Article révisé par les pairs
Résumé : An offspring of a precocious large-scale humanitarian enterprise to save occupied Belgium from starvation during the FirstWorldWar, the Commission for Relief in Belgium (CRB) Educational Foundation was established in 1919 as an exchange programme for Belgian and American university students. The CRB Educational Foundation was originally designed as a commemoration monument celebrating the relief drive and its main architects – the businessman and future president of the USA, Herbert Hoover, and its counterpart on the Belgian territory, the financier Emile Francqui. In a few years’ time, the programme rapidly grew out from a successful private initiative to a political project corresponding to different needs. While Hoover saw in this transatlantic exchange programme the expression of a policy which in many ways anticipated the activities of ‘cultural diplomacy’ during the Cold War and allegedly promoted ‘mutual understanding’ in international affairs, Francqui conceived it as a purely domestic instrument enabling to alleviate Belgium’s lagging scientific and academic position after the war. This paper attempts to show that this fundamental divergence of views contributed to make the exchange programme an unbalanced programme from the start whose success ultimately resulted from a fruitful misunderstanding, rather than from a common aspiration for ‘mutual understanding’.