In This Review

The Architects of International Relations: Building a Discipline, Designing the World, 1914–1940
The Architects of International Relations: Building a Discipline, Designing the World, 1914–1940
By Jan Stöckmann
Cambridge University Press, 2022, 280 pp.

In this fascinating work of intellectual history, Stöckmann challenges the conventional origin story of the contemporary era in the study of international relations, which holds that in the 1950s, a new generation of realists seized the discipline from the grasp of older idealists. Instead, he sees the origins of today’s international relations in the tangled aftermath of World War I, when professors, politicians, journalists, activists, and philanthropists promoted research and education about war and the interdependence of countries. The book illuminates a remarkably large and sprawling transnational cast of characters, including women and internationalist thinkers outside the Anglo-American world, who were mostly not idealists but pragmatic problem solvers. Stöckmann argues that the founders of the field were “activist intellectuals” who believed that the worldwide spread of democracy would create new opportunities for citizens to debate and shape foreign policy and global institutions. Women, many of whom were teachers, journalists, and social workers, were part of this growing international community of thinkers. The Rockefeller Foundation and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace played supporting roles. Peace studies programs emerged in Europe. The League of Nations provided venues for problem-oriented internationalism to flourish. And the field was born at the intersection of academia and diplomacy.