The Man Who Ran Washington: James A. Baker III Papers and book talk, Oct. 21

book cover

On Oct. 21 at 1:30 p.m., Peter Baker, Chief White House Correspondent for The New York Times, and Susan B. Glasser, an American journalist and news editor, discuss their new book, "The Man Who Ran Washington: The Life and Times of James A. Baker III." The book talk is co-sponsored by Princeton School of Public and International Affairs and the Princeton University Library, with Dan Linke, University Archivist and Deputy Head of Special Collections, as moderator. Linke answers questions about the talk and the James A. Baker III Papers held within the Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library Public Policy Papers. Register for the talk here. 

During the book talk, what do you hope to learn from the authors?

This is the first biography of James Baker '52, and though he wrote his memoirs, no one has written a comprehensive analysis of his life and career. Enough time has passed and Baker’s papers are now open to researchers, so the timing for that assessment is good, especially when you consider the dysfunction in Washington now. I hope we’ll get insights into what made Baker such an effective public servant, and if that might be possible again.

You oversee Princeton University Library’s Public Policy Papers. What can you tell us about the significance of the collection of James A. Baker III Papers held by the Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library?

It’s one of our most used collections. From the mid-1970s until 1993, James Baker was a significant force in American politics, both foreign and domestic. He was involved in five consecutive presidential campaigns. He ran the Reagan White House as chief of staff in his first term, where most of the accomplishments of Reagan’s presidency were achieved. During Reagan’s second term, he was treasury secretary, where he oversaw the tax reform whose broad principles are still in place today. Those two things alone would merit a book.  But he has this incredible third act as secretary of state during the momentous Bush presidency, where the Soviet Union crumbles, Germany is reunited, and the first war with Iraq occurs, among a whole lot of other important events. Baker’s papers touch on all of these topics and give you a glimpse into his thinking, through letters, memos, and often his handwritten notes scrawled on these documents.

How can researchers access the papers?

The first step is to check out our finding aid. Normally, the Mudd Library is open to the public but at the moment we’re undergoing a renovation, and the pandemic prohibits outside visitors. I’m hopeful that next April, when we plan to move back into the building, that we can welcome back all visitors. In the meantime, you can submit a question via our Ask Us form, and we may be able to help you with digital access. And in the not-too-distant future, we hope to digitize the collection to make it freely available to the world.

Read more on Linke's blog post.

letter from George Bush

George H.W. Bush correspondence, signed Jan. 15, 1993. James A. Baker III Papers, Seeley G. Mudd Library.


Media contact: Barbara Valenza, Director, Library Communications