Quebec History Marianopolis College

Date Published:
August 2004

Biographies of Prominent Quebec and Canadian

Historical Figures

James Thomson Shotwell




Damien-Claude Bélanger

Department of History

McGill University


Historian, was born at Strathroy, Ontario. He was educated at the University of Toronto and at New York's Columbia University. After receiving his doctorate in 1900, Shotwell was appointed assistant professor of world history at Columbia's Department of History. He spent the next several years teaching in New York, pausing in 1904-1905 to undertake a study tour of Europe and to serve on the Encyclopaedia Britannica's editorial staff. Shortly after America's entry into the Great War, he was appointed chairman of the National Board for Historical Service, a semi-official branch of the Committee on Public Information, which served as the American government's wartime propaganda organ. In late 1917 Shotwell was enlisted by Colonel House to serve as an advisor on foreign affairs to President Woodrow Wilson. It was in this capacity that he attended the Paris Peace Conference as a member of "The Inquiry," Wilson's foreign policy brain trust. After participating in the founding of the International Labour Office in 1919, Shotwell became the general editor of a series of 150 volumes on the economic and social history of the Great War sponsored by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He would spend most of his later career working under the auspices of the Carnegie Endowment, eventually serving as its president from 1948 to 1950. In the late twenties, he taught international relations briefly at the newly formed Hochschule für Politik, in Berlin. Profoundly influenced by his father's Quakerism, Shotwell's interest in international affairs was an extension of his commitment to the cause of international peace and disarmament. During the twenties and thirties, he worked ceaselessly to counter American isolationism and to promote America's entry into the League of Nations, eventually becoming the president of the American League of Nations Association in 1935. He attended the 1945 San Francisco Conference that drafted the Charter of the United Nations as a consultant to the U.S. State Department. A liberal internationalist who showed a sustained interest in Canadian affairs throughout his life, James T. Shotwell believed that the relatively peaceful evolution of Canadian-American relations held a lesson for mankind. Indeed, the undefended border was a tangible example that world peace could be achieved through international arbitration, trade, freedom, and democracy. A pioneer in the field of Canadian-American relations, he edited the series of twenty-five studies on Canadian-American relations sponsored by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and participated in all of the conferences on Canadian-American affairs organized by the Endowment. Shotwell's efforts greatly stimulated inter-war continentalist scholarship and the study of Canadian-American relations on both sides of the border.





© 2004 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College