100 years of Chatham House: exploring the International Affairs archive

Editorial Team

In January 1919, representatives from 32 countries met at the Quai d’Orsay in Paris to settle the peace terms for the First World War. The lengthy negotiations that followed resulted in the Treaty of Versailles, which greatly influenced the course of world politics in the following decades of the twentieth century.

It was on the fringes of the Paris peace conference, at the Hotel Majestic, that the idea for a transatlantic international affairs institute was born. British historian and diplomat Lionel Curtis addressed a group of British and American conference delegates, calling for an organization whose purpose would be to foster mutual understanding of and between nations. Bodies already existed for the advancement of science, medicine and the arts. Why not, with Europe still reeling from the First World War, create one for international relations?

In 1920 this vision was realized through the founding of the British (later Royal) Institute of International Affairs, soon to become known as Chatham House, in London and in 1921 with the creation of a sister organization in New York, the Council on Foreign Relations.

100 years on, Chatham House continues to foster mutual understanding between nations through ideas, debate and rigorous, independent analysis. For much of this time International Affairs has been a central part of the institute’s publishing output, first as a record of speeches made by visiting dignitaries such as Mahatma Gandhi and former United States Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, but increasingly as a forum for policy-relevant academic research.

In a new blog series to celebrate 100 years of Chatham House, the editorial team of International Affairs will be delving into the archive to bring you the stories behind some of our most significant articles and authors. We will be highlighting heads of state, Nobel Peace Prize laureates, Olympic medallists, independence activists, the founders of international institutions and academic disciplines, and much more.

Want to find out how British observers responded to the rise of Wahhabism in the Middle East in the 1920s? Or how a French general thought his country could be defended from German invasion just before the outset of the Second World War? Or how one of the architects of post-Cold War Estonia perceived the future of Europe?

Each month in 2020 we will be presenting our top ten articles from a given decade (starting in February with the 1920s), all of which will be available to read for free. At the end of the year we will finish the series with an extended essay to consider our archive’s core lessons and clear omissions. In particular, we will be reflecting on how the journal and the discipline more broadly have evolved in terms of representation in the last century.

Exclusive bonus content will be made available to our email subscribers, with a weekly story by the team about some of the more quirky and interesting individuals.

Subscribe to our mailing list to receive these emails throughout 2020.

If you would like to see more of our recent archive then take a look at our Reading List series, where we’ve collected together articles on specific themes published in the last ten years. All twenty lists are online here.

This series is part of the wider centenary activities of Chatham House throughout 2020. To find out more, click here.

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