'Flexible Engagement’: The League of Nations and its Non-Members

Keywords – League of Nations, world organisation, international cooperation, peace and security, universality 

Leonard Raven-Hill cartoon The Gap in the Bridge. Cartoon about the absence of the USA from the League of Nations, depicted as the missing keystone of the arch. The cigar also symbolizes America (Uncle sam) enjoying its wealth

Project Summary – The research project analyses how States that choose not to be members of an international organisation can nevertheless be engaged in the organisation’s work. It approaches this general question (which is of renewed relevance today, especially in post-Brexit UK) through an historical analysis of States that remained outside the first ‘world organisation’ (the League of Nations), but that nevertheless participated in many of the League’s lesser-known activities (e.g. in global health, refugee protection, scientific cooperation).

Drawing on the historical experience, the project will identify forms of ‘flexible engagement’ that allow skeptical States to contribute meaningfully to international cooperation below the level of formal membership.

Project Team  – The research student will conduct research at the University of Glasgow and will be supervised by Professors Christian J. Tams and Peter Jackson. 

Professor Christian J. Tams holds the Chair in International Law at the University of Glasgow (School of Law) and directs the Research Group on International Law, Conflict and Security. He is a generalist international lawyer who has written widely on membership in international organisations and the League of Nations. In 2014/15, he put together – in cooperation with FutureLearn and the BBC – a massive open online course (MOOC) on the Paris Peace Conference of 1919; which attracted circa 18,000 subscribers.

Professor Peter Jackson holds the Chair in Global Security at the University of Glasgow (School  of Humanities). He has published widely on intelligence, security and foreign policy issues from both contemporary and historical perspectives. His Beyond the Balance of Power (Cambridge, 2013) analyses the tension between traditional practices of power politics and internationalist doctrines.

PhD candidate - Saskia Millmann