In 1899, twenty-five-year-old Herbert Hoover and his wife, Lou Henry, were living in Tientsin, China, where he was the comanager of the Kaiping mines. It was there that Hoover first began to study Chinese language and history. In 1907 Hoover helped Stanford University historian Payson Treat buy books about China, especially its history, and in 1913 Hoover donated six hundred such books, some very rare, to Stanford University. In 1919 Hoover’s interest in foreign affairs inspired him to establish the Hoover Institution Library and Archives. After World War II with luck and good timing, Chinese and non-Chinese public servants, military officers, engineers, journalists, scholars, and the like began donating their private papers and other materials to the Hoover Institution, where they were to be preserved and made available to interested readers. The papers of T. V. Soong are one of many preeminent collections. Americans involved in China, such as General Albert Wedemeyer and General Joseph Stilwell, also donated their papers to the Hoover Archives.
In 2003 the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace signed an agreement with the Chinese Kuomintang (KMT), or Nationalist Party of the Republic of China (ROC), to help preserve the vast historical records held in that party’s archives in Taipei, Taiwan. As the longest-enduring political party in Asia, the KMT was China’s premier revolutionary party until it was defeated in 1949 by Communist Party forces and forced to relocate in Taiwan. The historic Hoover agreement provides for microfilming the official party records, which will stay in Taiwan, along with a preservation copy. A use copy will be made available in the Hoover Archives.
When Chinese in the United States and Taiwan, including the National Women’s League in Taipei, learned of the KMT-Hoover cooperative project, they too agreed to have their materials preserved in the archives. (The Soong family began donating its materials to the Hoover Institution Archives in 1973, followed by additional papers in April 1980 and again in the spring of 2004.)
Those donations helped create the Modern China Archives and Special Collections. These special collections are now being integrated with the China-related material accumulated since 1919. (Trade press materials, such as published vernacular Chinese books and serials, were transferred from the Hoover Archives to the Stanford University Libraries in 2002.)