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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 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.
|Publisher:||New York University Press|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.80(d)|
About 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.
Table of Contents
From War to Peace
The New World
Part III American Dreams
What People are Saying About This
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
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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.