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Capital of the World: The Race to Host the United Nations
     

Capital of the World: The Race to Host the United Nations

4.0 1
by Charlene Mires
 

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From 1944 to 1946, as the world pivoted from the Second World War to an unsteady peace, Americans in more than two hundred cities and towns mobilized to chase an implausible dream. The newly-created United Nations needed a meeting place, a central place for global diplomacy—a Capital of the World. But what would it look like, and where would it be? Without

Overview

From 1944 to 1946, as the world pivoted from the Second World War to an unsteady peace, Americans in more than two hundred cities and towns mobilized to chase an implausible dream. The newly-created United Nations needed a meeting place, a central place for global diplomacy—a Capital of the World. But what would it look like, and where would it be? Without invitation, civic boosters in every region of the United States leapt at the prospect of transforming their hometowns into the Capital of the World. The idea stirred in big cities—Chicago, San Francisco, St. Louis, New Orleans, Denver, and more. It fired imaginations in the Black Hills of South Dakota and in small towns from coast to coast.

Meanwhile, within the United Nations the search for a headquarters site became a debacle that threatened to undermine the organization in its earliest days. At times it seemed the world’s diplomats could agree on only one thing: under no circumstances did they want the United Nations to be based in New York. And for its part, New York worked mightily just to stay in the race it would eventually win.

With a sweeping view of the United States’ place in the world at the end of World War II, Capital of the World tells the dramatic, surprising, and at times comic story of hometown promoters in pursuit of an extraordinary prize and the diplomats who struggled with the balance of power at a pivotal moment in history.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Most know that UN headquarters rest in midtown Manhattan overlooking the East River, but what many do not know—and what Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Morris delivers in this entertaining account—are the improbable twists and turns the organization took in settling on that location. In a refreshing turn, Morris offers insight into "a period that lies midway between the booster strategies of the nineteenth century...and the more intense place marketing and branding efforts of cities around the world in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century," keeping the story firmly focused on the efforts to determine a location while leaving the more minute details of the UN's formation for other scholars to explain. As a result we are treated to ambitious visions of a world capital tucked into South Dakota's Black Hills, or isolated Sugar Island near Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. The quick dissolution of plans calling for 40 to 50 square miles of land—one can hardly imagine Westchester County, New York, as home to a teeming international metropolis—to a mere parcel in New York City deftly summarizes the grand ambition and brief optimism of lasting peace that permeated existed after the end of WWII. (Mar.)
From the Publisher
"With meticulous research and journalistic verve, Charlene Mires tells an overlooked story about American engagement with the world. Writing in a decade when many Americans worry about their nation's place in the world, Mires reminds us about the excitement that the newly created United Nations generated not only in big eastern cities but also in the heartland of the Middle West and Great Plains. Her fast-moving and always entertaining narrative captures the optimistic spirit of the 'Greatest Generation.'"-Carl Abbott,author of How Cities Won the West: Four Centuries of Urban Change in Western North America

"Mires delivers an amusing account of the intense, if not world-shaking competition for the U.N. headquarters...Although little was at stake and everyone knows the outcome, Mires works hard and mostly successfully to hold her readers’ interest in the energetic, often-quaint public-relation antics of the 1940s."-Kirkus

"Ms. Mires provides an entertaining and informative account of mid-century boosterism and optimism."-The Wall Street Journal

"Charlene Mires provides a fascinating account of the enthusiastic effort to establish a home for the fledgling United Nations at the end of World War II. She creates a powerful sense of suspense as she describes the intense competition among boosters from New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and even the Black Hills of South Dakota. In lively and elegant prose, from the first sentence to the last, she captures the contradictory visions of the 'Capital of the World' that persisted from beginning to end."-Allan M. Winkler,Distinguished Professor of History, Miami University

"This fascinating and extremely detailed story covers the period from late 1944, before the UN had even been formally created, to the end of 1946, when the decision was made to locate the organization in New York City. Based on extensive research, the book is vividly written in an accessible fashion that is suitable for a wide audience."-Andrew Johnstone,American Historical Review

Library Journal
Mires (history, Rutgers Univ.-Camden), corecipient of the Pulitzer Prize in journalism, investigates a largely unexamined aspect of the birth of the United Nations: the attempt by many U.S. cities during the closing days of World War II to persuade it to base its headquarters in their respective communities. Mires has tracked down elusive archival sources and forgotten newspaper accounts, uncovering a fascinating chronicle involving countless American politicians, foreign diplomats, and community promoters who participated in the feverish lobbying campaign that at times resembled an Atlantic City beauty contest. After numerous site inspections and unending deliberations, the prize was finally awarded to New York City in late 1946, largely owing to the $8.5 million gift of the Rockefeller family allowing the United Nations to build its "workshop of peace" on the Manhattan site overlooking the East River where it resides to this day. VERDICT While plenty of books address the creation of the United Nations, Mires provides an important supplement showing how the idealistic search to establish the physical presence of the fledgling organization gave way to the cold realities of the marketplace. Recommended for readers of 20th-century American history, students of urban history, and scholars of post-World War II diplomacy.—Richard Drezen, Jersey City, NJ
Kirkus Reviews
Mires (History/Rutgers Univ., Camden; Independence Hall in American Memory, 2002) delivers an amusing account of the intense, if not world-shaking competition for the U.N. headquarters. When the first serious discussions began in 1944, diplomats paid little attention to locating the headquarters, although most inclined toward America (including the Soviet Union, anxious to keep it far away). Today, few consider the U.N. the enforcer of world peace, but that was a common hope as World War II drew to a close. As such, boosters envisioned their city as the "Capital of the World," which would also enjoy the economic benefits of hosting a large institution and its staff. A scattering of enthusiasts buttonholed delegates at the spring 1945 San Francisco conference that wrote the U.N. charter, but an avalanche descended on London six months later to lobby diplomats engaged in nailing down its organization. Mires devotes most of the book to unsuccessful candidates ranging from Chicago and Philadelphia to Niagara Falls, the Black Hills of South Dakota, and Tuskahoma, Okla., which deluged officials with sales pitches, posters, brochures, photo albums and futuristic architectural drawings. New York remained aloof from the hard sell but took for granted that any great international organization belonged there. It helped that powerful figures such as Robert Moses and Nelson Rockefeller took an interest and even more that Nelson's father donated land along the East River now occupied by the U.N. buildings. Although little was at stake and everyone knows the outcome, Mires works hard and mostly successfully to hold her readers' interest in the energetic, often-quaint public-relation antics of the 1940s.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781479833757
Publisher:
New York University Press
Publication date:
04/08/2015
Pages:
328
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.80(d)

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

Mires delivers an amusing account of the intense, if not world-shaking competition for the U.N. headquarters...Although little was at stake and everyone knows the outcome, Mires works hard and mostly successfully to hold her readers’ interest in the energetic, often-quaint public-relation antics of the 1940s."-Kirkus,

"Charlene Mires provides a fascinating account of the enthusiastic effort to establish a home for the fledgling United Nations at the end of World War II. She creates a powerful sense of suspense as she describes the intense competition among boosters from New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and even the Black Hills of South Dakota. In lively and elegant prose, from the first sentence to the last, she captures the contradictory visions of the 'Capital of the World' that persisted from beginning to end."-Allan M. Winkler,Distinguished Professor of History, Miami University

"Capital of the World is an exceptionally imaginative book that warrants an exceptionally diverse readership. Charlene Mires, a former journalist who recognizes the extraordinary in the ordinary, leverages her skill as a public historian and expertise in material culture to tell the complicated and surprising story of the competition to select the site of UN headquarters. By ascribing meaning to this competition rooted in the defining historical moment in which it took place, Mires offers us an innovative transnational history that provides an unexpected twist to understandings of glocalization."-Richard H. Immerman,Edward J. Buthusiem Family Distinguished Faculty Fellow in History, Temple University

"With meticulous research and journalistic verve, Charlene Mires tells an overlooked story about American engagement with the world. Writing in a decade when many Americans worry about their nation's place in the world, Mires reminds us about the excitement that the newly created United Nations generated not only in big eastern cities but also in the heartland of the Middle West and Great Plains. Her fast-moving and always entertaining narrative captures the optimistic spirit of the 'Greatest Generation.'"-Carl Abbott,author of How Cities Won the West: Four Centuries of Urban Change in Western North America

Meet the Author

Charlene Mires is Professor of History at Rutgers University-Camden. She is the author of Independence Hall in American Memory and a co-recipient of a Pulitzer Prize in journalism.

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Capital of the World: The Race to Host the United Nations 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Man_Of_La_Book_Dot_Com More than 1 year ago
Cap­i­tal of the World: The Race to Host the United Nations by Char­lene Mires is a his­tory book doc­u­ment­ing the search for the UN’s home. Even though the book might be short in pages, it packs a lot of infor­ma­tion in between. This book is dense, but fun book. It is no won­der the UN can’t make any deci­sions, if the way they decided to chose a “home” would have been any indi­ca­tion (com­mit­tees for com­mit­tees result in their resolve to make res­o­lu­tions) they might would have rethought the way they do business. How­ever, the book is not a con­dem­na­tion of the way UN does or does not make deci­sions, but a look a the pro­mo­tional aspect of cre­at­ing the “Cap­i­tal of the World”. Orig­i­nally, instead of a build­ing, every­one thought that the UN will reside in a city and many peo­ple thought that their town would sim­ply be per­fect for this notion (of course tourist dol­lars would help off­set the costs). There were many towns vying for the honor, from the Black Hills of South Dakota to Chicago, from San Fran­cisco to Nia­gara Falls, NY. Inter­est­ingly enough, New York City abstained from the race, think­ing that they were the nat­ural and obvi­ous choice and hence didn’t need to com­pete with the rest. Some­where towards the mid­dle of the book I had to put it down for a bit, I love my his­tory books and the per­sonal sto­ries in them, but this book had so many details com­ing at me that I just needed a break. Ms. Mires was telling a good story but then it seemed to stop only to pick up a few chap­ters later. I never real­ized that there was such a force­ful cam­paign to host the UN or that at first a whole city was planned, it is a fas­ci­nat­ing part of Amer­i­can his­tory. The com­plex way in which the UN com­mit­tee decided on a place and how they finally set­tled on NYC is a hys­ter­i­cal story for the ages. Cap­i­tal on the World is an enjoy­able and infor­ma­tive read. It gives the reader a new per­spec­tive of Amer­ica, the coun­try that wel­comed diplo­macy and wasn’t afraid to engage in dia­log after World War II.