At its meeting in April 1990 at the University of Cambridge, the Executive Committee of the International Mathematical Union (IMU) decided that the largely unorganized archives of the Union should be properly arranged and catalogued. Simultaneously, the Executive Committee expressed the wish that a history of the Union should be written [1). As Secretary of the Union, I had proposed that these issues be dis- cussed at the Cambridge meeting, but without having had in mind any personal role in the practical execution of such projects. At that time, the papers of the IMU were stored in Zurich, at the Eidgenossische Technische Hochschule, and I saw no reason why they could not remain there. At about this time, Professor K. Chandrasekharan produced a handwritten article titled "e;The Prehistory of the International Mathematical Union"e; [2), and it seemed to me that this might serve as the beginning of a more compre- hensive history. I had first thought that Tuulikki MakeUiinen, who during eight years as the Office Secretary ofthe IMU had become well acquainted with the Union, would do the arranging of the archives in Zurich. She had a preliminary look at the material there, but it soon became clear that the amount of work required to bring order to it was too great to be accomplished in a few short visits from Helsinki. The total volume of material was formidable.