Website Review

The League of Nations Archive

The United Nations Library & Archives Geneva

The League of Nations (1920-1946) was created in the aftermath of WWI with the aim “to promote international cooperation and to achieve international peace and security”, and is considered the predecessor to the United Nations. Established on January 10, 1920 and ratified by 41 member states with the Covenant of the League of Nations it was the first intergovernmental organization that at the time represented 70% of the world's population. The League of Nations Archives were registered in UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register in 2009, recognizing the global significance and documental value of the collection hosted by UN Library and Archives in Geneva. As of 2022, over 10 linear kilometers of archives have been digitized thanks to the Total Digital Access to the League of Nations Archives Project.

The archive includes several collections related to 19th century peace movements and the League of Nations global engagement and administrative functioning of the League. The collections include maps, photographs, diplomatic instruments, correspondence, and personal files of several League of Nations officials. The archive offers an extensive array of primary sources that can be used in the study of global history, international relations, transnational conflict, national border creation, migration, human rights, and historical personages. For example, the archive can be used to address specific subjects like economy, communications, and peace agreements related to world hemispherical distribution and the changes of national borders before and after territorial conflicts in the time period between WWI and WWII. Of particular interest is the League of Nations Library Map World Series which offers an array of historical maps that can support classroom topics related to historical geography separated into different subseries that include intercontinental, regional, and oceanic maps.

The archive's search tools allow for inquiries of general topics and serves as a starting point for research. More advanced filtering options offer the possibility to conduct specific searches based on date, place, language, subject, and media type among others. The site also offers a clipboard feature to pin all of the files that interest the user. The platform is available in English and French while the digitized files are in several languages, however it doesn't offer transcriptions or translations. The vast size of the archives could appear overwhelming and complex, but they offer the services of archivists to guide users, assist with searches, and troubleshoot via messaging and a live chat alternative. The availability of the entire archive for download makes the use of the primary sources ideal for presentations, hand-outs, and online sharing.

Reviewed by Luz Adriana Giraldo Mueller, George Mason University

How to Cite This Source

"The League of Nations Archive," in in World History Commons, https://worldhistorycommons.org/league-nations-archive [accessed February 20, 2024]
Thumbnail image of a meeting of the League of Nations. It shows three men sitting at the head of the table with other four men and a woman standing behind them.
“The archive offers an extensive array of primary sources that can be used in the study of global history, international relations, transnational conflict, national border creation, migration, human rights, and historical personages.”