Act Of Creation: The Founding of the United Nations : A Story of Superpowers, Secret Agents, Wartime Allies and Enemies, and Their Quest for a Peaceful World

ISBN: 0813332753
ISBN 13: 9780813332758
By: Stephen C. Schlesinger

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About this book

In Act of Creation, Stephen C. Schlesinger 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." 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 author reveals how the UN nearly collapsed several times during the conference over questions of which states should have power, who should be admitted, and how authority should be divided among its branches. By shedding new light on leading participants like John Foster Dulles, John F. Kennedy, Adlai Stevenson, Nelson Rockefeller, and E. B White, Act of Creation provides a fascinating tale of twentieth-century history not to be missed.

Reader's Thoughts

Julian Haigh

Very brief introduction of the UN. But then, it's a rather vacuous entity when it comes down to it anyway - hardly superfluous, but now I'm getting political.


Great account of how negotiation is done and decisions are made. It's a bit difficult to establish the chronology at times, as there is quite a bit of back-and-forth. Also, although the book is not meant to be an evaluation of the UN or its Charter, Schlesinger is unabashedly in love with the UN exactly as it is, and thus belittles its critics then and now without any analysis of their criticisms. I found some of the most powerful moments in the book to be toward the end, as the Charter was being signed and then ratified. Schlesinger places the reader in the moment, and it was an amazing moment.


Interesting to find out what happened in the beginnings of the United Nations, an organization that I've taken for granted until I read this book. A little more detail about the process than I wanted, but still a good read.


While I did not find the book very well written/edited, it was very interesting subject matter for anyone who needs to understand the history and functioning of the United Nations. Many of the characters at the 1945 conference in San Francisco that negotiated the UN Charter were important later in U.S. and Cold War history. Several future Presidential candidates and Secretaries of State played key roles; even a young JFK was there as a reporter! Having just lived through the UN climate change negotiations in Durban at the end of 2011, I also found the struggles of smaller and larger countries to protect their individual national interests while keeping sight of an important global goal, and the need of the U.S. delegation to plan ahead regarding Congressional action, very relevant to today's multilateral negotiations.

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