Cold War, Vol. II, ed. Melvyn Leffler and Odd Arne Westad (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 258–280; and Jeffrey James Byrne, “Africa’s Cold War,” in The Cold War in the Third World, ed. Robert J. McMahon (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 101–123.

  • 75. For a set of essays dealing with both, see Alanna O’Malley and Simon Jackson, eds., The Institution of International Order: From the League of Nations to the United Nations (London: Routledge, 2018). See also Mark Mazower, Governing the World: The History of an Idea, 1815 to the Present (New York: Penguin, 2012), and Glenda Sluga and Patricia Clavin, eds., Internationalisms: A Twentieth Century History (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2017).

  • 76. Pedersen, Guardians, 5.

  • 77. Maul, Human Rights, 173–184; Jessica Pearson, “Remapping the Borders of Imperial Health: The World Health Organization and the International Politics of Regionalization in French North Africa, 1945–1956,” in Internationalism, Imperialism and the Formation of the Contemporary World, ed. Miguel Bandeira Jerónimo, and José Pedro Monteiro (London: Palgrave, 2018), 191–219;; Ekei Umo Ekpenyong, The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and development in Africa (London: PhD Thesis, London School of Economics, 1990).

  • 78. Giuliano Garavini, After Empires: European Integration, Decolonization, and the Challenge from the Global South, 1957–1968 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012); Peo Hansen and Stefan Jonsson, Eurafrica. The Untold History of European Integration and Colonialism (London: Bloomsbury, 2014); and Veronique Dimier, The Invention of a European Development Aid Bureaucracy (London: Palgrave, 2014).

  • 79. Jan Eckel, “The International League for the Rights of Man, Amnesty International, and the Changing Fate of Human Rights Activism from the 1940s through the 1970s,” Humanity 4, no. 2 (2013): 183–214; Harry M. Scoble and Laurie S. Wiseberg, “The International League for the Rights of Man: The Strategy of a Human Rights NGO,” Georgia Journal of International and Comparative Law 7 (1977): 289–314; See, for instance, Claude E. Welch, Jr., “Mobilizing Morality: The World Council of Churches and Its Program to Combat Racism, 1969–1994,” Human Rights Quarterly 23, no. 4 (2001): 863–910; Geert van Goethem, The Amsterdam International: The World of the International Federation of Trade Unions (IFTU), 1913–1945 (Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2006), esp. 229–258; Quenby Olmsted Hughes, “The American Federation of Labor’s Cold War Campaign against ‘Slave Labor’ at the United Nations,” in American Labor’s Global Ambassadors. The International History of the AFL-CIO during the Cold War, ed. Robert Anthony Waters Jr. and Geert Van Goethem (New York: Palgrave, 2013), 23–38.

  • 80. James, George Padmore; Jeffrey James Byrne, Mecca of Revolution: Algeria, Decolonization, and the Third World Order (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016); John Munro, The Anti-colonial Front: The African American Freedom Struggle and Global Decolonisation, 1945–1960 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2017).

  • 81. Miguel Bandeira Jerónimo and José Pedro Monteiro, “The inventors of Human Rights in Africa: Portugal, Late Colonialism and the Human Rights Regime (1948–1973),” in Human Rights, Empires, and Their Ends: The New History of Human Rights and Decolonization, ed. Roland Burke, Marco Duranti, and A. Dirk Moses (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2020), 285-315

  • 82. On these issues see, for instance, Paul Gordon Laure, Power and Prejudice: The Politics and Diplomacy of Racial Discrimination (Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1988); and Marylin Lake and Henry Reynolds, Drawing the Global Colour Line: White Men’s Countries and the Question of Racial Equality (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008)

  • 83. Steven Jensen, The Making of International Human Rights: The 1960s, Decolonization and the Reconstruction of Global Values (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2016); Roland Burke, Marco Duranti, and A. Dirk Moses, eds., Human Rights, Empires, and Their Ends: The New History of Human Rights and Decolonization (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2020); Klose, Human Rights; Moritz Feichtinger, “Villagization”: A People’s History of Strategic Resettlement and Violent Transformation, Kenya and Algeria 1952–1962 (Bern, Switzerland: PhD dissertation, University of Bern, 2016); Diogo Ramada Curto, Bernardo Pinto Cruz, and Teresa Furtado, Políticas Coloniais em Tempo de Revoltas: Angola circa 1961 (Porto, Portugal: Edições Afrontamento, 2016); Miguel Bandeira Jerónimo, “Repressive Developmentalisms: Idioms, Repertoires, Trajectories in Late Colonialism,” in The Oxford Handbook of the Ends of Empire, ed. Martin Thomas and Andrew S. Thompson (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018), 537–554; Cooper, Decolonization and African Society; Philip J. Havik, Alexander Keese and Maciel Santos, Administration and Taxation in Former Portuguese Africa, 1900–1945 (Newcastle upon Tyne, UK: Cambridge Scholars, 2015); José Pedro Monteiro, Portugal e a Questão do Trabalho Forçado: um império sob escrutínio (Lisboa: Edições 70, 2018); Chloé Maurel, Histoire de l’Unesco. Les trente premières années. 1945–1974 (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2010); Jérôme B. Elie and Jussi Hanhimäki, “UNHCR and Decolonization in Africa: Expansion and Emancipation, 1950s to 1970s,” in Dekolonisation: Prozesse und Verflechtungen, 1945–1990, ed. Anja Kruke (Bonn, Germany: Dietz, 2009), 53–72; Peter Gatrell, The Making of the Modern Refugee (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 199–252; Ana Filipa Guardião, Desafios Coloniais na Construção do Sistema Internacional de Protecção de Refugiados: os processos de descolonização do Quénia, Angola e Argélia (19501-975) (Lisbon: PhD dissertation, Universidade de Lisboa, 2019); and Ullrich Lohrmann, Voices from Tanganyika: Great Britain, the United Nations and the Decolonization of a Trust Territory, 1946–1961 (Berlin: Lit, 2007); Terretta, ‘“We had been fooled’”; Meredith Terretta, “Anti-Colonial Lawyering, Postwar Human Rights and Decolonization in Africa,” Canadian Journal of History 52, no. 3 (2017): 448–478; and Giusi Russo, “Contested Practices, Human Rights, and Colonial Bodies in Pain: The UN’s Gender Politics in Africa, 1940s–1960s,” Gender & History 30, no. 1 (2018): 196–213.

  • 84. Connelly, Diplomatic Revolution; Jerónimo and Monteiro, “The inventors of Human Rights in Africa.”

  • 85. Ryan Irwin, Gordian Knot: Apartheid and the Unmaking of the Liberal World Order (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012); Yassin El-Ayouty, “Legitimization of National Liberation: The United Nations and Southern Africa,” African Issues 2, no. 4 (1972): 36–45.

  • 86. David M. Wainhouse, Remnants of Empire: The United Nations and the End of Colonialism (New York: Harper & Row, 1964); Aurora Almada Santos, A Organização das Nações Unidas e a Questão Colonial Portuguesa (Lisbon: Instituto de Defesa Nacional, 2017); Jerónimo and Monteiro, “inventors of human rights.”

  • 87. Oliver Turner, “‘Finishing the Job’: The UN Special Committee on Decolonization and the Politics of Self-Governance,” Third World Quarterly 34, no. 7 (2013): 1193–1208; and Alessandro Iandolo, “Beyond the Shoe: Rethinking Khrushchev at the Fifteenth Session of the United Nations General Assembly,” Diplomatic History 41, no. 1 (2017), 128–154.

  • 88. Jensen, International Human Rights; Bradley Simpson, “Self-Determination, Human Rights, and the End of Empire in the 1970s,” Humanity 4, no. 2 (2013): 239–260. See also Getachew, Worldmaking After Empire.

  • 89. Carl Watts, Rhodesia’s Unilateral Declaration of Independence: An international history (Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012).

  • 90. Maul, Human Rights, 227–244; Jerónimo and Monteiro, “Colonial Labour Internationalised”; Philip Havik and José Pedro Monteiro, “Portugal.”

  • 91. Aniceto Afonso and Carlos Matos Gomes, ALCORA: O acordo secreto do colonialismo (Lisbon: Divina Comédia, 2013); Filipe Ribeiro Meneses and Robert McNamara, The White Redoubt, the Great Powers and the Struggle for Southern Africa, 1960–1980 (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017). See also Sue Onslow, ed. Cold War in Southern Africa: White Power, Black Liberation (Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2009).

  • 92. Eva-Maria Muschik, “Managing the World: The United Nations, Decolonization and the Strange Triumph of State Sovereignty in the 1950s and 1960s,” Journal of Global History 13, no. 1 (2018): 121–144.

  • 93. Matteo Grilli, Nkurmaism and African Nationalism: Ghana’s Pan African Foreign Policy in the Age of Decolonization (Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018).

  • 94. Klaas van Walraven, Dreams of Power: The Role of the Organization of African Unity in the Politics of Africa, 1963–1999 (Leiden, The Netherlands: Ashgate, 1999).

  • 95. Michael Collins, “Decolonisation and the Federal Moment,” Diplomacy & Statecraft 24, no. 1 (2013): 21–40. Regarding contending post-imperial political and societal imaginations, see also Frederick Cooper, Citizenship Between Empire and Nation: Remaking France and French Africa (1945–1960) (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2014).

  • 96. See Jeffrey James Byrne, Mecca of Revolution: Algeria, Decolonization and the Third World Order. On the NIEO, see the Special Issue “Toward a History of the New International Economic Order,” Humanity 6, no. 1 (2015), 1–233.

  • 97. Gregory Mann, From Empires to NGOs in the West African Sahel: The Road to Nongovernmentality (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015); and Muschik, “Managing the World.” See also Guy Fiti Sinclair, To Reform the World: International Organizations and the Making of Modern States (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017).

  • 98. On the imperialism of decolonization, see William Roger Louis and Ronald Robinson, “The Imperialism of Decolonization,” Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 22, no. 3 (1994): 462–511. On the Congo conflict, see John Kent, America, the UN and Decolonisation: Cold War Conflict in the Congo (London: Routledge, 2014); Alanna O’Malley, The Diplomacy of Decolonisation: America, Britain and the United Nations during the Congo Crisis, 1960–1964 (Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2018); Alanna O’Malley, “Ghana, India and the Transnational Dynamics of the Congo Crisis at the United Nations, 1960–1961,” The International History Review 35, no. 5 (2015): 970–990. See also Norrie Macqueen, United Nations Peacekeeping in Africa Since 1960 (London: Longman, 2002); Elizabeth Schmidt, Foreign Intervention in Africa: From the Cold War to the War On Terror (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2013); and Eva-Maria Muschik, Building States Through International Development Assistance: The United Nations between Trusteeship and Self-Determination, 1945 to 1965 (New York: PhD Thesis, New York University, 2017).

  • 99. Marie-Luce Desgrandchamps, “Dealing with ‘Genocide’: The ICRC and the UN During the Nigeria-Biafra War, 1967–70,” Journal of Genocide Research 16, no. 2–3 (2014): 281–297; and Lasse Heerten, The Biafran War and Post-Colonial Humanitarianism: Spectacles of Suffering (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2017).

  • 100. Véronique Dimier, “Bringing the Neo-Patrimonial State back to Europe: French Decolonization and the Making of the European Development Aid Policy,” Archiv Für Sozialgeschichte 48 (2008): 433–457; Joseph Hodge, “British Colonial Expertise, Post-Colonial Careering and the Early History of International Development,” Journal of Modern European History 8, no. 1 (2010): 24–46; Jennifer Gold, “The Reconfiguration of Scientific Career Networks in the Late Colonial Period: The Case of the Food and Agriculture Organization and the British Forestry Service,” in Science and Empire: Knowledge and Networks of Science across the British Empire, 1800–1970, ed. Brett Bennett and Joseph Hodge (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), 297–320; and Eva-Maria Muschik, “The Art of Chameleon Politics: From Colonial Servant to International Development Expert,” Humanity 9, no. 2 (2018): 219–244.

  • 101. John Toye and Richard Toye, The UN and Global Political Economy: Trade, Finance, and Development (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2004); Craig Murphy, The United Nations Development Programme: A Better Way? (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2006); Digambar Bhouraskar, United Nations Development Aid: A Study in History and Politics (New Delhi: Academic Foundation, 2007); Patrick Sharma, Robert McNamara’s Other War. The World Bank and International Development (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2017); Michele Alacevich, “The World Bank and the Politics of Productivity: The Debate on Economic Growth, Poverty, and Living Standards in the 1950s,” Journal of Global History 6, no. 1 (2011): 53–74; Matthias Schmelzer, The Hegemony of Growth: The OECD and the Making of the Economic Growth Paradigm (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2016); Phillip W. Jones, International Policies for Third World Education: UNESCO, Literacy and Development (London: Routledge, 1988); Olav Stokke, The UN and Development: From Aid to Cooperation (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2009); Vincent Bonnecase, “La pauvreté au Sahel. Du savoir colonial à la mesure internationale,” Monde(s), histoire, espaces, relations 4, no. 2 (2011): 159–185; and Daniel Speich Chassé, “Technical Internationalism and Economic Development at the Founding Moment of the UN System,” in International Organizations and Development (1945–1990), ed. Marc Frey, Sonke Kunkel, and Corinna Unger (Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), 23–45.

  • 102. Naturally, this chronological divide is artificial and raises numerous questions. Notwithstanding this fact, it is important to notice that there is a significant imbalance on the literature available for each moment. More recent events are underexplored, partially as a consequence of the manifest difficulties in reaching some archival sources associated to the formative years of the post-colonial states that emerged after decolonization.

  • 103. See the references in notes 77 and 78.

  • 104. Marika Sherwood, “‘There Is No New Deal for the Blackman in San Francisco’. African Attempts to Influence the Founding Conference of the United Nations, April–July, 1945,” The International Journal of African Historical Studies 29, no. 1 (1996): 71–94.