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UNESCO and the (One) World of Julian Huxley

From: Journal of World History
Volume 21, Number 3, September 2010
pp. 393-418 | 10.1353/jwh.2010.0016



This article investigates the idea of cosmopolitanism associated with internationalism and the origins of UNESCO at the end of World War II. In the first few years of UNESCO's operation, delegates and functionaries portrayed "world citizenship" as the path to permanent world peace and as a necessary step in the evolution of human society from tribes to nations, from national consciousness to "one world." A key figure in that history was Julian Huxley, UNESCO's first director-general. This article argues that Huxley's conception of cosmopolitan internationalism provides an important link between the history of postwar international organizations and a long nineteenth-century vision of historical and political progress and of imperial policies and practices.