Friday, February 23, 2007

Online Collection Presents Oral Histories of U.S. Diplomats

From a press release at

February 21, 2007

Online Collection Presents Oral Histories of U.S. Diplomats

Includes Interviews with Z. Brzezinski, J. Child, L. Eagleburger, J. Kirkpatrick, C.B. Luce, D. MacArthur II, A. Harriman, D. Rusk, C. Vance, M.P. Wolcott

On Feb. 21, a new online collection of interviews with some of the most prominent diplomats of the 20th century will be available from the Library of Congress at

"Frontline Diplomacy: The Foreign Affairs Oral History Collection of the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training" presents a window into the lives of American diplomats. Transcripts of interviews with U.S. diplomatic personnel capture their experiences, motivations, critiques, personal analyses and private thoughts. These elements are crucial to understanding the full story of the creation of a structure of stable relationships that maintained world peace and protected U.S. interests and values.

Most of the interviews in the collection come from foreign service officers, but there also are some with political appointees and other officials. While some 1920s-, 1930s-, and World War II-era diplomacy is covered, most of the interviews involve post-World War II diplomacy, from the late 1940s to the 1990s.

This collection captures the post-World War II period in vivid terms and intimate detail, documenting the way U.S. diplomacy defended the United States and its interests in a challenging world. The narratives span the major diplomatic crises and issues that faced the United States during the second half of the 20th century and, as new interviews are added, will include developments in the 21st century. The 1,301 transcripts of oral history interviews were donated by the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training, a private, nonprofit organization.

The collection contains stories about American involvement in the city of Berlin, beginning with the 1948 airlift and the erection of the Berlin Wall in 1962, including interviews from those who were present when John Kennedy said, "Ich bin ein Berliner" and when Ronald Reagan said, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" There are also recollections from the American ambassador to East Germany (Richard Clark Barkley) at the time when the Berlin Wall was dismantled in 1989.

The collection holds other personal accounts, including those of Robert Dillon, whose embassy in Beirut was attacked by Islamic extremists in 1983, and Prudence Bushnell, whose embassy in Nairobi was blown up by Al Qaeda in 1998.

There are accounts of U.S. dealings with the Nationalist government of Chiang Kai-shek during World War II, and the government’s relocation to Taiwan in 1949. When the communist Chinese forces seized control on the mainland, the United States attempted to keep some of its consulates open, but the consulates’ staffs were effectively held captive until all were pulled out.

Included are oral histories from individuals who accompanied Henry Kissinger on his historic trip to Beijing in 1971. The collection also holds the tale of the son of American missionaries in China who, as a teenager during World War II, joined Chinese guerrillas to fight the Japanese and many years later returned as U.S. ambassador to Beijing (Arthur W. Hummel Jr.)

Allan Wendt tells what it was like to be the unarmed duty officer in the embassy building when the Viet Cong attacked it in 1968 during the Tet Offensive.

The collection includes extensive personal recollections from luminaries of American 20th century diplomatic history, including Alfred "Roy" Atherton (ambassador to Egypt), Zbigniew Brzezinski (national security adviser under President Carter), Frank Carlucci (ambassador to Portugal under Presidents Nixon and Ford; also served as secretary of defense under President Reagan), Julia Child (spouse of foreign service officer Paul Cushing Child), Lawrence Eagleburger (secretary of state under President George H.W. Bush), Averell Harriman (ambassador to the Soviet Union and England under President Franklin Roosevelt), Jeane Kirkpatrick (ambassador to the United Nations), Winston Lord (played a critical role in opening relations with China under President Nixon), Clare Boothe Luce (ambassador to Italy under President Eisenhower), Douglas MacArthur II (nephew of Gen. Douglas MacArthur and ambassador to Japan, Belgium, Austria and Iran), Charles H. Percy (senator from Illinois), Rozanne Ridgway (ambassador to Finland and East Germany), Dean Rusk (secretary of state under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson), John S. Service (foreign service officer specializing in China before World War II), Cyrus Vance (secretary of state under President Carter) and Marion Post Wolcott (photographer, married to USAID official Lee Wolcott).

The Library of Congress is the largest library in the world, with more than 134 million items in its collections. "Frontline Diplomacy: The Foreign Affairs Oral History Collection of the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training" is one of more than 135 thematic presentations available from the American Memory Web site of more than 11 million items at These presentations range from the papers of U.S. presidents, Civil War photographs and early films of Thomas Edison to papers documenting the women’s suffrage and civil rights movements, Jazz Age photographs and the first baseball cards. The materials are drawn from the collections of the Library of Congress and other major repositories.

The Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training is an independent, nonprofit organization founded in 1986. It advances knowledge of U.S. diplomacy and supports training of personnel at the State Department’s George P. Shultz National Foreign Affairs Training Center in Arlington, Va. ADST’s activities include programs in diplomatic oral history, book publication, exhibits, research and training of student interns. It also sponsors the U.S. Web site. For more information about ADST, see

Thursday, February 22, 2007

History of Lithuania

History of Lithuania. This is a brief history to the Baltic nation of Lithuania. It has recently emerged from the corpse of the Soviet Union but it has a long history as an independent state.

The Encyclopædia Britannica notes, "Officially Republic of Lithuania , Lithuanian Lietuva , or Lietuvos Respublika country of northeastern Europe, the southernmost and largest of the three Baltic states. It is bounded on the north by Latvia, on the east and south by Belarus, on the southwest by an exclave of Russia and by Poland, and on the west by the Baltic Sea. The capital is Vilnius."

From the site:

The first written mention of Lithuania occurs in 1009 AD, although many centuries earlier the Roman historian Tacitus referred to the Lithuanians as excellent farmers. Spurred by the expansion into the Baltic lands of the Germanic monastic military orders (the Order of the Knights of the Sword and the Teutonic Order) Duke Mindaugas united the lands inhabited by the Lithuanians, the Samogitians, Yotvingians, and Couranians into the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (GDL) in the 1230s-40s. In 1251 Mindaugas adopted Catholicism and was crowned King of Lithuania on July 6, 1253; a decade later, civil war erupted upon his assassination until a ruler named Vytenis defeated the Teutonic Knights and restored order.

From 1316 to 1341 Vytenis' brother and successor, Grand Duke Gediminas, expanded the empire as far as Kiev against the Tatars and Russians. He twice attempted to adopt Christianity in order to end the GDL's political and cultural isolation from western Europe. To that purpose, he invited knights, merchants, and artisans to settle in Lithuania and wrote letters to Pope John XXII and European cities maintaining that the Teutonic Order's purpose was to conquer lands rather than spread Christianity. Gediminas' dynasty ruled the GDL until 1572. In the 1300s through the early 1400s, the Lithuanian state expanded eastward. During the rule of Grand Duke Algirdas (1345-77), Lithuania almost doubled in size. The 1385 Kreva Union signed by the Grand Duke of Lithuania Jogaila (ruled in 1377-81 and 1382-92) and the Queen of Poland Jadwyga intensified Lithuania's economic and cultural development, orienting it toward the West.

Lithuania's independence under the union with Poland was restored by Grand Duke Vytautas. During his rule (1392-1430) the GDL turned into one of the largest states in Europe, encompassing present-day Belarus, most of Ukraine, and the Smolensk region of western Russia. Led by Jogaila and Vytautas, the united Polish-Lithuanian army defeated the Teutonic Order in the Battle of Tannenberg (Grunewald or Zalgiris) in 1410, terminating the medieval Germanic drive eastward.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Q&A: Horn's bitter border war

Q&A: Horn's bitter border war. This article examines the main issues behind the 1998-2000 border conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea, the problem of determining a boundary between the nations after the Algiers peace settlement, and the role of U.N. peacekeepers.

The end of the millenium war between Eithiopia and Eritrea offically ended. However, tensions are still high. The two sides are currently at odds over the Ethiopian intervention in the Somalian Civil War. Hopefully, these two neighbors will stay at peace.

From the site:

The border between Ethiopia and Eritrea has been described as a geographer's nightmare.

Dusty Badme was at the centre of the border dispute It is a nightmare which became a reality as soon as the neighbours' once-friendly relationship turned sour.

From 1962 to 1993, Eritrea was ruled as a province of Ethiopia - and any argument over the borders was little more than a squabble between two local authorities.

So when Eritrea and Ethiopia separated amicably in 1993, no one paid too much attention to the details of the divorce settlement - least of all to a few hundred square kilometres of sparsely populated land in a region called Badme which included a small dusty town of the same name.

But when relations between the two neighbours deteriorated, Ethiopia accused Eritrea of invading a piece of land that was under Ethiopian administration.

The Eritreans replied that the land in question was rightfully theirs.

The result was a war fought on three fronts at the cost of tens of thousands of lives.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Dead Fred's Genealogy Photo Archive

I have not covered genealogy much in this blog. It is not a part of history that interests me a whole lot. However, I found Dead Fred's Genealogy Photo Archive to be a fun and useful site so I thought I should write about it here.

Dead Fred's is a searchable database for genealogy enthusiasts looking for long-lost family contains thousands of identified and mystery orphan photos from the 19th and 20th centuries. It allows users to contribute photos and the site is easy to search.

From the site:

Trace your roots for FREE with our searchable database containing thousands of identified and mystery photos for genealogy enthusiasts looking for long-lost family. Anyone who finds a photo of a direct ancestor that is owned by the archive will receive the photo for free.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Was Cleopatra Ugly?

I have heard or read this question asked many times. Was Cleopatra ugly? Joan Smith of the Hamilton Spectator writes about this in A myth that proves men prefer beauty to brains.

She wrote, "Even Sarah Bernhardt, gamely playing Cleopatra on stage into her 70s, was more likely exposing her own self-delusions than acknowledging that this great figure from history was no raving beauty, as archaeologists from Newcastle University have just pointed out. This week, they put on show a silver denarius, pictured above, coined in Mark Antony's own mint to mark his victories in 32 BC, which could hardly be less flattering to the celebrated queen."

After comparing popular culture images of Cleopatra to history, Smith continued, "Anyway, it's clear that whoever wrote this week's excited headlines about the Newcastle denarius -- brought to Britain, presumably, by a Roman soldier -- was unaware of other coins bearing Cleopatra's image, of which there is at least one in the British Museum. That coin gives the queen equally masculine features, including heavy brows, a sharp chin and a beaky nose."

Smith and others writing on this topic are making a simple mistake on Cleopatra. They are using 20th and 21st century notions of beauty and applying them to the world of 2100 years ago. Has not what is beautiful for a woman changed over time and varied by culture? Was it possible that Cleopatra was indeed beautiful by the standards of her age or her culture?

Mark Anthony and Julius Caesar were very powerful men in the late stages of the Roman Republic. They both had access to many women both slave and free. Would both have become determined lovers of Cleopatra if she had been ugly? Maybe she was rich and powerful but I do not think that that alone would have snared both Roman men. She must have been beautiful for her time or I doubt either man would have spent so much time with her.