Alvarez, David J.
ALVAREZ, David J.
Male. Education: St. Mary's College of California, B.A., 1969; University of Connecticut, M.A., 1971, Ph.D., 1975.
Office—Galileo 320, P.O. Box 4730, Moraga, CA 94575. E-mail—[email protected].
St. Mary's College of California, Moraga, CA, Department of Politics, assistant professor, professor, 1973—; Loyola University of Chicago, Rome, Italy, visiting associate professor, 1985-86; American University in Paris, Paris, France, visiting professor, 1989.
National Defense Education Act Fellowship, 1969-72; American Philosophical Society Research Grants, 1977, 1981; Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism, research grant, 1978; Saint Mary's College Alumni Faculty Research Fellowship, 1990; National Endowment for the Humanities, travel grant, 1990; National Security Agency (Department of Defense), research fellowship, 1997-98.
(Editor) An American Church: Essays on the Americanization of the Catholic Church, Saint Mary's College of California (Moraga, CA), 1979.
Bureaucracy and Cold War Diplomacy: The United States and Turkey: 1945-1946, Institute for Balkan Studies (Thessaloniki, Greece), 1980.
(Coeditor with Carl Guarneri) Religion and Society in the American West: Historical Essays, University Press of America (Lanham, MD), 1987.
(With Robert A. Graham) Nothing Sacred: Nazi Espionage against the Vatican, 1930-1945, F. Cass (Portland, OR), 1997.
(Editor) Allied and Axis Signals Intelligence in World War II, F. Cass (Portland, OR), 1999.
Secret Messages: Codebreaking and American Diplomacy, 1939-1945, University Press of Kansas (Lawrence, KS), 2000.
Spies in the Vatican: Espionage and Intrigue from Napoleon to the Holocaust, University Press of Kansas (Lawrence, KS), 2002.
A former scholar at the National Security Agency, David J. Alvarez has emerged as a prominent historian of signals intelligence and other aspects of espionage, particularly as it was used in World War II. At the same time, he has retained a strong early interest in the history of religion, and in two well-received books he has combined both of these interests by exploring the history of spying at the Vatican.
After editing An American Church: Essays on the Americanization of the Catholic Church and publishing a short work on U.S.-Turkish relations at the dawn of the Cold War, Alvarez edited Religion and Society in the American West: Historical Essays. According to the opening essay by Eldon G. Ernst, "Most historians of American religion have ignored the Far West, and historians of the Far West have neglected religion." The book sets out to correct that deficiency, covering numerous religious developments west of the Rocky Mountains, with sections on "Missionaries," "Education," "Mormonism," and other sects and ethnicities that have shaped that history. "It achieves a good balance between a broad picture, with articles on Mexican-American Catholicism and Judaism as civil religion, and more specific subjects dealing with individual personalities," wrote David J. Zucker in the Journal of American History. While finding that "one surprising limitation … was the lack of focus on women," Western Historical Quarterly reviewer Linda K. Pritchard concluded that "in general, these essays provide an excellent foundation for further inquiry into religion and the Far West."
In Nothing Sacred: Nazi Espionage against the Vatican, 1930-1945 Alvarez and coauthor Fr. Robert A. Graham explore another neglected area of religious history, the attempt by the Nazi regime to penetrate the legendary secrecy of the Vatican. Despite the papacy's official neutrality, Hitler's Germany remained deeply suspicious of it, and considered the Church an arch-enemy in their long-range plans. Both the pope's spiritual influence over millions of Catholics, and the Vatican's historical position as a meeting ground for people from virtually every nation on earth drew the attention of Nazi spymasters. Drawing on memoirs and newly available archives, the authors "have written a lucid and fascinating analysis of the Nazi attempts to understand Vatican strategies during World War II," according to Choice reviewer D. J. Dietrich. According to Alvarez and Graham, those attempts seem to have been largely unsuccessful, foiled by the intense loyalty of ecclesiastics, the Nazis' pathological hatred for the Church, and bureaucratic infighting between various German agencies responsible for gathering information. Some of these issues predated the Nazi regime, and American Historical Review contributor Stewart A. Stehlin noted that "More information about Vatican-German cooperation during the Weimar period would have helped.… Nevertheless, the book contributes to the growing body of literature demonstrating the Vatican's importance in twentieth-century diplomatic affairs. Alvarez and Graham show the uniqueness of the Vatican … and the difficulties any secular government had in penetrating an organization built on clerical loyalties and training in 'confessional' secrecy."
Alvarez's next two books continued his interest in espionage during World War II. In Allied and Axis Signals Intelligence in World War II, Alvarez brings together a number of essays on collaboration within the alliances in the highly secretive area of code-breaking. "Volumes of edited essays frequently are marred by a lack of continuity or unevenness in the scholarship of individual essayists. This volume … is a refreshing exception," wrote Journal of Military History reviewer Carl Boyd. Alvarez followed up withSecret Messages: Codebreaking and American Diplomacy, 1939-1945, a "badly needed history of the origins of modern American signals intelligence," according to historian John Earl Haynes in H-Net: Humanities and Social Sciences Online. Interestingly, Alvarez finds that President Roosevelt's person-to-person style of diplomacy greatly diminished the influence of signals intelligence during his administration. Nevertheless, these years laid the groundwork for a type of intelligence gathering that Roosevelt's successors have found invaluable. While noting that the book "only scratches the surface of diplomatic sigint in World War II," Journal of Military History reviewer Ernest L. Bell found that it "makes excellent use of newly opened sources, and it brings this fascinating bit of history to the forefront for closer examination." Choice reviewer C. W. Haury concluded that "Alvarez has combined facts, careful history, intriguing and colorful personalities, and organizational detail into a well-written and captivating narrative."
In Spies in the Vatican: Espionage and Intrigue from Napoleon to the Holocaust, Alvarez returned to his longstanding interest in the attempts of largely secular nations to penetrate and influence the clerical world of the papacy. In some ways an easy target, due to its reliance on outdated codes and the ease of placing agents in this most cosmopolitan center, Alvarez shows that the Vatican has proven strangely resistant to the prying eyes of foreign governments, in part due to its strict hierarchy and the intense loyalty of its members to the interests of the Church. At the same time, he illustrates the frustrations of the Vatican in gaining worthwhile intelligence, due largely to its reliance on agents with religious, rather than intelligence, training, and its inability to keep up with European developments in spying technology. "An illuminating and thorough look into an interesting subculture of clandestine operations," wrote Booklist contributor Brendan Driscoll.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Historical Review, December, 1998, Stewart A. Stehlin, review of Nothing Sacred: Nazi Espionage against the Vatican, 1939-1945, pp. 1634-1635.
Booklist, October 15, 2002, Brendan Driscoll, review of Spies in the Vatican, pp. 366-367.
Choice, June, 1998, D. J. Dietrich, review of Nothing Sacred, p. 1776; October, 2000, C. W. Haury, review of Secret Messages: Codebreaking and American Diplomacy, 1930-1945, p. 390.
Church History, June, 1981, Patrick W. Carey, review of An American Church: Essays on the Americanization of the Catholic Church, pp. 244-245.
Journal of American History, December, 1988, David J. Zucker, review of Religion and Society in the American West: Historical Essays, pp. 904-905.
Journal of Military History, July, 2000, Carl Boyd, review of Allied and Axis Signals Intelligence in World War II, pp. 880-881; October, 2000, Ernest L. Bell, review of Secret Messages, pp. 1191-1193.
Journal of the West, July, 1989, Theodore L. Agnew, review of Religion and Society in the American West, pp. 89-90.
Library Journal, December, 2002, Daniel K. Blewett, review of Spies in the Vatican, p. 146.
Publishers Weekly, October 14, 2002, review of Spies in the Vatican, p. 78.
Western Historical Quarterly, November, 1989, Linda K. Pritchard, review of Religion and Society in the American West, pp. 456-457.
H-Net: Humanities and Social Sciences Online,http://www2.h-net.msu.edu/ (January 29, 2003), John Earl Haynes, review of Secret Messages.*