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Building a Global Representation of Trade through International Quantification: the League of Nations’ Unification of Methods in Economic Statistics


Abstract: This article analyses the international program Unification of methods in economic statistics of the League of Nations (LoN), especially as regards trade. It is focused on the cooperation process, studied through records of national contributions. This technical cooperation, involving cross-country interaction and learning, may be seen as an aspect of renewal of global governance. Our approach is grounded in the history and sociology of quantification, adapting its primarily state-centred framework to a treatment of intergovernmental organisations (IO). The Unification program was one of the first proposals for international standardisation of national statistics to effectively win official and detailed commitments from a significant number of countries. It involved discussion, amendment and gradual alignment of statistical standards, rapidly facilitating the League’s sustained publication of comparative data. The ‘mise en discipline’ implicit to the process both grew out of, and helped establish, a common view of free and multilateral trade principles. The willingness of ‘new’ and/or ‘small’ countries to adopt the Unification program is also noteworthy. They contributed in particular to strengthening the LoN’s global initiatives on economic issues.


Publication Information

The International History Review
Published on line: 29/05/2019
24 pages