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Reviewed by:
  • Culture and International History
  • Yale Richmond, retired U.S. Foreign Service Officer
Jessica C. E. Gienow-Hecht and Frank Schumacher . Culture and International History. New York: Berghahn Books, 2003. 304 pp. $75.

Advocates of a linkage between cultural studies and international history will find much to interest them in this book, which is based on papers given at a conference on "Culture and International Relations" at Wittenberg, Germany, in December 1999, and supplemented by essays critiquing the papers. Intended for students and scholars of international history, the book ranges from the early modern period to the present.

As Jessica C. E. Gienow-Hecht, a lecturer in the history and literature program at Harvard University and one of the book's editors, puts it in the introduction, the book [End Page 153] seeks to expand the meaning of culture "to include social affinities, comparative analysis, cultural conceptions, psychological influences, local traditions, and unspoken assumptions" (p.4). Another Harvard-based scholar, Akira Iriye, more vividly explains that the cultural approach" examines international affairs in terms of dreams, aspirations, and other manifestations of human consciousness ... and the sharing and transmitting of consciousness within and across national boundaries ... the creation and communication of memory, ideology, emotions, life styles, scholarly and artistic works, and other symbols" (p.6).

The book is divided into five parts. Part I, "Methodology," provides a methodological introduction and explores the cultural roots of foreign policy and the role of culture in international affairs. A chapter by Beata Jahn discusses the antecedents and consequences of the Spanish encounter with the Amerindian world. Part II, "Culture and the State," analyzes culture as a tool of foreign policy. Wolfram Kaiser shows how nineteenth-century world exhibitions in London (in 1851 and 1862), Paris (1867), Vienna (1873), and Philadelphia (1876) were used by governments and private organizations to present images and messages to international, as well as domestic, audiences. In a chapter entitled "Manliness and 'Realism,'" which will especially interest Americans, Fabian Hilfrich describes how notions of "masculinity" played a role in U.S. foreign policy during the annexation of the Philippines and the Vietnam War. Part III, "Cultural Transmission, Nongovernmental Organizations and Private Individuals," traces informal cultural relations among nations and peoples. In Part IV, "Comments and Criticism," several scholars comment on the preceding papers and ask where scholars should go from here. Part V, "Annotated Sources," demonstrates how students can examine primary documents from a cultural viewpoint. Extensive notes and a bibliography at the end of each of the twenty chapters will be very helpful for future researchers.

The focus of the essays is mainly on Western Europe (Germany, France, and Britain) and the United States, but the emphasis of some papers on philosophical aspects of culture and history may make tough going for some readers, especially students for whom the book has been written. More careful editing would have caught a number of typographical mistakes in essays by authors whose native language is not English, as well as a more egregious error such as "Smith-Mind Act" instead of "Smith-Mundt Act" (pp.123, 301).

Several chapters will interest scholars of the Cold War. Laura A. Belmonte discusses the role of gender and family in programs of the U.S. Information Agency during its early years. Oliver Schmidt describes the support given by U.S. philanthropic organizations to the expanding international exchange of scholars after 1945. Marc Frey, citing John Lewis Gaddis's We Now Know: Rethinking Cold War History (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), p.282, recounts how "the 'old' Cold War history emphasized interests ... what people possessed or wanted to possess ... but tended to overlook ideas—what people believed, or wanted to believe." Scott Lucas focuses on the role of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in the rise of Henry Kissinger and on the establishment, under Kissinger's direction, of Harvard's International [End Page 154] Summer Seminar. According to Lucas, CIA "support was instrumental in enhancing Kissinger's profile as a graduate student at Harvard University and, more important, introducing Kissinger to private patrons such as Nelson Rockefeller and key official [sic] in the Truman and Eisenhower administrations, including Richard Nixon" (p.258...