This collection consists of official Dutch-American diplomatic correspondence covering the period from 1784 to 1973. Taken together, the documents of this collection help scholars to shed further light on some of the most important watersheds in both European and American history and clarify the historical evolution of transatlantic relations from Thomas Jefferson to the end of the Bretton Woods System.
The collection chiefly contains State Department’s instructions to US diplomats and consuls dispatched in the Netherlands as well as letters, reports, recommendations, dossiers, and memos compiled by American diplomats posted in The Hague and across the whole Dutch colonial empire. The documents cover a broad range of topics including political, economic, and military relations, trade policies, migration, cultural and religious exchanges, and transnational social issues such as civil rights, pacifism, environmentalism, labor relations, and human rights.
A large part of the collection focuses on the post-1945 era and comprises papers on the development and execution of the Marshall Plan in the Netherlands, on the future of the Dutch colonial empire, and on the development of post-war European and Dutch politics. The postwar dispatches from The Hague are indeed an extremely useful source through which to read the evolution of the European integration process, the building of a transatlantic security community, the organization of concerted anti-communist activities, and the reactions to the emergence of a widespread anti-American sentiment in Europe in coincidence with the escalation of the Vietnam War.
In September 1945, Democratic freshman Senator from Arkansas James William Fulbright launched the idea to organize a worldwide system of academic exchanges. His goal was to improve intercultural relations between the US and other countries through the mutual exchange of knowledge, skills, and projects. Within a year, President Truman signed the Fulbright Act, which allowed 35 foreigners to study in the US and 65 Americans to refine their studies abroad. Since then, the Fulbright Program, coordinated by the US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, has expanded worldwide with projects, grants, and funding schemes that have so far seen the participation of more than 370,000 people including Nobel Prize laureates, Pulitzer Prize recipients, and students, researchers, and teachers at all the academic levels.
In 1949, the Fulbright Program was set up in the Netherlands as well. In order to better coordinate academic exchanges between the Netherlands and the US, the two countries formally established a bilateral United States Educational Foundation (USEF) in Amsterdam. Since then, that organization has changed its name twice. In 1972, USEF became the Netherlands America Committee for Educational Exchange (NACEE). NACEE in turn became the Fulbright Center in 2004. The documents collected by the USEF, NACEE, and the Fulbright Center are held by the Roosevelt Institute for American Studies (RIAS) in Middelburg. However, due to privacy regulations and classification, the only part of this collection that is digitally available is its Section G.
Section G contains a large variety of historical sources on the foundation and development of the NACEE and the Fulbright Center, including speeches by and on Senator Fulbright, papers related to an earlier exchange organization, the Netherland-America Foundation, and personal recollections of alumni. Section G is therefore the perfect starting point for any research aimed at discovering the historical development of such a relevant cultural program.
Image caption: Joop van Bilsen / Anefo, Queen Juliana of the Netherlands and prince Bernhard receive the US Senator J. William Fulbright and his wife in Baarn, Utrecht, 1964 (Nationaal Archief, The Hague) - CC0
Digital Archives of the Roosevelt Institute for American Studies
The Roosevelt Institute for American Studies (RIAS) is an archive, public library, research center, and graduate school based in Middelburg, the Netherlands. Established in 1986 as the Roosevelt Study Center and completely renovated in 2017, the RIAS’s mission is to foster the study of American history in Europe, to facilitate research on the history of American politics, culture, and society, and to explore the historical development and trajectories of Dutch-American and, generally, transatlantic relations. The RIAS carries out such a mission under its motto “Pursuing the Rooseveltian Century,” which means that it supports academic research investigating the evolution of American society and its institutional settings, the changing nature of the relationship between the US government and its citizenry, the consolidation of modern political leadership, the evolution of American diplomacy and empire, and the performative roles played domestically and internationally by such ideas as freedom, security, and equality.
The RIAS holds hundreds of thousands of documents that help scholars and students at any level to investigate the complexity of American history. The RIAS collections focus on a variety of issues, such as civil rights, national security, intelligence, propaganda, radicalism, religion, and diplomacy. Collected over more than thirty years, these documents include presidential papers, personal correspondence and oral histories, departmental files, NGO records, diaries, memoires, historical periodicals, and journals.
In order to make its materials available to a larger audience, the RIAS, in cooperation with Brill, has recently started digitizing some of its most prominent holdings. Organized into the expanding online archival family Transatlantic Relations Online: Digital Archives of the Roosevelt Institute for American Studies and comprising, in this initial iteration, more than 200,000 scans, the digital archive currently consists of four different collections:
Together, these collections provide unique insights into the history of Dutch-American relations, the development of transatlantic cultural programs, and the history of Dutch and European migration to North America. They are of particular interest to scholars working on cultural and public diplomacy, political and economic relations, migration flows, cross-cultural exchanges, the role of religion in foreign policy making, and the attractiveness of and resistance to American political, cultural, and economic hegemony in Europe.