Introduction by Wm. Theodore de Bary for the Living Legacies series of the Columbia 250 celebration

Living Legacies
Contrasting Spheres of Columbia’s Global Involvement


Among Columbians who might be considered “ahead of their time,” both James T. Shotwell (1881–1965) and Salo Baron (1895–1989) may qualify as true pioneers, creating new worlds out of the old in strikingly different ways — Shotwell as both a developer and a leader in new international peace organizations and as a founding father of international studies at Columbia; Salo Baron as the émigré from old Jewish communities in Europe who reconceived Jewish history on a world scale and set Jewish studies at Columbia on a firm base from which they have continued to grow in widening influence and increasing distinction.

During an age in which President Nicholas Murray Butler himself played a spectacular public role on a world stage, Shotwell, though perhaps less in the limelight, was intimately involved in such international developments as the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1919, the organizing of the League of Nations and International Labor Organization, and the creation of the United Nations in 1945, while also planting the seeds of international studies at Columbia in ways that could later bear more varied fruits in the School of International and Public Affairs.

The author of our essay on Shotwell is Lisa Anderson, currently dean of the School and someone who recognizes in Shotwell’s life work an anticipation of many of today’s most redoubtable challenges in world affairs as the School tries to meet them. Anderson is chair of the board of the Social Science Research Council and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, two bodies Shotwell helped to found. She notes that dozens of alumni of the School of International and Public Affairs are active at the United Nations and the head of the International Labor Organization is a SIPA parent. Thus Shotwell’s legacy is being handed on to new generations here and abroad.

At Columbia, Shotwell’s creative scholarship was stimulated by his association in the Department of History with such noted historians of his generation as James Harvey Robinson and Charles Beard. These colleagues were neighbors of his in Fayer-weather Hall, in the History Seminar Room where their portraits once hung together with Salo Baron’s (as I recall from earlier days). But Baron came to this company by a different route and with a very different pedigree from the American Quaker Shotwell. Born into a well-to-do Jewish family in Austrian Galicia, his polyglot upbringing provided him with a knowledge of German, Yiddish, Polish, and the Hebrew that came with a thoroughly traditional Jewish education. With these multicultural resources he went on to the sophisticated culture of Vienna, where he added the multidisciplinary learning that came with three doctorates at the University—in philosophy, political science, and law—as well as with his ordination as a rabbi.

Michael Stanislawski, Nathan J. Miller Professor of Jewish History, traces Baron’s spiritual and scholarly odyssey from Vienna to New York, where first at the Jewish Institute of Religion and then at Columbia from 1930, the young scholar was able to pursue his ambition to become a professor of Jewish history. With his many linguistic and disciplinary competencies, and his early record of scholarly accomplishment, it is perhaps not surprising that Baron’s sense of Jewish history would incline him more to emphasize the manifold achievements of his people than the dismal record of persecution and oppression that had dominated that history up to his time. Indications of this more positive and optimistic approach is the title of a groundbreaking 1928 article of Baron’s, “Ghetto and Emancipation,” which prefigures his monumental lifework, The Social and Religious History of the Jews, eventually coming to 18 volumes.

During his years at Columbia, Baron opened up a field of scholarly endeavor whose distinguished resources include not only the current holder of the Salo Baron Chair, Yosef Yerushalmi, but the author of the Living Legacies essay included here, Michael Stanislawski, whose scholarship is as representative of Columbia’s high standing in the world of cultural history as is Lisa Anderson’s in the world of international affairs — both of which carry on the scholarly and educational legacies of their distinguished forebears.

Wm. Theodore de Bary
’41CC ’53GSAS ’94HON is
John Mitchell Mason Professor and
Provost Emeritus of Columbia University.