Selected Papers

Thanks to the Prelinger Library, the Internet Archive has digitized Robert C. Binkley’s Selected Papers (Harvard UP, 1948). This post is an annotated table of contents, with links to Internet Archives book-reader application.

This collection was edited by Bob’s colleague the philosopher Max H. Fisch, with the help of Frances, who seems to have given Fisch access to the files of Bob’s correspondence that I’ve been working through. The extent of Frances’ involvement isn’t clear to me yet, but may emerge from some correspondence between her and Fisch that I have, or from Fisch’s papers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, which include correspondence with Frances and some of RCB’s friends and colleagues. The volume is dedicated by Fisch to Frances and the two boys. The Foreword is by the Librarian of Congress Luther Evans, who had known Binkley during his time as head of the Historical Records Survey in the 1930s.

Table of Contents

Fisch, Max H. “Preface.” Pp. vii-viii.

Evans, Luther H. “Foreword.” Pp. xi-xiii.


Fisch, Max H. “Robert Cedric Binkley: Historian in the Long Armistice.” Pp. 3-43.

The fullest biographical account of Robert C. Binkley available. It was compiled with Frances’ help, and contains details that must have come from her memory (e.g. their conversations about teaching methods as they drove from California to New York in 1927, p.11).

Fisch, Max H. “Chronology.” Pp. 45-46.

Part I. The Peace that Failed

  1. The ‘Guilt’ Clause in the Versailles Treaty.” Pp. 49-62. Reprinted from Current History 30 (May 1929): 294-300.

This is the culmination of a series of publications on Article 231 of the Treaty of Versailles, which, Binkley argues, was intended by the Allies to connote only Germany’s legal liability for damages caused by the war, but which in German translations was taken to mean Germany’s moral guilt.

  1. Ten Years of Peace Conference History.” Pp. 63-95. Reprinted from The Journal of Modern History 1, no. 4 (December 1929): 607-629.

For the background of this paper see “A Summer in Italy, 1929, part 4”, in this blog.

  1. New Light on the Paris Peace Conference.” Pp. 96-165. Reprinted from Political Science Quarterly 46, no. 3 (September 1931): 335-361; no. 4 (December 1931): 509-547.

Continues the exploitation of the Miller Diary which Binkley had begun in “Ten Years of Peace Conference History”, for which he had had only a few weeks to digest the 21 volumes of documents; and also brings in the newly published documents of the Documentation Internationale, Paix de Versailles series.

Part II. The Economy of Scholarship

  1. The Problem of Perishable Paper.” Pp. 169-178. Reprinted from Atti del 10 congresso mondiale delle biblioteche e di bibliografia, 4:77-85. Rome, 1929.

For more on the writing and presentation of this paper see “A Summer in Italy, 1929, part 2”, in this blog.

  1. New Tools for Men of Letters.” Pp. 179-197. Reprinted from Yale Review n.s. 24 (Spring 1935): 519-537.

RCB’s best-known work in the digital world, thanks to a flurry of publicity that began with Rick Prelinger’s listserv posting and talk (starts at 43:26, RCB mentioned at 48:56) at MIT’s Media in Transition conference in April, 2009, where his discussion of RCB’s concept of “citizen archivists” was picked up in the blogo- and Twitterspheres.

The paper was originally circulated in a mimeographed copy for discussion within the Joint Committee on Materials for Research. In it Binkley outlines the new technologies for reproducing source materials and for publishing research results, and the opportunities they open up for research. The foundations are two: easy access to materials though microfilm and the ability to publish results in print runs that would be too short for conventional print. The result is that more research may be done and published by more people: the monopoly of academics on the research process could be broken, and amateurs could resume their role. Some of the amateurs that Binkley has in mind are university graduates who don’t find employment in academia and end up teaching in high-schools; others are unemployed white-collar workers. These ideas found expression in the WPA programs that Binkley promoted such as the Historical Records Survey and the Annals of Cleveland.

  1. History for a Democracy.” Pp. 198-223. Reprinted from Minnesota History 18, no. 1 (March 1937): 1-27.

A talk given in January 1937 at the conference of the Minnesota Historical Society, which was one of the more forward-thinking historical societies at the time. It picks up the themes of “New Tools” and develops the benefits to society of knowledge of history. Binkley presents a bottom-up schema, from histories of self to family to community to state, which foreshadows the structure of his unfinished textbook A Sense of History, and leads into a justification of the local history done by amateurs.

  1. The Reproduction of Materials for Research.” Pp. 224-235. Reprinted from Library Trends: Papers Presented Before the Library Institute at the University of Chicago, August 3-15, 1936, edited by Louis R. Wilson, 225-236. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1937.

1936 was the tipping point in the main-streaming of microfilm in the American library world, marked by the symposium on microfilm at the ALA conference in Richmond that summer. This paper applies the economics of the new publishing technologies to the problems of libraries.

  1. The Cultural Program of the W.P.A.” Pp. 236-257. Reprinted from Harvard Educational Review 9 (March 1939): 156-174.

Surveys the various ways in which relief labor was being applied to research tasks. By this time the WPA projects had been running for some time, and this paper attempts to sort out the lessons learned and to formulate best practices.

  1. World Intellectual Organization.” Pp. 258-264. Reprinted from Educational Record 10 (April 1939): 256-262.

Discusses the relation between the organization of intellectual activity among the organizations that foster international cooperation on the one hand, and the international structures of wealth and power on the other, particularly with regard to Fascism and Communism.

  1. Strategic Objectives in Archival Policy.” Pp. 265-274. Reprinted from The American Archivist 2, no. 3 (July 1939): 162-168.

Read in Chicago in December, 1938 at the “luncheon conference” of the recently-formed Society of American Archivists, held in conjunction with the AHA conference. In the same way as “The Reproduction of Materials for Research” did for libraries, this paper applies the ideas of “New Tools” to archives, and attempts to define the place of archives in a democracy.

Part III. Ideas and Institutions

  1. Europe Faces the Customs Union.” Pp. 277-285. Reprinted from The Virginia Quarterly Review 7 (July 1931): 321-329.

The first of many essays Binkley wrote for the The Virginia Quarterly Review, under the editorship of his friend Stringfellow Barr. Some, like this, were essentially extended op-ed pieces on current events (and were sometimes reviewed in the New York Times). This one puts the recently negotiated Austro-German customs union (which was blocked by France) in the context of the history of transnational organizations in Europe since the mid-nineteenth century, and is informed by Binkley’s thinking about “federative polity”, which formed the theme of Realism and Nationalism.

  1. The Twentieth Century Looks at Human Nature.” Pp. 286-300. Reprinted from The Virginia Quarterly Review 10, no. 3 (July 1934): 336-350.

  2. An Anatomy of Revolution.” Pp. 301-313. Reprinted from The Virginia Quarterly Review 10 (October 1934): 502-514.

An investigation of the term “revolution” as applied to the New Deal by its opponents and its supporters.

  1. Versailles to Stresa–The Conference Era.” Pp. 314-325. Reprinted from The Virginia Quarterly Review 11, no. 3 (July 1935): 383-393.

Through a discussion of the international conferences of the 1920s, Binkley describes the transition from the post-war world of that decade to the pre-war world of the 1930s.

  1. Myths of the Twentieth Century.” Pp. 326-337. Reprinted from The Virginia Quarterly Review (Summer 1937): 339-350.

The competing metaphysics of Christianity, “the world order”, communism and fascism.

  1. The Holy Roman Empire versus the United States: Patterns for Constitution-Making in Central Europe.” Pp. 338-353. Reprinted from The Constitution Reconsidered, edited by Conyer Read, 271-284. New York: Columbia University Press, 1938.

Another “federative polity” paper: Binkley considers the histories of Central Europe and the United States over the 150 years since the making of the constitution of the latter and the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire in the former. He closes with consideration of the League of Nations.

  1. Mill’s Liberty Today.” Pp. 354-367. Reprinted from Foreign Affairs 16, no. 4 (July 1938): 563-573.

Connects Mill’s freedom of opinion to the principles of intellectual freedom and inquiry. Totalitarian regimes are the implicit point of comparison.

  1. Peace in Our Time.” Pp. 368-381. Reprinted from The Virginia Quarterly Review (Autumn 1938): 551-564.

Applies the medieval political doctrine of the Two Swords (spiritual and temporal) to contemporary Europe.


Fisch, Max H., ed. “Excerpts from Reviews and Review Articles.”. Pp. 385-396.

Fisch, Max H., and Floyd W. Miller, comp. “Bibliography.” Pp. 397-419. An exhaustive bibliography of RCB’s publications numbering 178, down to his editorials in Stanford student papers and letters to the New York Times. Fisch used the 16-page bibliography compiled by Floyd Miller in 1940 as a basis for this bibliography. It includes a few works about RCB, including obituaries, at p.417.

Index.” Pp. 421-426.