How to Use This Site

This website is built around a virtual archive of documents that date from the 1920s to the present, with the majority coming from the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. Although the public controversy about Herbert Norman began only in 1950, older materials are included here because they provide essential background for the crucial events leading up to Norman’s suicide in 1957.

These are real documents, typed or resized, but otherwise exactly as they appear in the archives. Even typographical errors and spelling mistakes have been kept as they appear in the original documents. You will encounter these “primary sources” in much the same way as would any historian who goes into the archives. The major difference between what you see here and the original archival sources is that parts of some documents have been left out in the interest of brevity. Where this has been done, ellipses […] indicate the gap.

Over 50 years after Norman’s death, government departments and agencies still regard some aspects of his case as matters that cannot be divulged for varied reasons, often having to do with “national security.” Thus some of the documents contain deletions made under the Canadian Access to Information Act or the US Freedom of Information Act. Where this occurs, the approximate number of words or lines deleted is noted within square brackets.

Your job is to do the detective work to piece together an answer to the central question of why Herbert Norman took his own life. It’s a question that intrigued people at the time of his death and has remained a subject of very considerable disagreement since. As with any other mystery, the documents in the site contain clues, contradictions, and even some misinformation. Just as RCMP officers or members of the Canadian Department of External Affairs had to assess the issue of Norman’s loyalty using the partial information available to them, you, too, will have to grapple with a similar uncertainty. In your case, at least, a talented man’s career and life are not hanging in the balance, as they were in the 1950s.

Negotiating the Site

Death of a Diplomat is divided into seven main sections shown at the top of this page under the titles: Home, Murder by Slander?, Background, Cold War/Hot Wars, In Pursuit of Norman, Aftermath, and Interpretations. Click on the buttons to surf through these key sections. Each of the titles of the seven sections is a clickable button that will lead to an introduction for the section, and then, via another level of subsections, to the documents and images themselves. In the Murder by Slander? section you will find documents that describe the suicide of Herbert Norman. Background provides information about Norman as a young man as well as records about the 1930s and the Second World War. Cold War/Hot Wars addresses the opening of the Cold War in 1945 and hot wars such as the Korean War and the Suez Crisis. In Pursuit of Norman looks at the national intelligence agencies’ information about Norman and the campaign launched by the US Senate Internal Security Subcommittee and the press. Aftermath includes records from immediately after Norman’s death and the on-going arguments about his death. Lastly, the Interpretations section contains not primary sources but secondary materials, written by historians who, with the benefit of 50 years of reflection, ponder the question of why Norman committed suicide. This section is password-protected, to prevent students from relying on the interpretations of ‘the experts’ rather than on their own assessment of the documents. A password can, however, be obtained from the Mysteries staff; we only ask that you assure us that you are not a student looking for a shortcut!

The Home Page also has a vertical menu bar down the left-hand side of the page. Each menu item provides information about the site itself. You are now browsing the How to Use This Site section. Support for Teachers links you to further aid to teachers available on this site. Mystery Quests takes you to a series of challenges in historical assessment focused on different age groups and using subsections of the entire Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History site. The Feedback button allows you to send us your comments directly, as a teacher, a student, or a surfer on the Mysteries websites. The Credits button will take you to the page that names the members of the team of researchers, technical people, designers, translators and financial sponsors of the site. Beyond This Site points you to other sources about E.H. Norman. Two final buttons provide information on how to correctly Cite this Site as well as an overview of its navigational structure in the form of a Site Plan.

Primary documents are the core of this website. We have provided you with the citation indicating the source of every document on the site, and where you can find the original item. This information is indicated at the bottom of every document. For images, the citation/caption is available by “mousing” over the image. All documents also have a link to the About this Source option that explains the kind of document you are looking at – government document, photograph, letter, etc. As noted above, the sources are organized throughout the site into different sections, but they are also listed together, organized by Document Type, in the Archives section that appears along the horizontal tool bar of each page.