Stephen Schlesinger

Book: Act of Creation

Act of Creation: The Founding of the United Nations

Act of Creation tells a pivotal and little-known story of how Secretary of State Edward Stettinius and the new American president, Harry Truman, picked up the pieces of the faltering campaign initiated by Franklin Roosevelt to create a “United Nations” at the 1945 San Francisco Conference.

Using secret agents, financial resources, and their unrivaled position of power, they overcame the intrigues of Stalin, the reservations of wartime allies like Winston Churchill, the discontent of smaller states, and a skeptical press corps to found the United Nations.

The book sheds new light on, among others, leading participants like John Foster Dulles, John F. Kennedy, Adlai Stevenson, Nelson Rockefeller, and E.B. White.

Act of Creation is the classic account of the birth of the most important and legendary global organization on the planet.

In 2004, the book won the Harry S. Truman book award. The publisher is Westview Press.

Video & Audio

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Quotes & Reviews

“A superb book that reconstructs this drama with great lucidity and illuminates its contemporary relevance.”
Richard Holbrooke, The New York Times Sunday Book Review
“Scrupulously researched, filled with new information and penetrating insights, Stephen Schlesinger’s Act of Creation is an immensely valuable contribution to our understanding of one of the most pivotal events of the twentieth century: the creation of the United Nations. Act of Creation is an outstanding work of history that provides a much-needed context in which to view the great issues of our time.”
Robert A. Caro, author of The Power Broker
“This is the right book at the right time, the story of a great American achievement, the creation of the United Nations. People in power now would do well to learn from their predecessors who were able to make a new and better world.”
Richard Reeves, author of President Nixon: Alone in the White House
“Stephen Schlesinger’s Act of Creation tells a dazzling story of the dramatic events that have shaped the world in which we live. Never has a book been more relevant to present dangers and future hopes.”
James Chace, author of Acheson: The Secretary of State Who Created the American World
“With the exception of two lucid studies of its foundation, Robert Hilderbrand’s Dumbarton Oaks (1990) and Stephen Schlesinger’s Act of Creation (2003), each the work of a serious diplomatic historian, little or nothing of analytic interest exists about the [United Nations]…”
Perry Anderson, The Nation
“A fascinating history of the diplomatic dramas and political intrigues behind the launch of the United Nations.”
Foreign Affairs Magazine
“[Schlesinger’s] detailed account of the scheming, skullduggery, and political horse-trading behind the creation of the UN is a timely reminder of what the organization’s founders expected it to become.”
The Economist
“[Schlesinger’s] account of the birth of the United Nations describes in lively detail the personalities and the dramas that attended, and sometimes nearly aborted, the conference which, after nine weeks of unremitting labor, produced the United Nations Charter.”
Sir Brian Urquhart, The New York Review of Books