United Nations Career Records Project

Second seminar in the 2013 Authorship, Memory & Manuscripts seminar series convened by the Bodleian Library.

'Reintroducing "Policy From Below": The UN and the Congo Crisis (1960-1964). Research at Oxford's United Nations Career Records Project'.

4 February 2013

Dr Teresa Tomás Rangil Jesus College (Oxford) drew on a number of British and American archives in her powerpoint presentation. The selection below focuses on material in the United Nations Career Records Project (UNCRP). The catalogue of this archive is available online. The Congo during the 1960s is also a major theme in a complementary collection, the papers of George Ivan Smith (1915-95).

Professor Patricia Clavin (Jesus College, Oxford) chaired the session. The seminar was audio recorded for the series archive.

This edited selection reproduces some of the material referenced in the seminar. The extracts from Winifred Tickner's recollections of events in the Congo of June 1960 underlines the value of spouses' memoirs; the letters of Anthony Gilpin, and his retrospective introduction to them, describe his motivation and assessment of local conditions.


1. Policy & location

Slide illustrating the UN's location in the Congo

2. Ideas & actions

UN civilian intervention in the Congo (1960-1964)

Transfer of economic institutions

• New central bank

• Taxes and customs reform

• Planning infrastructures

• "Contentieux congo-belge"

3. Complementary sources

Slide illustrating the UN documentary record

4. UNCRP : Policy From Below

New visual imaginaries for the postcolonial world


Document Gallery


5. Firsthand accounts

Winifred Tickner was the wife of Fred Tickner, UN representative

Winifred Tickner’s comment that on 30 June 1960 "At United Nations Headquarters in New York, a breeze of expectancy swept through the Secretariat Building..." is taken from her typescript account: A Spectator in the Congo. Memories from the diary of an onlooker at the violent birth of the Democratic Republic of the Congo [MS. Eng. c. 4704, gallery image 1 and 2]

6. Living conditions

To illustrate this section of her talk Dr Tomas Rangil drew on Anthony Gilpin’s contribution to the UNCRP archive. Unfortunately the poor legibility of some of Gilpin’s typescripts (in themselves copies of original documents) means only some of the documents can be reproduced here. Gilpin returned to the Congo in February 1962 at the invitation of Robert Gardiner in the aftermath of Dag Hammarskjold’s death. Gardiner, U Thant’s choice as officer in charge, had invited Gilpin to be his Special Assistant in the Congo.


"I am able 'to fulfill my destiny,' or in more Quakerly terms, to act on a concern..."

Anthony Gilpin to his wife, 27 Feb 1962 (MS. Eng. c. 4675, fol. 5v.) [Gallery image 3]


Black markets

“Wearing a blue beret does not necessarily turn a soldier into a saint...”

Letters from the Congo, Part II (undated), Introduction to Part II. [Gallery images 4-5]

A number of US sources were also cited to illustrate the points below

7. UN archives (New York): Middle-rank  policy

Structure and chains of policy design

Common ideology (pragmatism – “getting the job done”)

Reluctance to engage with political issues

8. “Getting the job done”

9.Hammarskjöld Library: Oral Histories from decision-makers

Claims to expertise

Motivations, beliefs


10. UN & Ideas

Slide illustrating the UN's ideas regarding the Congo

11. Fiscal reform

12. Monetary Council vs. foreign experts

-Free markets and black markets

-Currency unification

13. Bureau of economic coordination vs. foreign advisors



  • Avoid the “intellectualist bias” in decolonization and modernization history
  • Reintroduce the political aspect in the workings of international organizations
  • Need to complement of a micro-history approach to the practices of development practitioners to recover their intentions, beliefs and loyalties


© Dr Teresa Tomás Rangil 

Back to top