In the realm of international economic statistics, the League of Nations is usually characterized as a pioneering and path-breaking institution. However, until recently scholars have not explained what exactly this means and how and why the institution gained this position. In a recently published book, I address these questions by contextualizing the League within the much longer history of international (economic) statistics from the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth centuries. I also put the League in the wider context of other national and international institutions, organizations and networks (including the ISI and the RSS) to evaluate its relevance. I argue that the League was crucial in establishing a new form of international economic statistics that differed in a number of ways from an older form and which I call ‘world economic statistics’ (Weltwirtschaftsstatistik in German). It helped to establish infrastructures and concepts that are still the basis of our understanding of global economic structures and processes. Without them, the Great Depression probably would have developed differently (because it would not have been as visible as it actually was), the emergence of international economic governance institutions in the 1940s would have been impossible and the notion of a single ‘world economy’ would not have been plausible. In a nutshell, regarding international economic statistics, it was the 1920s when the present began. In my talk, I would outline the main hypotheses and findings of my book with a special focus on the reasons why the League could gain its special position.
Dr Martin Bemmann, University of Freiburg