Commemorating the Hoover Institution’s centennial, the new book Defining Moments: The First One Hundred Years of the Hoover Institution by Bertrand M. Patenaude outlines its origins, evolution, and policy impact over one hundred years of global change.
As a witness to the horrors of World War I, founder Herbert Hoover conceived of an institution dedicated to collecting and preserving for future generations those materials—often ephemeral—that not only explain the causes of war, but also illuminate the path to peace. In 1919, he launched the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. In the intervening century, this kernel of an idea has expanded into a world-renowned archives and research and public-policy institution committed to advancing peace, freedom, democracy, and prosperity everywhere.
In Defining Moments, published by the Hoover Institution Press, Patenaude explains how, as the twentieth century ushered in the Russian Revolution, the Great Depression, World War II, the Cold War, and post-Soviet turmoil, the institution continued to acquire vital material in all formats—from the only aerial film taken of the Hiroshima nuclear explosion to a graffiti-spattered piece of the Berlin Wall. The farsightedness of Hoover’s collecting teams saved many critical and irreplaceable materials from being lost to what George Orwell called the “memory hole” of history and ensured it became a safe haven to many rare personal collections.
The year 1959 was the most significant in the history of the Hoover Institution since its founding. It was the year that Herbert Hoover redefined his institution, expanding it beyond a special-collections research library on war, revolution, and peace to become a center for advanced study focused on public policy. W. Glenn Campbell, director of the Hoover Institution from 1960 to 1989, was the most influential figure in implementing Herbert Hoover’s new vision for the institution by initiating a fellowship program.
The institution’s fellows are an interdisciplinary group of humanists, social and political scientists, and natural scientists, who study economics, education, energy, foreign affairs, health care, history, law, national security, and politics. Fellows have both academic and practical experience, whether at Stanford and other top universities, serving at the highest levels of government—including as members of the US cabinet—or leading ventures in the private sector.
Hoover scholars disseminate knowledge through books, journal and press articles, seminar and conference papers, lectures, and media interviews. They also give expert testimony to Congressional committees, consult with departments and agencies of the federal government, and engage in a wide variety of other public-service activities.
Today, the Hoover Institution is the nation’s preeminent research center dedicated to generating policy ideas that promote economic prosperity, national security, and democratic governance. The principles of individual, economic, and political freedom; private enterprise; and limited representative government that were fundamental to Hoover’s vision continue to guide the institution to this day. What began as a library in 1919 has become one of the leading academic public-policy research centers in the world. It remains unique in being the only such institution composed of both a fellowship of scholars and a world-renowned library and archives.
The first one hundred years of the Hoover Institution point the way to the future imagined by Hoover, who wrote: “The Institution itself must constantly and dynamically point the road to peace, to personal freedom, and to the safeguards of the American system.”
As Defining Moments describes, the Hoover Institution reflects an inspiring history of human outreach, organizational skill, and academic and historical excellence.
Bertrand M. Patenaude is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author of many books, including The Big Show in Bololand: The American Relief Expedition to Soviet Russia in the Famine of 1921 (2002), winner of the 2003 Marshall Shulman Book Prize and the basis for the PBS documentary film The Great Famine (2011). Other books include A Wealth of Ideas: Revelations from the Hoover Institution Archives (2006) and Trotsky: Downfall of a Revolutionary (2009). Patenaude teaches history and international relations at Stanford University.
Clifton B. Parker, Hoover Institution: 650-498-5204, cbparker [at] stanford.edu