International Organization

Research Article

Intergovernmental Organization in the Global System, 1815–1964:A Quantitative Description

Michael Wallace and J. David Singer

In any field of scholarly inquiry it is recognized that we must describe before we can hope toexplain. That is, we cannot account for the incidence of a certain class of events or conditions until we have identified and described those particular phenomena. If we agree that the current state of theory in the field of international organization leaves much to be desired, this fact may be partly due to our violation of this principle. Whether we deal with all international organizations over a lengthy period of time or a smaller subset based on such inclusion criteria as function or time period and whether we treat such organizations as the dependent, intervening, or independent variable, it is essential that we first acquire the data by which such organizations can be described. The major purpose of this article is to report the results of a first systematic effort to generate this data, so that we may move on in a cumulative fashion toward the empirical testing of propositions, models, or theories in which international organization is a major variable.


Michael Wallace is assistant professor of political science at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. J. DAVID SINGER is professor of political science at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan. The basic data for this study was collected in Geneva while the authors were, respectively, a Canada Council fellow and a Carnegie Endowment visiting scholar. They are particularly indebted to John Goormaghtigh and his staff in rue Moillebeau for their hospitality and support and to the librarians at the Palais des Nations for their patient assistance. They would also like to acknowledge die key roles played by Joan Jensen, James Connolly, and David Handley in data acquisition and Urs Luterbacher and Larry Arnold in the computations and analyses of the data.