- 1939-2001 (Creation)
Level of description
Extent and medium
0.84 m of textual records
Name of creator
Immediate source of acquisition or transfer
Content and structure area
Scope and content
In August of 1941, as Gordon Skilling left United College in Winnipeg for his first academic appointment in the United States, he began to keep a detailed journal of his activities. This journal was continued for the next fifteen years, until June of 1956, and covers the crucial period during which he established himself academically and became recognized as an authority on the Soviet Union and countries behind the Iron Curtain, especially Czechoslovakia.
It was an exciting and challenging time for him; the University of Wisconsin had a reputation as a dynamic liberal institution of higher learning. He arrived, however, just as the United States’ entered World War II amid a rising fear of communism (in spite of the need for co-operation with the Soviet Union, which Skilling advocated), both of which had an impact on the university and on him. From May 1943 until the end of the War, he was back in Canada as director of the CBC’s European short-wave radio broadcasts in its new International Service. On returning to Madison, he discovered a university in decline and his own position in doubt – he was denied promotion to associate professorship and tenure. So, in 1947 he left to accept an assistant
professorship at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. He spent the summer of 1948 in Czechoslovakia, his first visit since 1939, where he witnessed first-hand the establishment of communist rule in the country and which he described in detail in his journal. Back in the United States a fellowship enabled him to study and research at Columbia. In 1950 he returned to Czechoslovakia to research the emerging system of communist rule there and to experience it through the new bureaucracy, the political show trials, and the constant stream of propaganda. In 1951 he was promoted to full professor in his department and was also given leave to return to the Russian Institute at Columbia for the 1952-1953 academic year. He found, however, that the anti-communist hysteria of the McCarthy era had an impact on his scholarly activities – two of his books were turned down – and on him personally. In 1955 he was questioned by an agent of the US immigration service, had to appear before a state anti-subversive committee. Shortly after the journal ends, Skilling’s green card was cancelled and he
was not permitted to leave the country, even for his brother Andy’s funeral, until he was issued a new visa in June 1958.
The remainder of the series consists of a broken run of appointment books and calendars for the following years (with number of copies in brackets): 1961, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1989, 1991 (2), 1992 (2), 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 (2), 2000 (2), and 2001. The entries, though cryptic, provide the researcher with an overview of Professor Skilling’s activities at any one point or over a period of time.
Appraisal, destruction and scheduling
System of arrangement
The arrangement of the items in this series is chronological. Oversized calendars are stored in box 018.
Conditions of access and use area
Conditions governing access