Historians' Colloquium - Celebrating UPU's 150th anniversary

The UPU will launch its 150th anniversary celebrations in close partnership with La Poste Groupe, La Poste Historical Committee (CHP) and SIRICE laboratory by delving into the rich history of postal services and the UPU through a historical colloquium. The Colloquium will welcome 40 historians, academics and philatelists from over 16 countries under the theme "Achieving 'a single postal territory': A global promise – Past and present". It will serve as an important platform for discussion and an opportunity to build stronger connections between academic historians – a valuable group of stakeholders within the postal sector.

Watch the colloquium video from here.


Thursday, 1 February to Friday, 2 February 2024
International Bureau

Full event recording is available here.

The colloquium is composed of eight sub-themes and will be held under six different sessions and two parallel workshops. The themes here will explore how the UPU has supported and accompanied postal services to become key components of international communication, business and development over the last century and a half.

During the Colloquium, the UPU will host a unique, once-in-a-lifetime philatelic experience featuring various exhibitions, displaying all stamps issued by postal operators in commemoration of the UPU's 75th,100th and 125th anniversaries, as well as the UPU's collection of about 8,000 inaugural stamp issues since 1840.

A patrimonial collection of art and philatelic pieces, including audio and videos dating back to 1947, will also be on display.

The event is by invitation only and will be streamed live on UPU TV (tv.upu.int) for the general public. For any queries regarding the colloquium and other campaigns and events related to the UPU's 150th anniversary, please contact UPU150[@]upu.int.

Programme (See Detailed Programme)

Day 1 – Thursday, 1 February 2024

9.00–9.30    Opening ceremony

Masahiko Metoki, Director General of the UPU International Bureau
Philippe Wahl, Chair and CEO of La Poste Group
Scientific introduction: Laborie, Léonard (CNRS, UMR SIRICE, France)

9.30–11.00    Session 1 – Pre-1874: global traffic and postal reforms

Chair: Griset, Pascal (Sorbonne University, UMR SIRICE, France)

Moreno-Cabanillas, Rocío (Universidad de Sevilla, Spain) presenting remotely
Governance and power in the transatlantic postal system: the organization of the postal service in the Spanish Empire in the 18th century

Muller, Charli (New York University, United States of America)​
The capitalist and colonial logics of Rowland Hill’s postal reforms: terra nullius, uniform pricing, and “conveyance at the lowest rate”

Goldfeder, Pérola (Ouro Preto Federal University and Minas Gerais State University, Brazil)
The throne and the world: from bilateral postal treaties to Brazil’s entry into the Universal Postal Union (1810–1877) 

Avaria, Diego (Universal Postal Union, Switzerland)
The Universal Postal Union: a pioneer and template for multilateralism

Open Q&A and discussion (20 min)

11.00–11.15    Coffee break 

11.15–12.15    Session 2 – The foundation of the UPU as a global organization. Strengthening or fighting back (informal) imperialism in the 19th century?

Chair: Kott, Sandrine (Université de Genève, Switzerland)

Crevato-Selvaggi, Bruno (Istituto di studi storici postali “Aldo Cecchi”, Prato, Italy)
European post offices abroad: the UPU between Ottoman complaints and power politics

Yaman, Mehmet Şükrü (Academic researcher in the postal industry, Türkiye) 
The hidden parts of historic relations: the founding of the Universal Postal Union and Türkiye’s membership 

Honda, Ririko (Keio University, Japan/ University of Berne, Switzerland)
Struggles with globalisation: the integration of Japan into the UPU in the late 19th century

Open Q&A and discussion (15 min)

12.15–13.45    Lunch break 

13.45–14.30   Session 2 (cont.) – The foundation of the UPU as a global organization. Strengthening or fighting back (infor-mal) imperialism in the 19th century?

Chair: Giuntini, Andrea (Università degli studi di Modena e Reggio Emilia, Italy)

Harris, J. Lane (Furman University, United States of America)
“The comity of nations”: the Chinese Post Office, the Universal Postal Union, and the abolition of “alien post offices”, 1843–1923

Avrillas, Camille (Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, France)
Between a desire for cooperation and imperial rivalry: the German, Indo-British and French post offices in Zanzibar (1875–1904)

Open Q&A and discussion (15 min)

Parallel workshops

14.30–15.30    Workshop 1 – The UPU’s past: what comes next? Sources and methodologies

Chair: Le Roux, Muriel (IHMC/CNRS/ENS, France)

Batzeli, Anna, and Davis, Luke (Archives Portal Europe)
The traces left behind: an appraisal of the archival heritage of the Universal Postal Union in the European archives

Reinalda, Bob (Radboud University, Nijmegen, Netherlands) 
The Directors(-General) of the Universal Postal Union 1874-2024

14.30–15.30    Workshop 2 – Philately in historical perspective

Chair: Combes, Benjamin (Universal Postal Union, Switzerland)

Drolet, Yves (Académie québécoise d’études philatéliques, Canada) presenting remotely
Philatelists: witnesses and agents of the first globalization (1860-1914) 

Libera, Maria (former UPU staff member, Worldwide Philatelic Observatory, Progress Market Research, Tunisia)  presenting remotely
Safeguarding the added value of the postage stamp within UPU’s “single postal territory” 

Spoelder, Yorim (Freie Universität Berlin, German/ University College London)
Beyond philately: stamps and the iconography of globalization

15.30–15.45    Coffee break

15.45–16.45    Session 3 – The transnational making of national postal services

Chair: Godelier, Éric (École Polytechnique, Université Paris-Saclay, France)

John, Richard R. (Columbia University, United States of America)
How the Universal Postal Union shaped postal policy in the United States, 1874–1913

Kochersperger, Stephen A. (United States Postal Service, United States of America) presenting remotely
Transnational influence on the Development of United States Parcel Post

Farkas, Mónica (Universidad de Buenos Aires, Argentina/ Universidad de la República, Uruguay) presenting remotely
Postal universalization: transformation of the space and time imaginaries in the second half of the 19th century in Argentina

Open Q&A and discussion (15 min)

16.45–18.00    Session 4 – Postal politics

Chair: Gillabert, Matthieu (Université de Fribourg, Switzerland)

Baines, Gary (Rhodes University, South Africa)
Decolonization and postal politics: the UPU and sanctions against secessionist states and illegal regimes in sub-Saharan Africa, c.1961–1980

Sato, Hideki (Kanazawa University, Japan/ The London School of Economics and Political Science) 
Macro-, micro- and long-term perspectives to the UPU: the three dimensions for international harmonisation

Morales, Etienne (Université Sorbonne Nouvelle – Paris 3, UMR CREDA, France) 
Airmail in revolutionary Cuba: between embargo and bypass routes (1960s and 1970s) 

Venugopal, Rajeev (Canada Post Corporation, Canada) presenting remotely
Delivering Diplomacy: The Universal Postal Union's Role in a Post- Westphalian Global Order

Open Q&A and discussion (15 min)

18.00-18.15   Commemorative stamp ceremony 


18.15-20.15   Reception

Exhibition: Beyond 150 years of philatelic history


Day 2 – Friday, 2 February 2024

9.00–10.30    Session 5 – ​Regionalizing postal cooperation – why and how?

Chair: Berth, Christiane (University of Graz, Austria)

Godeffroy, Gabriel (Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, France, and Hildesheim University, Germany)
The Central European postal union: debates around world postal unification following the collapse of Austria-Hungary (1918–1929)

Proschmann, Sabrina (Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf, Germany)
A replacement for the Universal Postal Union? The European Postal and Telecommunications Union of 1942 and its relations to the UPU

Vardabasso, Valentina (Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, France) 
Origins of the European Postal Union: the 1946 Franco-Italian postal agreement

Hadhri, Mohieddine (Université de Tunis, Tunisia) presenting remotely
The Arab Postal Union, three quarters of a century on from its foundation in 1952. Overview of a specialized Arab organization and its cooperative relationship with the Universal Postal Union

Open Q&A and discussion (20 min)

10.30–10.45    Coffee break

10.45–12.15    Session 6 – ​The UPU material world: on stamps, envelopes and electronic mail

Chairs: Sund, Kristian (Roskilde University, Denmark), and Anson, José (Universal Postal Union, Switzerland)

Piazza, Daniel A. (Smithsonian Institution, National Postal Museum, Washington, D.C., United States of America) presenting remotely
UPU specimen stamps and the world’s postal museums: an accidental history

Richez, Sébastien (Comité pour l’histoire de La Poste (CHP), Groupe La Poste, France)
The UPU and the standardization of the envelope in the 1960s: towards a universal language of mail

Franke, Christian (Universität Siegen, Germany)
“Nothing can replace the Post” – electronic mail and the UPU in the 1980s

Open Q&A and discussion (20 min)

12.15–13.00    Scientific conclusions

Le Roux, Muriel (IHMC/CNRS/ENS, France)
Laborie, Léonard (CNRS, UMR SIRICE, France)

Closing ceremony