Unlocking Chinese History: New Initiatives of the Hoover Archives

Thursday, February 17, 2005 to Saturday, April 9, 2005
chinese history

Unlocking Chinese History: New Initiatives of the Hoover Archives Poster announcing the exhibit

The Hoover Institution's interest in China dates back to Herbert Hoover's work in Tientsin, China, where he served as a mining engineer in 1899 and was caught up in the Boxer Rebellion. During the early years of the twentieth century Hoover obtained books on Chinese history for Stanford University, while his wife, Lou Henry Hoover, collected blue-and-white porcelain.

The Hoover Institution's interest in China dates back to Herbert Hoover's work in Tientsin, China, where he served as a mining engineer in 1899 and was caught up in the Boxer Rebellion. During the early years of the twentieth century Hoover obtained books on Chinese history for Stanford University, while his wife, Lou Henry Hoover, collected blue-and-white porcelain.

After World War II, the Institution's collecting in Asia accelerated. To provide a balanced perspective, the archives collected both the papers of General Joseph Stilwell, commanding general of the China-Burma-India theater of war between 1942–44 and a well-known adversary of Chiang Kai-shek's, and the papers of Chiang's great friend and ally General Albert Wedemeyer. In the 1970s, the family of T. V. Soong, finance minister of China and foreign minister during World War II, began depositing his papers in the archives. Much of the Soong collection was restricted during the lifetime of Madame Chiang Kai-shek out of respect for her privacy, but is now open and includes many new documents donated by the family. The Leo Eloesser papers, which include his years in China as a UNICEF doctor and teacher, are another recent acquisition.

Currently a series of initiatives, collectively defined as the Modern China Archives Project, is adding major documents and microfilm to the China collections. Spearheaded by Hoover curator Ramon Myers, its purpose is to provide a basis for objective Chinese historiography. This exhibit emphasizes some of these new documents, illustrating how they illuminate various incidents of modern Chinese history.

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