Historians’ Colloquium 1-2 February 2024

The Universal Postal Union (UPU) celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2024. On this historic occasion, the UPU will host its first-ever international academic colloquium, welcoming 40 academics and historians as well as philatelists from over 16 countries around the globe.

Since its foundation, the UPU has aimed to establish a worldwide ‘single postal territory’ as described in Article 1 of the Convention signed at Berne in 1874. 

“The countries between which this treaty is concluded shall form, under the designation General Postal Union, a single postal territory for the reciprocal exchange of correspondence between their post offices.” from, Documents of the International Postal Congress held in Berne from 15 September to 9 October 1874. Berne, UPU International Bureau, 1944 reprint, 165 pages (excluding annexes), p. 139 [French version]

The UPU’s development merits the close attention of historians, as postal networks have played a central role from the 19th century to the present, continually evolving in the 20th and 21st centuries and throughout the emergence of e-commerce. Research on the economic, social, cultural and thus political impacts of postal networks remain massive. At this first-ever scholarly gathering, the UPU will emerge from the academic shadows to promote knowledge and foster exchanges and mutual enrichment among historians. 

From the co-organisers:

“The Universal Postal Union is the second-oldest international organisation. Its mission has not changed since it was founded 150 years ago: to create a common framework between member states so that mail, parcels and other postal services can connect people everywhere on Earth.

This ambitious mission is no simple matter. It involves, among other things, agreeing on the distribution of costs and revenues, integrating technical innovations, overcoming war and coping with competition from new operators. All this will be discussed at this pioneering colloquium, the first of its kind since 1874!”

Léonard LABORIE, CNRS, UMR Sirice, France

“For the first time in 150 years, the Universal Postal Union is hosting a historical colloquium! Researchers from almost every continent will make fresh, original contributions on many of the UPU’s constituent dimensions.

The audience will join us with fruitful discussions on the political and diplomatic factors affecting postal service, from the imperialism of the late 19th century to decolonisation in the post-1945 era and the challenges of postal globalisation and trade. Other topics to be addressed include postal materiality and the UPU’s influence on the emergence of new services and their organisation among operators worldwide.”
Sébastien RICHEZ, Comité pour l’histoire de La Poste (CHP), Groupe La Poste, France

More information can be found in the programme.

Participation in this event is by invitation only.  The historians colloquium can be seen live on