Listen to a BBC Radio 4 broadcast about the founding of the League of Nations in 1919 (the forerunner of the United Nations) which offered a vision of peaceful world government and collaboration. History of course didn’t turn out that way, and the fate of the League of Nations is often seen as symbolic of the dream of world government, fragile, utopian, and ultimately doomed to collapse in the face of resurgent and aggressive nationalism.
But the dream of world government is surprisingly stubborn. In one form or another, battered and bruised, it underlies every transnational political body which has followed, from the Red Cross, to the UN itself. It holds out a vision of political authority which crosses borders, and which dares to dream that universal values can sustain in the face of local angers, anxieties and chauvinisms.
In this archive hour the former Foreign Secretary David Milliband looks at the history of world government over the last century, with its successes and its failures.
Historical Advisor Patricia Clavin Professor of International History Jesus College University of Oxford.