In a talk about her new book, Capital of the World: The Race to Host the United Nations, historian Charlene Mires foregrounds Chicago’s role in the process of establishing the United Nations’ first location in New York. 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 fromcoast 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.
Chicago placed itself firmly in the middle of this global competition to host the UN. The city was one of the most energetic competitors, with a plan to place the UN on Northerly Island. Chicago boosters even sent a delegation to London, sans invitation, to lobby UN planners directly.
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.
Charlene Mires is Associate 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.
Co-sponsored by the A.C. McClurg Bookstore, a branch of the Seminary Co-op Bookstore, a booksigning with the author will follow the talk.
Free and open to the public; no registration required.