‘The feeling of pursuing an ideal’: a League of Nations civil servant reflects on his work

Cowan, Jane K (2020) ‘The feeling of pursuing an ideal’: a League of Nations civil servant reflects on his work. Social Anthropology, 28 (1). pp. 17-34. ISSN 0964-0282

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Three decades before the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, the international community – in its newly institutionalised guise as a League of Nations – was charged by its covenant to guarantee the rights and protections of a more limited number of people: those considered to be ‘persons belonging to minorities of race, religion or language’ in certain primarily east European states. The everyday work of ‘supervising’ the minorities treaties was carried out by newly recruited members of an entirely unprecedented genre of administration: an international civil service whose role was to support the League of Nations in all its various activities. This paper draws on unpublished interviews from 1965 and 1966, archival documents and first‐person retrospective accounts in which international civil servants describe and reflect on their work on minorities treaty supervision in the new international institution widely seen as an ‘experiment’. Focusing on the accounts of one important figure, the Spaniard Pablo de Azcárate (who served in the Administrative Commissions and Minorities Questions Section of the League of Nations Secretariat from 1922 to 1933), it explores the ethos, aspirations, frustrations and working practices of international civil servants in an institution still in formation and not yet fully bureaucratised.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Global Studies > Anthropology
Depositing User: Sharon Krummel
Date Deposited: 29 Aug 2019 14:01
Last Modified: 18 Feb 2022 02:00
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/85714

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