Grant Awarded to Amherst Archives to Process Papers of Key WWII Rebuilders

Amherst College Archives & Special Collections

The National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), a unit of the National Archives reporting to the Archivist of the United States, has awarded $56,744 to Frost Library’s Archives and Special Collections to process the personal papers of three men who played key roles in the economic and political reconstruction of belligerent nations after World War II. The materials belonged to Charles R. Kades, one of the writers of the Japanese constitution; Karl Loewenstein, a legal scholar instrumental in developing a constitution and civil administration in Germany and professor in Amherst’s political science department from 1936 to 1961; and Willard L. Thorp ’20, assistant secretary of state for economic affairs under President Truman and one of the principal architects of the Marshall Plan, who taught in his alma mater’s economics department from 1927 to 1936 and also served as a trustee. The NHPRC funding will enable the library staff to arrange and describe the papers according to current professional standards and apply existing in-house procedures for processing, said Michael Kelly, head of Archives and Special Collections.“These collections are incredibly important historically and have already attracted the attention of a number of scholars, but they are largely disorganized and in need of systematic archival arrangement and description,” he explained, adding that the overarching goal of the project—which will also include vigorous promotion of the use of the collections—is to make such large and nationally significant manuscript collections related to post-World War II politics and diplomacy more available to the public and scholars. “With dramatically improved access to the Kades, Loewenstein and Thorp collections and the outreach efforts associated with them, we hope these sources will be exploited much more for teaching—above all by Amherst faculty, but also by others teaching courses throughout the Five Colleges.”

The papers complement several existing manuscript collections at Amherst, already extensively processed and heavily used: those of John J. McCloy, financier, assistant secretary of war during World War II, high commissioner of Germany after the war and member of the Class of 1916; Dwight W. Morrow, financier, senator from New Jersey, ambassador to Mexico and member of the Class of 1895; and longtime and beloved Amherst professor Henry Steele Commager, a prolific author and historian, as well as a number of other smaller collections relating to 20th-century diplomacy and government. Together they constitute a wealth of primary source material on post-World War II United States diplomatic and military history, Japanese and European history, constitutional law and international development, said Kelly. “The strength of our holdings in international politics and diplomacy has its roots in the activities of Amherst men undertaking missionary work in the 19th century,” he noted. “In the 20th century, this impulse to influence the wider world shifted from evangelism to international diplomacy, and many Amherst College graduates went on to significant careers in economics, government and foreign service as a result. Kades, Loewenstein and Thorp each had an enormous impact on many of their students, so their catalogued papers will round out our collection quite nicely.”

In addition to helping draft Japan’s postwar constitution, Kades was central to the articulation of a new role for the Japanese emperor and to redefining the Japanese military as a self-defense force. His papers include extensive correspondence regarding questions of constitutional law, as well as rare typescripts of the minutes of the Japanese Diet. Loewenstein, who fled Munich in the 1930s, also served as an assistant to the U.S. attorney general during World War II and consulted on issues of international and constitutional law. His papers detail his work to develop a postwar German constitution and civil administration under McCloy. They include a large amount of correspondence with leading U.S. and European intellectuals and government officials, personal and family correspondence, lecture notes, research materials, news clippings, typescripts, numerous diary books and an unpublished memoir in German. The Willard L. and Clarice B. Thorp Papers primarily reflect the distinguished career of Willard L. Thorp in government service, business and education. Thorp was a professor at Amherst at various times during his career and, in the 1950s and early 1960s, he co-directed Amherst’s Merrill Center for Economics, an annual summer institute for leading economists and policymakers from the United States and around the world. Records of these meetings—also available at Amherst—illuminate how American postwar intellectual, corporate and political elites interacted. Thorp left political life in the 1950s in protest against McCarthyism; materials in the collection also touch upon that chapter in American political history.