A Tale of Two World Capitals: The Internationalisms of Pieter Eijkman and Paul Otlet

G.J. Somsen, W. van Acker*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The years before the First World War saw several proposals to establish a "World Capital" in one of Europe's smaller nations. Such proposals were transnational in at least three senses. They aimed to bring all international organizations and movements together; they hinged on international support; and they planned to concentrate all transnational traffic in one centre. At the same time, these grand projects often had nationalist intentions too, trying to advance their home country into a stronger international position. In this article we analyse the relationship between transnational and national dimensions by looking at two elaborate plans: the "World Capital", proposed by the Dutch physician Pieter Eijkman (1862-1914) to be built near The Hague; and the "Cite mondiale" which the Belgian bibliographer and internationalist Paul Otlet (1868-1944) wanted to establish near Brussels. By comparing both projects and their mutual competition, we probe the combination of transnational and national ideology and opportunism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1389-1409
Number of pages21
JournalRevue belge de philologie et d'histoire / Belgisch tijdschrift voor filologie en geschiedenis
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2012


  • Paul Otlet
  • Pieter Eijkman
  • Utopia
  • internationalism
  • world capital

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