From an Inclusive to an Exclusive International Order: Membership of International Organisations from the 19th to the 20th Century

Ellen Ravndal

Research output: Working paper/PreprintWorking paper

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Recent scholarship in IR has increasingly focused on the “global transformation” of the 19th century. Many of the defining features of modern IR first emerged in the 19th century, among them a new group of actors – international organisations. Yet the intergovernmental organisations (IGO) of the late 19th and early 20th century were not identical to the IGOs of the post-1945 period. 19th century IGOs included semi-sovereigns and colonies as individual members alongside sovereign states, and they therefore represent “an alternative mode of international order,” a more inclusive one. By the mid-20th century, as represented by the formation of the United Nations and its confirmation of the principle of sovereign equality of all its members, this earlier inclusive order had been replaced by a more exclusive one. How did this transformation from an inclusive to an exclusive international order play out? How did the IGOs established in the 19th century with an inclusive membership policy deal with the shift to an international order based on the primacy of the sovereign state? This paper traces the changes in membership in the International Telegraph (Telecommunications) Union (ITU) and the Universal Postal Union (UPU), both among the very first IGOs of the 19th century and both still alive and well in the 21st century. The paper examines debates about membership and membership categories in these organisations and the arguments used on either side of the debate.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationLund
PublisherDepartment of Political Science, Lund University
Number of pages30
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Jun

Publication series

NameSTANCE Working Paper Series

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalization Studies)

Free keywords

  • International organisation
  • intergovernmental organisation
  • 19th century
  • 20th century
  • IGO
  • sovereign states
  • semi-sovereign states
  • colonies
  • international order
  • inclusion / exclusion
  • United Nations
  • transformation
  • International Telegraph Union
  • International Telecommunications Union
  • ITU
  • Universal Postal Union
  • UPU
  • membership


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