The Black Book

Woodrow Wilson's Secret Plan for Peace

By (author) Wesley J. Reisser

Publication date:

29 March 2012

Length of book:

214 pages


Lexington Books

ISBN-13: 9780739171110

Prior to the end of World War I, President Wilson gathered a group of expert geographers, historians, economists, and political scientists – The Inquiry – to make plans for the coming peace conference. The Inquiry produced a secret document, the Black Book, containing maps and plans for the territorial settlements to be negotiated. This secret plan was brought daily by the President into negotiations and much of it came to fruition on the world map. This work takes an in-depth look at the Black Book and the lasting legacy of American negotiators at the Paris Peace Conference. Many of the successes, and failures, from these peace settlements trace directly back to this remarkable, and heretofore, almost unstudied plan.
There is an old saying that ‘geography is about maps not chaps.’ This book may be the strongest argument yet that geography is about both, for this volume, richly illustrated by post-WW I maps that are the basis for so many of today's European boundaries, coupled with the monumental influence of the geographer Isaiah Bowman, makes this a compelling read. George Washington University geographer Reisser's focus is the existence, largely unknown, of the "Black Book" that guided US policy and practice in the treaties that followed war's end. One is struck by the remarkable revelations arising from this first in-depth use of the Black Book as a primary source for European boundaries and new nation-states. In addition, the attention to detail that the Black Book demands and that the author supplies is truly admirable. Two pages on the obscure and largely forgotten sub-Carpathian Ruthenians is surprising yet indicative. Reisser examines both existent and no longer existent boundaries, thus giving the full story. An absolute must read for anyone studying European political geography and history and, in particular, the birth of today's nation-state. Summing Up: Essential.