Routes of Knowledge: The Global History of UNESCO, 1945-75

Project Details


In the era of globalization, there is a need for research which explains the cause and the importance of transnational phenomena that affect people’s lives. International organizations are obvious objects of analysis in order to achieve a deeper understanding of some of the more prominent and organized transnational issues characterizing the 20th century, because they are specific places where people meet beyond national borders and exchange knowledge.

An organization that has attracted much attention in recent years is the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization – UNESCO. The organization’s initial mission was to ensure peace and security by carrying out a considerable amount of mental engineering in the shadow of the aggression of World War II. As stated in the Preamble to its Constitution: “Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed”.

Historians have uncovered the roots of many of the soft power initiatives launched to construct sincere solidarity between people, but we still know very little about their impact. The overall objectives of the suggested research project is thus to trace their routes from the center to the periphery – from UNESCO’s headquarters in Paris to the member states – to assess UNESCO’s exact impact on the mindsets of the first generation after World War II (1945-75) and to get an impression of the way in which globalization works in practice.

The project will thus be based upon the following research questions:

1. Intervention: How were ideas and initiatives transmitted in practice from the UNESCO headquarters in Paris to the member states? How did the UNESCO-related national institutions work in practice, and what distribution channels did they have with regard to the populations?

2. Impact: Were UNESCO’s initiatives equally implemented in all member states? What explains country-specific priorities? How were initiatives made acceptable to the different populations? What effect did the implementation of UNESCO’s specific initiatives have on changing people’s mindsets? And where this cannot be unambiguously determined: Was knowledge transferred, domesticated and made available for the construction of “peace in the minds of men”?

The project is sponsored by the Danish Research Council for Independent Research as part of its research career program Sapere Aude – with an amount of 6.8 million DKK, equal to 1.2 million US Dollar.

The project is hosted by the Department of Culture and Global Studies at Aalborg University, Denmark. It will run from 1 July 2013 - 1 august 2017.
Effective start/end date01/07/201301/08/2017


  • 1 Conference presentations

Academic Council on The United Nations System

Ivan Lind Christensen (Speaker)
19 Jun 2016

Activity: Talks and presentationsConference presentations


Sapere Aude: DFF-forskningsleder

Duedahl, Poul (Recipient), 1 Jul 2013

Prize: Other prizes

Research Output

  • 1 Journal article
  • 1 Conference article in Journal

Internationale organisationers virkningshistorie: Teoretiske og metodiske overvejelser

Lind Christensen, I. & Ydesen, C., 2015, In : TEMP - tidsskrift for historie. 10, p. 16-33 17 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

Routes of Knowledge: Toward a methodological framework for tracing the historical impact of international organizations

Lind Christensen, I. & Ydesen, C., 3 Sep 2015, In : European Education. 47, 3, p. 274-288 15 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalConference article in JournalResearchpeer-review