Columbia professor Susan Pedersen wins prize for history of the League of Nations

Historians in the News
tags: Columbia, Susan Pedersen, League of Nations



The League of Nations is old news, but with a new book re-examining its legacy, Columbia professor Susan Pedersen is reigniting interest in the defunct organization.

Pedersen, who teaches in the history department, won the Cundill Prize in Historical Literature for her book “The Guardians: The League of Nations and the Crisis of Empire” earlier this month. The $75,000 prize was awarded for a “riveting work of global history that tells the story of the League of Nations.”

Founded in 1919 and lasting only about 20 years until the start of World War II, the League has long been buried in archives as a failed precursor to the United Nations.

“People remember the League primarily as a security system that didn’t work,” Pedersen said. “We remember that, and that makes sense. What I find very interesting, and why it’s coming back as a focus of research now, is that … it also managed the territorial settlement that came out of the First World War.”

These territorial settlements were almost all previously owned by Germany or the Ottoman Empire and relinquished after the end of WWI. In total, the mandate system oversaw 14 countries that spanned from African territories such as Namibia and Burundi, to Iraq in the Middle East, to Nauru and other Pacific Islands. ...




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