Transnational endeavours and the 'totality of knowledge': Paul Otlet and Henri La Fontaine as 'integral internationalists' in fin-de-siècle Europe

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Abstract

This book chapter considers internationalism as a phenomenon in which scientific, cultural and political efforts converged. Focusing on the period between the 1880s and 1914, it presents a case study of two protagonists from Belgium, Henri La Fontaine (1854–1943) and Paul Otlet (1868–1944). The two collaborated on various projects in Brussels, for instance by co-founding the International Institute of Bibliography (1895) and the Union of International Associations (1910). The chapter shows how Otlet and La Fontaine's views on classification and knowledge organisation informed their thinking on international relations, and it thus sheds light on the 'integral' nature of their ambitions. To underline this point, the essay presents several examples: it discusses the interactions between the International Institute of Bibliography and the Royal Society of London, illustrating the Brussels institute's more comprehensive ambitions. With regard to culture and politics, the chapter stresses the considerable scope of La Fontaine's activism, from his involvement in Wagnerian musical circles to his leading role in European pacifism. As a tangible expression of such ambitions, La Fontaine and Otlet sought to create specific spaces and institutions to organise all aspects of international life, as highlighted by their schemes for an 'international centre' or a world capital city.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInternationalism and the Arts in Britain and Europe at the Fin de Siècle
EditorsGrace Brockington
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherPeter Lang
Pages247-271
ISBN (Print)9783039111282
Publication statusPublished - 2009

Publication series

NameCultural Interactions: Studies in the Relationship Between the Arts
PublisherPeter Lang

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