League of Nations Archives

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The League of Nations (1920-1946) was the first global international organization aiming to establish peace and cooperation and was the precursor to the United Nations.

In 2009, the League of Nations Archives were registered in UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register. The archives were recognized as a unique collection of global importance that met the criteria established by UNESCO to facilitate preservation, assist with universal access, and increase awareness worldwide for documentary heritage of international, regional and national significance.

The archives of the League of Nations are constituted by various fonds:

  • The Secretariat Fonds that comprises all the material produced or received at the headquarters of the League of Nations.
  • The Refugees Mixed Archival Group Fonds (Nansen Fonds) , which is linked to the activities of Fridtjof Nansen as League of Nations High Commissioner for Prisoners of War from 1920 and as High Commissioner for Russian Refugees from 1921.
  • The External Fonds that combines all the groups of files constituted outside the Secretariat by more or less autonomous bodies established by the League of Nations, such as the Administrative Commissions or units directly responsible to the Secretariat such as the branch offices to fulfill some administration or other obligations imposed by the Treaty of Versailles.

The archives of the League of Nations include also various collections:

  • The Bulky Enclosures collection is made up of annexes, or even parts, of certain Registry files whose size (or shape) meant that they had to be stored separately.
  • The Official Documents collection contains minutes, reports, and documents of the various League organs.
  • The League of Nations Library Map Collection holds maps from across the world acquired by the Library of the League of Nations.
  • The Photograph Collection contains photos from the time of the League.
  • The Conventions, Ratifications and other Diplomatic Instruments (League of Nations) collection mainly consists of diplomatic instruments in most cases concluded under the auspices of the League of Nations and deposited with its Secretary-General.
  • The Registry Index Cards collection contains the index cards created and used by the League’s Registry Unit which was responsible for registering correspondence and for opening files, placing material in them, and classifying and indexing them. (These index cards have become an useful research tool for the Registry files of the Secretariat collection because they allow searches to be conducted by the name of a person or institution or by subject.)

Between 2017 and 2022, the Institutional Memory Section of the UN Library & Archives Geneva realized a major five-year project to digitize the entire League of Nations archives: The Total Digital Access to the League of Nations Archives Project (LONTAD).

Since end of 2022, all the documents are completely described and available on-line.

Additional archival material

Additional resources