Henry Lithgow Roberts

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Person.png Henry Lithgow Roberts   AmazonRdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
(historian, spook)
No image available (photo).jpg
Denver, Colorado
DiedOctober 1972 (Age 56)
Alma materYale University, Balliol College (Oxford)
SpouseDeborah Hathaway Calkins
Member ofCouncil on Foreign Relations/Historical Members, Office of Strategic Services
Interests • Romania
• Iron Guard

Henry Lithgow Roberts was an American historian and officer in the Office of Strategic Services.

Early Life

Born in Denver, Colorado Roberts went east for his higher education, earning his bachelor's and the first of his two doctoral degrees at Yale University, respectively in 1938 and 1942. His doctoral dissertation there was supervised and sponsored by Hajo Holborn (1902-69), one of the most distinguished of the younger Weimar German historians to have been driven into exile by the Nazi regime. He received a Rhodes scholarship which he did not take up until after the World War, receiving a Ph.D. from Oxford, where he was at Balliol College, in 1948.

Office of Strategic Services

In the spring of 1942, he joined the research and analysis branch of the Office of Strategic Services. He was assigned, as the vagaries of wartime intelligence work would have it, to its African Section, preparing assessments on the transportation and power networks of French North Africa in anticipation of that autumn's Anglo-American landings there. Presumably with tongue in cheek, he later suggested that that assignment 'led by a series of natural steps to Sicily, southern Italy, and thence, on what proved to be an extremely long weekend, to Rumania' in the final year of World War II.

His colleague Joseph Rothschild wrote in his obituary: "Before following Roberts to wartime Romania, it is appropriate to interpolate here an observation about the impact on him of the OSS. Both the nature of his work with that body, and the colleagues with whom he worked in it, appear to have been intellectually formative. The influence of co-workers such as Franz Neumann and Herbert Marcuse rendered him curious and highly informed about Marxism, yet independent of it.

Of interest is that Frank G. Wisner Jr. was outpost chief in Bucharest in September, 1944. One of the first things Wisner did before the occupying Red Army ordered him to leave Romania in 1945 was to identify Romanians whose political beliefs put them in opposition to the Soviet Union. Among those on Wisner's list were Romanians who had collaborated with the Nazis. Some were members of the Iron Guard, right-wing zealots who wore dark green breeches and tunics patterned after Gestapo uniforms, who were partly financed by Nazi leader Heinrich Himmler and who rallied round their common hatred of Jews and communists...Many of these anti-Soviets were smuggled into the United States in the late '40s and early '50s by Wisner.[1]

Professor Rothschild hinted that Roberts kept up his intelligence work, possibly as a handler of these dubious émigrés": Furthermore the OSS experience in general helped to confirm his stance of overall support for American policies in the immediate post-war era, conditioned by occasional scepticism about tactical applications of these policies...Finally, he was never able thereafter - nor, it seems, eager - to revert to pure ivory-tower scholarship, instead of finding the combination of policy involvement with academic scholarship quite congenial."

Eastern Europe scholar

Roberts used his OSS firsthand experience for his first book: “Rumania: Political Problems of an Agrarian State,” which was published in 1951.

Two years later he was coauthor of “Britain and the United States: Problems in Cooperation,” published by the Council on Foreign Relations with the aid of the Rockefeller Foundation. Later publications included “Russia and America” (1956) and “Eastern Europe: Politics, Revolution and Diplomacy,” a collection of essays that appeared in 1970.

He was professor of history at Dartmouth and a leading scholar on Eastern Europe. He joined the Dartmouth faculty in 1967 after heading the Russian Institute at Columbia University from 1956 to 1962 and directing its program on East Central Europe from 1954 to 1967. He was editor of the Slavic Review from 1965 to 1967.[2]

In 1964, at the first national meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies, he was severe in his criticism of the quality of achievement of many graduate students seeking grants and fellowships. Many, he said, showed “intellectual shabbiness” and a disturbing ignorance of the English language that he called “higher illiteracy.”


Event Participated in

Bilderberg/1957 February15 February 195717 February 1957US
St Simons Island
Georgia (State)
The earliest ever Bilderberg in the year, number 5, was also first one outside Europe.