Dean R. P. Edwards
Volume 3, Issue 12, (Originally Published on Monday 27th May 2013)
In today’s age of seemingly unprecedented international efforts, Sydney University Professor of International History Glenda Sluga contends that the intellectual and political climate around the mid-20th century were as much, if not more, ‘an apogee of internationalism’.
Sluga orated on the history of one of internationalism’s golden ages during her insightful public lecture last Wednesday at Melbourne Law School, co-hosted by the Institute for International Law and the Humanities and the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies (SHPS).
Sluga was a graduate of the University of Melbourne, and continued her studies at Sussex University and through a number of fellowships across the world. Her most recent publication is Internationalism in the Age of Nationalism, published this year by UPenn Press.
Following a glowing introduction from SHPS Prof Marilyn Lake, Sluga delved into an hour-long narrative of the figures and ideas that dominated the optimistic postwar conversation about the future of global development, which gradually gave way to the pessimism and Realpolitik of the Cold War in the 1950s.
One such figure was the 1940s American thinker Edith Wynner, author of Searchlight on Peace Plans, who said that “the establishment of a modern, practical Federalized World Government is the Unfinished Business of [the 20th] Century”. (Sluga used slides during the presentation and noted that the capitalization was Wynner’s.) Wynner had called for a ‘self-consciously inclusive’ internationalism, which would not be a ‘diplomats’ club’ like the defunct League of Nations.
Sluga pointed out that her view was characteristic of the ‘New Deal’ mindset prevalent in the postwar years.
Sluga also highlighted the utopianesque aspirations of Australian Frank Lidgett McDougall, who contributed to plans for a postwar world government, with much of international economic and social planning organised top-down.
Throughout her lecture, Sluga emphasised the importance of understanding international history, which has become an emerging field of study in recent years.
To drive home her point, Sluga referred to a ‘knowledge awareness’ gap in the world today, with a United Nations study showing that populations in English-speaking nations rank among the least knowledgeable about international organisations.
Conversely, the Nordic nations ranked toward the top, with Jordanians the most aware, according to the study.
Dean R. P. Edwards