Course Unit Page

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

The course aims to provide the student with a better and specific understanding of the United Nations system from its foundation to our days, from a historical perspective. The focus will be on the role, activities and their development, the relational network and the influence of the political and cultural context surrounding the international organization and his specialized agencies.

Course contents

More than seventy-five years after its establishment, the United Nations remains one of the most important actors on the global scene. This relevance is due to its capacity of being a place where, not only military and political powers, but also different ideas, knowledge and expertise can find a way to dialogue and work together, with the shared interest of improving the conditions of the less developed populations.

By reconstructing the history of the United Nations, this course will explore: the peculiar context that made possible its birth, its main field of actions and interests, its organizational evolutions, the evolution of political and cultural power relations inside the organization and the whole UN system.

Lessons will be articulated around these main topics:

· Origins and institutional genealogy

· Funding ideas: key figures, continuities and transformations

· The role of cold war tensions and of the decolonization process

· Economic and social programs

· Promotion of development

· Emergency programs and refugees assistance

· Human rights and international justice

· Crossroads: reforming the UN?

The course is divided into two main parts.

The first part will focus on reconstructing the United Nations' history through the main themes identified.

The second part will be seminars with the active participation of students, discussing on selected historiographical essays regarding some of the most recent researches on the topics of the course.


Main readings for the first part of the course:

Amy L. Sayward (2017), The United Nations in International History, London: Bloomsbury Academic

Mark Mazower (2009), No Enchanted Palace. The End of Empire and the Ideological Origins of the United Nations, Princeton: Princeton University Press

An useful reference for students is Sam Daws and Thomas G. Weiss (eds. by) (2018), The Oxford Handbook on the United Nations (2nd edition), Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Further material and essays will be shared during the second part course.

Teaching methods

 Lectures and class discussion.

Office hours

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