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Josef Korbel Papers

Identifier: M033


Dr. Josef Korbel (1907-1967), Czechoslovakian ambassador to Yugoslavia after World War II served as professor of International Studies at the University of Denver, Denver, Colorado from 1949-1967. Korbel also served as Dean of the Graduate School of International Studies and Director of the Social Science Foundation at the University of Denver. He was the first Andrew W. Mellon Professor of International Studies and the author of books on East-West relations, communist Eastern Europe, and Kashmir. He authored a book entitled, Poland between East and West.


  • 1919-2003


Language of Materials

Collection is predominately in English, but some letters and manuscripts are in other languages.

Biographical / Historical

Dr. Josef Korbel followed a unique path towards his long association with the University of Denver (DU). Born in Czechoslovakia on September 20, 1909, he studied at the Sorbonne in Paris before receiving a Doctor of Law Degree from Charles University, Prague in 1933, with emphasis on international relations. He began his diplomatic career with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Prague in 1934. In 1937 he was appointed Press and Cultural Attaché of the Czechoslovak Legation in Belgrade, Yugoslavia.

After the German occupation of Czechoslovakia in March 1939, he escaped with his family to London, where he joined the Czechoslovak government in exile. He served as personal secretary to Jan Masaryk until 1940 when he became head of the broadcasting department.

After the war, Korbel returned to Czechoslovakia, where he served as Chef de Cabinet to Masaryk, and helped organize the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Prague. He also served on the Czechoslovak delegation to the Paris Peace Conference. His next appointment was as Ambassador to Yugoslavia. That appointment ended with the take over of the Czechoslovak government by the communists. The Korbels were forced to leave Czechoslovakia once again, and made their way to New York City. Korbel had been appointed by the Czechoslovak government to a United Nations Commission on India and Pakistan. The staff of the United Nations persuaded Korbel to continue to serve the Commission as long as possible, which he did. He served as chairman and delivered the first commission report to the U.N. Security Council before pressure from the government in Prague forced his retirement from the Commission in 1949.

A connection to the United Nations brought Josef Korbel to the United States and then to Denver and the University. It was at that point that Korbel began his career at the University of Denver, being named Professor in International Relations and a staff member of the Social Sciences Foundation. In 1959 he was appointed Dean of the Graduate School of International Studies and Director of the Social Science Foundation, thereby adding his leadership to one of the outstanding programs in world affairs. He then served as Dean of the Graduate School of International Studies and Director of the Social Science Foundation, and was named the first Andrew W. Mellon Professor of International Studies in 1969. His tenure at DU was marked by an active teaching and writing schedule, which included mentoring such students as his daughter, Madeline Albright, and Condoleezza Rice. During his years at DU, Korbel also served as visiting professor at such institutions as MIT, Harvard, Columbia, and Oxford. According to his own assessment, Korbel was fluent in four languages, good in two more and had a good reading knowledge of an additional two. That grasp of languages aided him in his research, which led to six books and numerous articles, dealing primarily with Eastern Europe and Cold War diplomacy.

In addition to his international reputation, Korbel is remembered at the University of Denver as an outstanding teacher and scholar. His students remember a caring teacher who was generous with his time. His colleagues remembered him as nurturing and supportive. All who knew him at the University of Denver remembered him as a person who enjoyed good food and good company and loved good conversation, especially over the dinner table. He looked forward to the future with the experience of his past, but was never bitter about what had happened to him and his family. When he died of cancer in 1977, he was honored by his colleagues and students in a special ceremony, and by the University with the establishment of the Josef Korbel Memorial Scholarship.


20 Linear Feet ((20) record boxes)

Scope and Contents

The Korbel papers at the University of Denver cover the years from 1949-1967 that Josef Korbel spent at the University of Denver, Denver, Colorado and consists of correspondence between Josef Korbel and various people regarding his research and publications on the problems of Kashmir and on the relations of the satellite republics with the Soviet Union. The collection also includes correspondence concerning Korbel’s year as a visiting lecturer at Oxford University, and information on speaking engagements, speeches, book reviews and publications. Included in the collection are a series of manuscript drafts of Korbel’s book, Poland between East and West: Soviet and German diplomacy toward Poland, 1919-1933, which include notations and handwritten corrections by Korbel.


This collection is being re-arranged; the listed arrangement reflects the collection as it was received from Mrs. Korbel.

The Korbel Papers are arranged into five series:
  1. Personal correspondence, 1940-1967
  2. Research and Manuscripts on Kashmir and Czechoslovakia, 1919-1964
  3. Years at Oxford, 1961-1964
  4. Speaking Engagements, 1959-1967
  5. Research and Manuscripts on East - West Relations and Poland

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Mrs. Josef Korbel, 1979


No further accruals are expected.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections and Archives Repository

2150 East Evans Avenue
Denver CO 80208
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