University of Vermont

Vermont Quarterly

Documenting Leadership in Troubled Times

Professor Mark Stoler and Hilary Clinton
photograph by Kevin Remington


Documenting Leadership in Troubled Times

George Marshall was U.S. secretary of state during the volatile late 1940s. The United States and its Soviet ally split and the Cold War began, triggering the European Recovery Program (Marshall Plan) and other key foreign policy initiatives—the Truman Doctrine, the Containment policy, the creation of West Germany, and the formation of NATO. Also on Marshall’s watch: Chinese and Greek civil wars; the partition of and wars in Palestine and India, leading to the creation of Israel, India, and Pakistan; the creation of such other states as Indonesia out of former European colonies; and a redefinition of U.S. relations with Latin America.

It would be difficult to find a more apt title for the latest volume of George Catlett Marshall’s papers than The Whole World Hangs in the Balance. And it might be just as challenging to find a scholar better qualified to edit the latest volume than Mark Stoler, professor emeritus of history.

Being asked to work on the definitive text chronicling the papers of Marshall, U.S. secretary of state from 1947-49, was a true honor for Stoler. Ever modest, he admits his first thought was that more qualified people must be available. But the highly distinguished military and diplomatic historian—and author of the acclaimed biography George C. Marshall: Soldier-Statesman of the American Century—was a clear fit for the job.

His hire as editor of the Marshall Papers in 2008 by the George C. Marshall Foundation was also fitting considering Stoler would be advancing the work his graduate school classmate Larry Bland had completed as editor of the first five volumes and part of the sixth when he died in 2007. “It’s been a lot of work, but incredibly gratifying, especially being able to carry on what my friend Larry had done so well for so many years,” says Stoler.

Recent U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, no stranger to navigating a turbulent world scene, is an admirer of Marshall’s leadership. During a visit in April 2012 to Virginia Military Institute to deliver a speech, Stoler accompanied Clinton on a tour of the museum and library. He also inscribed a copy of his Marshall biography for Clinton after Marshall Foundation President Brian Shaw recommended the book to her. 

In her speech that day, Clinton emphasized the importance of the three D’s: diplomacy, defense and development—all hallmarks of Marshall’s tenure. “No one lived by those words more than Marshall, and Clinton has clearly conducted foreign policy with those ideals in mind,” says Stoler. “I was deeply impressed with Secretary Clinton. She’s incredibly intelligent, intellectually curious, and very knowledgeable.”

Stoler, who has continued teaching in a visiting professor role at Williams College and Washington and Lee University since his UVM retirement, remains engaged with the life of George Marshall. Volume six of The Papers of George Catlett Marshall: The Whole World Hangs in the Balance (Johns Hopkins University Press) was published in January. The seventh and final volume is scheduled for 2015, picking up Marshall’s life in 1949 when he served as head of the Red Cross, through his appointment as secretary of defense a year later, and up to his death in 1959. 

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