Richard Holbrooke • A remarkable Diplomat

After watching the documentary THE DIPLOMAT, which tells the unique story of the life and legacy of Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, whose singular career spanned fifty years of American foreign policy – from Vietnam to Afghanistan, I had to make an article. richard holbrooke remarkable diplomat

Richard Holbrooke passport 1963

A jerk and talented diplomat (Washington Post). The last freewheeling diplomat (New York Times). He was all of it and made the world a better place.

Ambassador Holbrooke was one of his generation’s best and brightest. He has served his country with distinction and honesty, whether as a young State Department officer in Vietnam or as Ambassador to Germany and the United Nations. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, Holbrooke set out to achieve lasting peace.

Richard Holbrooke visa Vietnam 1963

The documentary and the book “Our Man: Richard Holbrooke and the End of the American Century” was a fascinating study of both the man and the loss of American dominance from Vietnam to Afghanistan. We see the follies and unforced blunders that have plagued American foreign policy for the last four decades in the figure of Richard Holbrooke. We also get to see certain victories, such as Holbrooke’s excellent work in negotiating the Dayton Accords, which put an end to the Balkan wars in 1995.

By all accounts, Holbrooke was a larger-than-life person. This was both a source of strength and a source of vulnerability for him. Only someone like Holbrooke could have persuaded Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic to sign the Dayton Accords, given his tangle of skill and ambition. Nonetheless, his blatant ambition hindered him from achieving his lifetime aim of becoming Secretary of State.

Richard Holbrooke visa Bosnia-Herzegovina

Overworking himself to the point of exhaustion, Holbrooke felt that the lessons taught in Vietnam would help him avoid repeating the Vietnam experience in Afghanistan. They did not. Others on the team disregarded Vietnam’s relevance to the current situation and chastised Holbrooke for bringing it up so frequently, daring to remind that Afghan President Hamid Karzai was re-elected. However, significant voting fraud didn’t assist his case either. Despite this, Holbrooke continued to offer directions even as he was carried into emergency surgery. He was the leading man in this drama, and he planned to leave on a high note.

richard holbrooke remarkable diplomat

“Diplomacy is like jazz: endless variations on a theme.”
– Richard Holbrooke

Richard Charles Albert Holbrooke was an American diplomat and author, born on April 24, 1941. He was the first and only person to serve as Assistant Secretary of State for two separate areas of the world (Asia from 1977 to 1981 and Europe from 1994 to 1996). Ambassador Holbrooke died on December 13, 2010. richard holbrooke remarkable diplomat

Further reading – The Yugoslavian Wars


FAQ Passport History
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1. What are the earliest known examples of passports, and how have they evolved?

The word "passport" came up only in the mid 15th Century. Before that, such documents were safe conducts, recommendations or protection letters. On a practical aspect, the earliest passport I have seen was from the mid 16th Century. Read more...

2. Are there any notable historical figures or personalities whose passports are highly sought after by collectors?

Every collector is doing well to define his collection focus, and yes, there are collectors looking for Celebrity passports and travel documents of historical figures like Winston Churchill, Brothers Grimm, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Read more...

3. How did passport designs and security features change throughout different periods in history, and what impact did these changes have on forgery prevention?

"Passports" before the 18th Century had a pure functional character. Security features were, in the best case, a watermark and a wax seal. Forgery, back then, was not an issue like it is nowadays. Only from the 1980s on, security features became a thing. A state-of-the-art passport nowadays has dozens of security features - visible and invisible. Some are known only by the security document printer itself. Read more...

4. What are some of the rarest and most valuable historical passports that have ever been sold or auctioned?

Lou Gehrig, Victor Tsoi, Marilyn Monroe, James Joyce, and Albert Einstein when it comes to the most expensive ones. Read more...

5. How do diplomatic passports differ from regular passports, and what makes them significant to collectors?

Such documents were often held by officials in high ranks, like ambassadors, consuls or special envoys. Furthermore, these travel documents are often frequently traveled. Hence, they hold a tapestry of stamps or visas. Partly from unusual places.

6. Can you provide insights into the stories behind specific historical passports that offer unique insights into past travel and migration trends?

A passport tells the story of its bearer and these stories can be everything - surprising, sad, vivid. Isabella Bird and her travels (1831-1904) or Mary Kingsley, a fearless Lady explorer.

7. What role did passports play during significant historical events, such as wartime travel restrictions or international treaties?

During war, a passport could have been a matter of life or death. Especially, when we are looking into WWII and the Holocaust. And yes, during that time, passports and similar documents were often forged to escape and save lives. Example...

8. How has the emergence of digital passports and biometric identification impacted the world of passport collecting?

Current modern passports having now often a sparkling, flashy design. This has mainly two reasons. 1. Improved security and 2. Displaying a countries' heritage, icons, and important figures or achievements. I can fully understand that those modern documents are wanted, especially by younger collectors.

9. Are there any specialized collections of passports, such as those from a specific country, era, or distinguished individuals?

Yes, the University of Western Sidney Library has e.g. a passport collection of the former prime minister Hon Edward Gough Whitlam and his wife Margaret. They are all diplomatic passports and I had the pleasure to apprise them. I hold e.g. a collection of almost all types of the German Empire passports (only 2 types are still missing). Also, my East German passport collection is quite extensive with pretty rare passport types.

10. Where can passport collectors find reliable resources and reputable sellers to expand their collection and learn more about passport history?

A good start is eBay, Delcampe, flea markets, garage or estate sales. The more significant travel documents you probably find at the classic auction houses. Sometimes I also offer documents from my archive/collection. See offers... As you are already here, you surely found a great source on the topic 😉

Other great sources are: Scottish Passports, The Nansen passport, The secret lives of diplomatic couriers

11. Is vintage passport collecting legal? What are the regulations and considerations collectors should know when acquiring historical passports?

First, it's important to stress that each country has its own laws when it comes to passports. Collecting old vintage passports for historical or educational reasons is safe and legal, or at least tolerated. More details on the legal aspects are here...

Does this article spark your curiosity about passport collecting and the history of passports? With this valuable information, you have a good basis to start your own passport collection.

Question? Contact me...