R. Bruce Craig Signs Contract for Biography of Alger Hiss

Historians in the News

Alger Hiss has been dead now for over a decade, yet, the controversy over his life and activities continues to stir the emotions of aging liberals, die-hard conservatives, several generations of history buffs, and serious students of Cold War America. R. Bruce Craig, past Executive Director of the National History Coalition and now a professor of history at the University of Prince Edward Island in Canada has signed a contract with Chicago publisher Ivan R. Dee, to write a new biography of Alger Hiss -- the first comprehensive biography of Hiss to be penned in over thirty years. The book, tentatively titled The Lives of Alger Hiss is slotted for publication in Spring 2012.

According to Craig, "Scores of books have been written about the Hiss case, most notably, Alan Weinstein’s 1978 tome Perjury: The Hiss-Chambers Case. While recent writings of G. Edward White (Alger Hiss's Looking Glass Wars) and Susan Jacoby (Alger Hiss and the Battle for History) demonstrate that partisans on both sides of the Hiss-Chambers controversy have had their say, there has yet to appear in print a balanced biography based nearly exclusively on primary source material that places the story of Alger Hiss the man and his times in the context of 20th century history. This book seeks to fill that void."

"The fact is, Hiss lived through most of the 20th century and because of that it is possible to place him -- both as an observer and participant -- in several major historical events of that century: the Great Depression, New Deal and “Popular Front” eras of the 1930s, World War II, the founding of the United Nations, the Cold War and McCarthy eras, the radical 60’s and the post-Watergate era."

"My hope is that in each chapter of this book readers will discover something new about the man" says Craig. The book promises new insights into the Hiss-Chambers relationship as Craig's strategy is to examine the congruence of the lives of these two gladiators with those of their wives, mutual friends, and acquaintances over a period of years. The last third of the book traces Hiss’s role in the six decade long fight for vindication. To this end the book will seek to explain why Hiss opted to employ a what some have characterized as "a strategy of denial" for over five decades."

Research for this book began over twenty years ago and is based on information drawn from dozens of library and archival sources, including some never before tapped by researchers such as the Hiss family papers. The text is being enriched with information culled from oral interviews conducted with scores of individuals, including Alger Hiss, his son Tony, step-son Timothy Hobson, and other prominent figures in the Hiss-Chambers controversy such as HUAC’s lead investigator Robert Stripling whose insights into the motivations of Richard Nixon in pursuing the Hiss case are without parrallel.

Craig is interested in hearing from anyone who came into contact with and has a recollection of Alger Hiss, especially in the time period from 1954 (after his release from prison) until his death in 1996. Craig can be reached at <rbcraig84@hotmail.com>.

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