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Oxford University Press
01 March 2020
Literary studies: general; History; Regional & national history; 20th century history: c 1900 to c 2000; History: specific events & topics; Second World War
While armies have seized enemy records and rare texts as booty throughout history, it was only during World War II that an unlikely band of librarians, archivists, and scholars traveled abroad to collect books and documents to aid the military cause. Galvanized by the events of war into acquiring and preserving the written word, as well as providing critical information for intelligence purposes, these American civilians set off on missions to gather foreign publications and information across Europe. They journeyed to neutral cities in search of enemy texts, followed a step behind advancing armies to capture records, and seized Nazi works from bookstores and schools. When the war ended, they found looted collections hidden in cellars and caves. Their mission was to document, exploit, preserve, and restitute these works, and even, in the case of Nazi literature, to destroy them. In this fascinating account, cultural historian Kathy Peiss reveals how book and document collecting became part of the new apparatus of intelligence and national security, military planning, and postwar reconstruction. Focusing on the ordinary Americans who carried out these missions, she shows how they made decisions on the ground to acquire sources that would be useful in the war zone as well as on the home front. These collecting missions also boosted the postwar ambitions of American research libraries, offering a chance for them to become great international repositories of scientific reports, literature, and historical sources. Not only did their wartime work have lasting implications for academic institutions, foreign-policy making, and national security, it also led to the development of today's essential information science tools. Illuminating the growing global power of the United States in the realms of intelligence and cultural heritage, Peiss tells the story of the men and women who went to Europe to collect and protect books and information and in doing so enriches the debates over the use of data in times of both war and peace.
By:   Kathy Peiss (Roy F. and Jeannette P. Nichols Professor of American History Roy F. and Jeannette P. Nichols Professor of American History University of Pennsylvania)
Imprint:   Oxford University Press
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 234mm,  Width: 161mm,  Spine: 23mm
Weight:   578g
ISBN:   9780190944612
ISBN 10:   0190944617
Pages:   296
Publication Date:   01 March 2020
Audience:   Professional and scholarly ,  Undergraduate
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Kathy Peiss is the Roy F. and Jeannette P. Nichols Professor of American History at the University of Pennsylvania. She is the author of Cheap Amusements: Working Women and Leisure in Turn-of-the-Century New York, Hope in a Jar: The Making of America's Beauty Culture, and Zoot Suit: The Enigmatic Career of an Extreme Style. A Fellow of the Society of American Historians, she has served as a consultant to museums, archives, documentary films, and public history projects.

Reviews for Information Hunters: When Librarians, Soldiers, and Spies Banded Together in World War II Europe

This well-written and astutely researched book makes the wartime work of librarians engaging and engrossing. Those fascinated by intelligence missions or keen on the history of library science will appreciate this excellent read. -- Library Journal (starred review) Information Hunters is Kathy Peiss's wonderfully surprising history of a little-known, World War II intelligence effort to gather newspapers, magazines, books, and every other kind of printed information about business, science, and ordinary life in Germany and occupied Europe. Working mainly through cities in neutral countries a Lisbon, Stockholm, Bern, and the like a agents quietly arranged to gather bundles, then truckloads, finally ship- and train-loads of books and paper for analysts to study. It's a beautiful piece of scholarship that reveals the war in a new light -- as a struggle for knowledge and truth. -- Thomas Powers, author of Heisenbergas War: The Secret History of the German Bomb This fascinating book tells the story of the American librarians who set out on vast collecting missions amidst the destruction of World War II Europe. Cultural historian Kathy Peiss deftly reconstructs their work here, showing how librarians shaped the war and, in turn, how the war re-shaped libraries and librarianship. Beautifully told, this surprising story provides a valuable new perspective on the historical connection between war and the production of knowledge. -- Lisa Moses Leff, American University Kathy Peiss uncovers fascinating episodes in the history of information: the World War II entanglement of bibliography and spycraft as well as the postwar dilemmas of denazifying German culture while also dealing with cultural heritage collections that the Nazis left orphaned in their double project of confiscation and genocide. With its lucid attention to 'open source' intelligence gathering, incipient 'archive-consciousness,' and the anxieties of American influence on the world, this is history that is at once powerful and timely. -- Lisa Gitelman, New York University Kathy Peissas Information Hunters tells the fascinating and important story of the American archivists and librarians who, during World War II, helped rescue, preserve, and repatriate huge numbers of books, newspapers, and manuscripts looted by the Nazis or otherwise hidden from sight. Their principal objectives were to confiscate and, in many cases, destroy Nazi materials and to locate and return or redistribute looted Jewish books. Many books wound up in American libraries and archives, greatly boosting their size and prestige, and helping to develop the field of information science. -- John B. Hench, author of Books as Weapons: Propaganda, Publishing, and the Battle for Global Markets in the Era of World War II Through savvy research Kathy Peiss has uncovered the enormous historical, ethical, and personal stakes of Americans' overseas efforts to collect -- or destroy -- the printed word during World War II. Her vivid account follows teams of scholars who scoured Europe's bookstores, battered cities, castles, and caves in search of material that bore witness to the continent's cultural heritage as well as its lies, secrets, and crimes. Pulling a book off the shelf of an American research library will never be the same after reading Information Hunters. -- Brooke L. Blower, author of Becoming Americans in Paris: Transatlantic Politics and Culture between the World Wars

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