The Washington Post Sunday Magazine
23 March 1975
The Professor Who Knew Too Much
Borrowing a few crucial pages from his book,
the ultra-right made a scholar an unwilling hero.
By Rudy Maxa
Collage (below) by Allen Appel, based on a photo by
Greetings, Dr. Quigley: With reference to your book,
Tragedy and Hope, at which I am presently directing much of my energies, I would
appreciate a short explanation as to why you generally approve of the
conspiracy. I enclose a self-addressed envelope for your convenience.
-- from a letter postmarked Rahway, N.J.
In 1966, Macmillan Company published the history of the world between 1895 and
1965 as seen through the cool, gray eyes of Carroll Quigley, a professor of
history at Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service. The 1,348-page tome, called
Tragedy and Hope, was a commanding work, 20 years in the writing, that added to
Quigley’s considerable national reputation as a historian.
But though he had no way of knowing it, Quigley had just written his own ticket
to a curious kind of fame. He was about to become a reluctant hero to Americans
who believe the world is neatly controlled by a clique of international bankers
and their cronies. He was about to learn of the country’s awesome appetite for
believing a grand conspiracy causes everything from big wars to bad weather.
Strangers would soon call to bend Quigley’s ear about secret societies.
Insistent letters from Rahway, N.J., among other places, would clutter his desk.
And eventually, Tragedy and Hope would be pirated by zealots who would sell the
book in the same brochures that advertise such doomsday products as “Minutemen
Survival Tabs,” concentrated vitamin tablets to help patriots survive
sieges by foreign enemies.
It was the John Birch Society that really catapulted -- or dragged -- Quigley
front-and-center into the conspiracy picture. Just before the 1972 primary,
voters in New Hampshire opened their mail and found copies of a
breathlessly-written paperback, None Dare Call It Conspiracy. The book,
researched, written and recommended by Birch Society members, warned that public
figures as different as John Gardner and Henry Kissinger were part of a
conspiracy centered around the Establishment’s unofficial club, New York’s
Council on Foreign Relations.
For identifying “a power-mad clique (that) wants to control the world,”
Quigley was labeled “the Joseph Valachi of political conspiracies.”
None Dare Call It Conspiracy used exclamation points, charts of power networks
and heavy rhetoric to awaken Americans to their diminishing freedoms. And much
of the hoopla was based on a mere 25 pages from Quigley’s book which, None Dare
Call It Conspiracy said, “revealed the existence of the conspiratorial network”
of a “power-mad clique (that) wants to control and rule the
world.” Quigley was “the Joseph Valachi of political conspiracies” for fingering
the bankers and power brokers -- the Insiders.” And a photograph of Quigley
shared a page with no less than financier J. P. Morgan.
John Birch Society President Robert Welch predicted distribution of 15 million
copies of None Dare Call It Conspiracy, part of a “gigantic flare from
educational materials called forth by the emotions and events of a crucial
election year.” As copies began to spread across the country, Quigley began to
grasp what the selective, unauthorized quotation from his work could mean.
The approach to history taken by the authors of None Dare Call It Conspiracy
offended Quigley’s scholastic sensibilities. Worse, he found he could not fight
back against the misinformation he felt was being disseminated with the aid of
his research and his name. “It blackened my reputation,” Quigley said, “amongst
scholarly historians who are going to say, ‘Oh, he’s one of those right-wing
Professor Carroll Quigley -- B.A., M.A., and Ph.D., all from Harvard in the ‘30s
-- is a trim, engaging man who points to his good-sized nose and broad, high
forehead with some pride. The physical characteristics mark him as a Carroll and
a stroll past the statue of Georgetown University’s founder, John Carroll,
points up the resemblance.
Quigley does not descend directly from those Carrolls, the landed Marylanders
who were influential enough in the Revolutionary years to have a signature on
the Constitution. Instead, Quigley’s maternal ancestors were the less affluent
Carrolls left behind in Ireland who only got around to making it to Halifax a
few generations ago. On his father’s side, the Quigleys were so poor they
couldn’t even wait for the potato famine to leave Ireland for Boston in 1828.
Quigley talks genealogy with a historian’s precision, spins family stories like
a true Irishman, and more: he understands, and tells his listener he
understands, how his past shaped him. Young Carroll Quigley lived on the edge of
the Irish ghetto in Boston and mixed it up in the streets with Yankees,
Italians, Russian Jews and a few blacks, a melting pot of a childhood that
Quigley says cast a strong base for his adult writings and teachings.
He cultivated the spirit of the Irish and honed the intellectual interests of
the Yankees while attending the Boston Latin School, whose list of distinguished
graduates stretches from Benjamin Franklin to Leonard Bernstein. Harvard came
next in a natural sort of way and Quigley intended to go into science until he
decided "there were a lot a good people in science but nobody good in history."
He kept current in science but formally attacked history; he was no slouch in
either. Quigley's Harvard tutor in medieval and ancient history, the late Donald
McKay, told him he could be Harvard's first summa cum laude graduate in history
in seven years -- "You could be a summa!" he exhorted Quigley -- but the
undergraduate chose instead to settle for a magna cum laude for fear of
shortchanging his emotional development.
After teaching stints at Princeton and Harvard. Quigley came to Georgetown
University in 1941 and became an on-line resource for Washington. He lectured at
the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, the Brookings Institution, the Stare
Department's Foreign Service Institute and consulted with the Smithsonian and
the Senate Select Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences.
To those duties and to his teachings he brought his holist philosophy, the
belief that knowledge cannot be divided into parts, that the world can be viewed
only as an interlocking, complex system. The philosophy complemented his life:
he had reveled in the traditions and contrasts of his neighborhood, eschewed the
summa in favor of keeping his emotional and social development on track,
and applied himself to science and economics as well as history. His passion to
consider the “big picture" never cooled.
Quigley has no small regret that some of the best minds of his generation insist
on treating the world in a 19th Century fashion by tinkering with its problems
as a mechanic looks at an engine: spreading the separate parts on the floor and
considering each one to find the malfunction. This reductionist way of thinking,
Quigley maintains, has gotten Western civilization into all kinds of trouble.
We cluck our tongues about inflation while stores offer expensive Christmas
goods with liberal credit schedules that don't call for a first payment until
spring. We bellyache about accumulating trash and energy shortages but spend
precious little discovering how garbage can become an energy source. That kind
of small thinking annoys Professor Carroll Quigley. It annoys him almost as much
as if someone took the narrow view that a clique of "Insiders" controlled the
The historian's mind remembers the summer of '43 well: the temperature topped 90
degrees 59 days that year, and one stretch lasted 15 days. Quigley, still so
Boston formal that he kept his suitcoat on during lectures, was charged with
teaching the history of the world to 750 military personnel who had just
finished their heavy mid-day meal. Five days a week, for one year, Quigley
stood in Gaston Hall and prepared the soldiers for the military occupation of
the countries in the European theater that the Allied forces expected to
From those frenzied months of preparing for his crash courses grew Quigley’s
eight-pound Tragedy and Hope. The title reflects his feeling that "Western
civilization is going down the drain." That is the tragedy. When the book came
out in 1966, Quigley honestly thought the whole show could he salvaged; that was
his hope. He will not say as much today.
The section in his history that was to so fascinate the political right
concerned the formation of the Council on Foreign Relations and the actions of
several famous banking houses. Quigley broke some new ground in his research in
the late 1940s; 20 years later the right seized Quigley's findings and drew some
Quigley had noticed that many prominent Englishmen and outstanding British
scholars were members of an honorary society called Fellows of All Souls
College. While Quigley was studying the 149 members, a former Fellow visited
Washington to speak, Quigley began chatting with him about the Fellows of All
Souls College. You mean the Round Table Group, the visitor said. What Quigley
asked, is the Round Table Group? After considerable research, Quigley knew.
"I learned the Round Table Group was very influential,” Quigley says. "I knew
they were the real founders of the Royal Institute of International Affairs and
I knew they were the founders of the Institute of Pacific Relations. I knew that
they were the godfathers of the Council on Foreign Relations. So I began to put
this thing together and I found that this group was working for a number of
"It was a secret group. Its members were working to federate the
English-speaking world. They were closely linked to international bankers. They
were working to establish what I call a three-power world: England and the U.S.,
Hitler's Germany and Soviet Russia. They said, 'We can control Germany because
it is boxed in between the Atlantic bloc and the Russians. The Russians will
behave because they're boxed in between the Atlantic bloc and the American Navy
in Singapore.’ Now, notice that this is essentially a balance of power system,"
None Dare Call It Conspiracy, using Quigley's data, attributed to the Round
Table Group a lust for world domination. Its sympathies were pro-Communist,
anti-Capitalist, said the Birch Society book.
"They thought Dr. Carroll Quigley proved everything." Quigley says. "For
example, they constantly misquote me to this effect: that Lord Milner (the
dominant trustee of the Cecil Rhodes Trust and a heavy in the Round Table Group)
helped finance the Bolsheviks. I have been through the greater part of Milner's
private papers and have found no evidence to support that.
"Further, None Due Call It Conspiracy insists that international bankers were a
single bloc, were all powerful and remain so today. I, on the contrary, stated
in my book that they were much divided, often fought among themselves, had great
influence but not control of political life and were sharply reduced in power
about 1931-1940, when they became less influential than monopolized industry.”
Tragedy and Hope received mixed, though generally favorable, reviews. Opined the
Library Journal: "Mr. Quigley . . . has written a very remarkable book: very
long, very detailed, very critical, very daring and very good.... His coverage
of the world is amazingly encyclopedic and well-balanced." Saturday Review was
less flattering: "For those who approve of this way of writing history, his
rambling volume may have a certain excellence.” Said the New York Times: "The
book provides a business-like narrative in which an incredible amount of
information is compressed -- and in some cases presented -- with drama and
But from the right, Quigley earned kudos for nailing the seminal data on the
Round Table Group that helped found the Council on Foreign Relations. His
dispassionate presentation, however, did not sit so well. While Quigley's
findings earned him pages of quotation (in apparent violation of copyright
laws), None Dare Call It Conspiracy sniped: “... the conspirators have had no
qualms about fomenting wars, depressions and hatred. They want a monopoly which
would eliminate all competitors and destroy the free enterprise system. And
Professor Quigley of Harvard, Princeton and Georgetown approves!"
“You see,” Quigley says, "originally the John Birch periodical had me as a great
guy for revealing everything. But then they became absolutely sour and now they
denounce me as a member of the Establishment. I'm just baffled by the whole
Quigley was first quoted by Gary Allen, the author of None Dare Call It
Conspiracy, in a 1968 book called Nixon: The Man Behind the Mask. Then, an
instructor at Brigham Young University in Utah, a Cleo[n] Skousens, wrote The
Naked Capitalist and again quoted Quigley extensively. But None Dare Call It
Conspiracy was the big seller. Nearly five million copies of the book have been
date, according to the publisher, Concord Press in California, and a new German
language edition is selling well.
Author and Birch Society member Gary Allen is one of Quigley's biggest fans, but
he laughs a huge laugh when told Quigley is the most reluctant of heroes. Of
course, says Allen good-naturedly, the Establishment could not be pleased
Quigley revealed so much about a Council on Foreign Relation, which prefers to
swing its weight quietly.
"They don't like this thing talked about because it is the real power
structure," Allen says from California. "Dr. Quigley let the cat out of the bag.
He had the liberal academic credentials. I'm sure a lot of people are very
unhappy with him for telling tales out of school.
Allen did not talk to Quigley before he began quoting from Tragedy and Hope
because Allen understood from "some intelligence people in Washington" that
Quigley was arrogant and unapproachable. "So I took him at his word that he had
had access to the private records of the Round Table Group,” Allen says. "Now
he’s trying to duck the importance of what he wrote by saying
we picked only a few pages out of a 1,400-page book."
After the books came the letters. Brother Nelson Goodwin, a self-styled Nevada
"hobo" evangelist was moved last summer to take pencil in hand and write,
"Brother Carroll: I have heard somewhere that ‘Snake Eyes Joe Enlai’ and ‘Mousey
Dung’ and ‘Snake in the Grass Fidel Castro’ all received their poison atheistic
doctrine in the Universities and Colleges of America. Thank God for Men like you
who love our Beautiful United States, the finest nation on the earth. “ Others,
like the writer from Rahway, wanted to know why Quigley "approved of the
conspiracy." Quigley has gotten handy at fielding the curve balls.
"You can't believe what people think,” he says. "Some believe it is all a Jewish
conspiracy, that is part of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion which we now
know were perpetuated by the Czarist Russian police force in 1904. And that this
conspiracy is the same thing as the Illuminati, a secret society founded in 1776
in Bavaria. And that the Illuminati are a branch of the Masons. There are some
people who say the Society of Cincinnati, of which George Washington was a
member during the American Revolution, was a branch of the Illuminati and that's
why the Masons built their monument in Alexandria to George Washington, since he
was a Mason and head of the Illuminati before he helped start the Society of
Cincinnati. See what I mean?"
If he chose to, Quigley could probably spend the rest of his life battling the
people who are using his research to bolster their own conclusions. But he has
narrowed the battle to stopping the illegal publication of Tragedy and Hope.
For reasons not clear to Quigley (but he does not attribute it to any
conspiracy), Macmillan stopped publishing Tragedy and Hope alter it sold 9,000
copies. Suddenly pirate editions began appearing, almost exact
photo-reproductions with identical dust jackets and binding. The original book
had yellow-edged pages, a touch either missed or considered too costly by
whoever decided to begin offering Tragedy and Hope on the sly. Carroll Quigley
quickly became a right-wing underground sensation.
"We have discovered a limited quantity which we offer to informed patriots on a
first come, first served basis for only $20 each,” read one brochure offering
the pirate copies. "For the first time, one of the 'insiders' of the
international 'elite' gives a candid account of the world of monopoly
capitalism. Not easy reading, but it is essential reading for those who consider
themselves in-depth students of the conspiracy."
Quigley hired a lawyer who managed to stop at least one of the pirate presses.
Then, working through an intermediary, Quigley sold a West Coast press the right
to re-print 2,000 copies of his book to retail for $25 each, from the Georgetown
University bookstore. As long as the right insists on selling his book, Quigley
reasons he might as well get his piece of the action. He has no such interest in
jumping aboard the conspiracy bandwagon.
"I generally think that any conspiracy theory of history is nonsense," Quigley
says, "for the simple reason that most conspiracies that we know about seem to
me to be conspiracies of losers, people who have been defeated on the historical
platforms of public happenings. The Ku Klux Klan had. its arguments destroyed
and defeated in the Civil War but because it was not prepared to
accept that, the KKK formed a conspiracy to fight underground.
"Now, there is not the slightest doubt that the international bankers have tried
to make banking into a mystery. But we are dealing with two different things. I
don't think that is a conspiracy; because something is a secret does not mean it
is a conspiracy."
The seductive beauty of believing the world is in the grip of one conspiracy or
another, however, is that any argument against a conspiracy is simply proof of
how clever the conspirators are; red herrings are only a mark of the cunning of
the conspirators, says the true believer.
Quigley is weary of tilting with conspiratorial windmills. He is 65 and intends
to retire after this academic year. He has books unfinished. None of which, he
hastens to add, have to do with conspiracy.
On his farm in West Virginia, Quigley is working on a book on the relationship
of weapon systems to the stability of the world. He rests there on weekends and
gardens between writing. But still the calls come, many from Texas, Florida and
California, Quigley notices. One conspiracy hound called and talked for 20
minutes. Quigley finally said he had to return to his work.
"Just one more question," the caller said. "Just tell me
this: why is Nelson Rockefeller a Communist?"
"I don't know," replied Quigley evenly. "I don't think he is but if you know he
is and you want to know why he is, why don't you call him up and ask him."
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