From May to September 1938, one year before the start of World War II, John and Margaret Randolph traveled from the U.S. to Europe. At ages 34 and 27, they were on an adventure, traveling by train, renting bicycles, and sleeping in youth hostels–a typical tour in an atypical time. They traveled to Holland, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, England, and Wales before finding passage home on a freighter.
John Randolph, a mathematician who had just spent two years at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, kept a daily journal of the trip. After his death, his daughter came across the journal. Knowing what took place in Germany in 1938 and what would follow throughout Europe, she began to research the historical context for the trip and ask, how much did they know then, and what did they see?
In this look at her father’s trip journal from 1938, Rebecca McBride responds with historical and personal commentary. As a result, the book reflects the interplay between an adventurous trip to Europe and the underlying shadow of what was to come. The trip journal entries, with their details of everyday life (finding a room, buying food, climbing mountains, going to the opera) alternate with glimpses of historical truth, known today but not completely realized at the time.
Author interview with Ann Forbes Cooper, WGXC-FM, July 5, 2011: