When I accepted the invitation to write an essay on the ILO I knew that it could invoke a wide variety of responses. The ILO has a rich past, marked by numerous conflicts. It is an organization that has been and still is active on all continents, under widely different political circumstances. And it has to incorporate the contradictory interests of employers, workers, and states. Unavoidably, its successes and failures are therefore topics of ever-new controversies. Furthermore, historical research is still at a rather early stage, although the number of good studies has been growing in recent years. The archival materials are overwhelming; ILO’s headquarters in Geneva alone keep more than seven thousand linear meters of occupied shelving. In addition there are many relevant archives at other locations in several continents. Besides, the ILO Century Project—a wonderful undertaking initiated by Gerry...

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