Rockefeller Archive Center

Rockefeller Archive Center Research Reports are created by recipients of research travel stipends and by many others who have conducted research at the RAC. The reports demonstrate the breadth of the RAC's archival holdings, particularly in the study of philanthropy and its effects. Read more about the history of philanthropy at resource.rockarch.org. Also, see the RAC Bibliography of Scholarship, a comprehensive online database of publications citing RAC archival collections.
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Designing Agricultural Programs in Mexico and India: Challenges, Successes, and Missed Opportunities

January 7, 2022

While several scholars have examined the foundation and agricultural innovation of the initial 1943 Office of Special Studies (OSS or OEE, the abbreviation in Spanish), this research focuses on, first, the impact of this knowledge on domestic science and rural Mexican development, and, second, the production of agricultural science techniques designed for domestic experimental stations yet implemented beyond Mexico. Consequently, this research examines how these Mexico-based ideas, distinct practices and scientific knowledge looked on the ground in the 1960s when knowledge practices —and seeds—developed in Mexico, arrived in India. In addition to research at the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC), as well as in national and state archives in Mexico and India, oral histories of farmers and scientists were conducted. This research report briefly examines the sunsetting of the OEE and its fusion into a new, wholly Mexican institute (INIA) which would become vital for later international networks. Simultaneously, the Rockefeller Foundation was expanding its presence in rural India.

Agrarian and Rural; Agriculture; Rockefeller Foundation

Black Land, Black Power, and Liberal Philanthropy

November 9, 2021

The late 1960s saw a revival of the "land question" in African American public life. This was in part a product of the political and intellectual upheavals of the late 1960s, as exponents of the Black Power movement cited the desirability of economic empowerment, institution building, and consciousness-raising as preconditions of nationhood. Liberal philanthropies, such as the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Ford Foundation, and others, were central funders of a variety of land-based activism in the rural South, reshaping the process and limits of African American-led rural development initiatives in the region.

African American Studies; Agrarian and Rural; Ford Foundation; Rockefeller Brothers Fund

The Birth and Death of Near East Foundation’s Community Development

October 18, 2021

My research looks at the Near East Foundation (NEF) from 1930 to 1979, exploring the rural education programs carried out in the Near East. Its predecessor, the Near East Relief (NER), provided assistance in former Ottoman territories after WWI. The epigraph above serves as an illustration of US sentiment towards the organization's work as its days of relief were almost phased out (like NER) and programs shifted to scientific philanthropy, addressing the underlying rural problems of poverty, pestilence, and ignorance. The story of the NEF is one of survival and relevance where it began by drawing on ideas of domestic philanthropy such as the Jeanes Fund, the General Education Board, and the Rockefeller Sanitary Commission for the Eradication of Hookworm Disease. These philanthropies' collective goals of education, health, and sanitation expansion into the US South formed the basic idea of reform. Additionally, the NEF drew on the Phelps-Stokes Fund's early expertise in transferring ideas of educating African Americans in the US South to expanding education in "primitive" situations in Africa. Collectively, these US organizations became a model for how NEF reimagined "primitive" Near East villages from Greece to Persia and eventually throughout the eastern hemisphere.

Academic Research and Education; Agrarian and Rural; Cold War; Education; Interwar Years; Near East Foundation

Rural Extension and Agricultural Transformation in Minas Gerais, Brazil, 1948-1960

February 13, 2020

This report traces the origin and expansion of the Association of Credit and Rural Assistance (ACAR) in Minas Gerais, Brazil, from the late 1940s to 1960. Created as a joint project between the American International Association (AIA) and the Minas Gerais state government, I highlight how ACAR became a site where international and Brazilian planners adopted rural extension as a method to pursue agricultural transformations. Rural extension provided planners and their cohort of experts a vehicle to convey technology and know-how to farmers in Minas Gerais. While planners and technocrats often critiqued the results of their programmatic efforts, they consistently valorized rural extension over the course of a decade.In the early 1950s, ACAR's infrastructure rapidly expanded in Minas Gerais. Yet, short-term commitments between the AIA and the Minas Gerais state government caused friction over strategies to promote economic development. Renewed political and economic commitment by both parties in the mid-1950s provided longer-term stability. Further, in 1956, Brazil's federal government launched the ACAR model semi-nationally, endorsing the institution's approach to promote agrarian change. This political decision coincided with the standardization of rural extension and the support for access to credit contracts as common practice across the national network. By the late 1950s, ACAR's initial aims of improving the lives of farming families and improving home economics markedly shifted towards increasing agricultural productivity. In doing so, rural extension offered state planners a malleable method to promote science and technology to intensify farm production, while avoiding calls for large-scale land reform.

AIA-IBEC; Agrarian and Rural; Agriculture; Nelson A. Rockefeller Papers; Rockefeller Foundation

Global Cattle Networks: A Study of Tropical Cattle Raising and Its Emergence within Postwar Development Strategies

August 15, 2019

The following is a report of multiple weeklong research trips that I conducted at the Rockefeller Archive Center over the past year. In particular, it covers research related to my dissertation project on the expansion of the cattle industry during the post-World War II period. Access to the Nelson Rockefeller papers, International Basic Economy Corporation (IBEC) records, David Rockefeller papers, Rockefeller Foundation records, and Winthrop Rockefeller papers provided me the opportunity to trace the underlying social and material networks of the industry, especially in terms of cattle breeding and ranch development. Moreover, the scientific reports from the Rockefeller Foundation (RF) and Ford Foundation (FF) archives provided me with insights into the increasingly global nature of cattle production, the role of beef in development projects, and the ways in which such institutional knowledge is deeply connected to specific local environmental conditions. Throughout this report, I argue that by more clearly understanding the complex networks that were motivated and constructed through Rockefeller financing, scholars of 20th century livestock and meat production can gain a deeper sense of the vital role that cattle have played in shaping mid-20th century agricultural practices in the U.S. and abroad. Moreover, such records highlight the importance of continuing to promote histories that de-emphasize western centers of power as arbiters of science and development. As I reveal in this report, projects sponsored by individual Rockefeller family members, as well as by the RF, FF, and IBEC were negotiated processes that were constrained by particular social and environmental conditions.

AIA-IBEC; Agrarian and Rural; Agriculture; David Rockefeller Papers; Food and Nutrition; Nelson A. Rockefeller Papers; Rockefeller Family; Rockefeller Foundation; Winthrop Rockefeller Papers

American Seed Business, the Rockefeller Foundation, and Indian Seed Development in the 1960s

July 18, 2019

Many stories about green revolutions in South America and Asia revolve around the Rockefeller Foundation and Ford Foundation and their seed research. The materials of the Rockefeller Archive Center have proven to be a rich source for researchers studying the influence of foreign policy actors on agricultural development policy in the Global South. Yet, this research has not included multinational corporations as potential partners of U.S. foreign policy makers and philanthropic foundations in the dissemination of ideas and practices of 'modern agriculture'. This is linked to the understanding of the dissemination of Green Revolution seeds as the spread of a public good. My research has revealed that this was not always the case. It shows that ideas of seed accessibility as a public good competed with ideas and ideals of an effective market economy. Following the ideal of the superiority of a free market, some of the staff of the Rockefeller Foundation in India valued highly the participation of private corporations in their projected ability to effectively organize and market goods. In order to drive technological change in Indian agriculture, especially in maize cultivation, the Rockefeller Foundation relied on U.S. seed companies to increase hybrid seed production. In doing so, the Rockefeller Foundation acted similar to a chamber of commerce by establishing contacts for U.S. corporations with government officials in the US and India, and actively recruited and advised companies to enter the Indian market.

Agrarian and Rural; Agriculture; Rockefeller Foundation

Preliminary Research on the North China Council for Rural Reconstruction

July 16, 2019

In the early twentieth century, approximately eighty-five percent of the Chinese population relied on agriculture for its livelihood. Aiming to improve the well-being of China's vast rural population, the Rockefeller Foundation (RF) streamed philanthropic efforts and resources to rural China. The North China Council for Rural Reconstruction (NCCRR), an RF-funded rural philanthropic program composed of six Chinese institutions, was established in Peiping (Beijing) on April 2, 1936. As a nontraditional and experimental program, the NCCRR brought together the leading professors from various disciplines at different universities into intimate contact with philanthropic and educational activities in rural China. Although the program perhaps pointed to the modest ways in which institutions conducted rural philanthropy, the task of reviving China's countryside was ultimately too heavy for the RF as a foreign private foundation. Due to complicated geopolitical circumstances far beyond its control, the RF had to terminate its rural reconstruction work in China in 1944.

Agrarian and Rural; Rockefeller Foundation; World War II

Whither the Rural? The Debate over Rural America’s Future, 1945-1980

November 19, 2018

            Following World War II, rural America experienced a number of interconnected transformations that raised the question of what its future might look like, or whether or not it even had one. My project examines the response of policymakers, rural people, and social scientists to the problems these changes created, which I am calling the "rural crisis." More specifically, my dissertation examines how rural problems were understood by these groups, and the various ways they sought to build a new, more prosperous rural America and redefine the meaning of rural in the process. My research tracks the debates and implementation of public policies across distinct rural settings in California, Missouri, and Georgia.The records at the Rockefeller Archive Center contain significant insights into the broader debate that occurred in postwar America about how rural areas might be revitalized. The records of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Ford Foundation, Mitchell Sviridoff, Bernard McDonald, and Winthrop Rockefeller demonstrate that many Americans did not want to abandon rural places or encourage rural people to migrate. Instead, a variety of groups, from low-income black farmers in the South to foundation officials in New York grappled with the best way to revive declining rural communities. The Archive Center provides some documentation for "nonfarm" development programs that aimed to create a new economic base for rural America outside farming. More significantly, the Center's records provide extensive evidence for a vision of farm reform rooted in economic and racial justice that commanded significant attention in the postwar period.

Agrarian and Rural; Economics; Ford Foundation; Rockefeller Brothers Fund; Rockefeller Family; Winthrop Rockefeller Papers

Understanding Subordinate Healthcare in Colonial Madras: Shift in Women and Rural Healthcare (1918-1932)

April 26, 2018

My research at the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC henceforth) in June 2016 was part of my doctoral research on the history of urban and rural healthcare services in colonial Madras. The collections at the RAC were important for me as I am examining health services ranging from 1880 to the 1930s, thus including a good part of the inter-war period. Once I finished my research at British and Indian archives, on the advice of my advisor, I wanted to follow with a research visit to the RAC.  The goals of my RAC research agenda consisted of two components: first, understanding colonial rule from a different perspective and, second and more importantly, consulting the diaries and personal papers of the officers who visited India, along with their official Rockefeller Foundation (henceforth RF) documentation. While writing the initial drafts of my dissertation, I became interested in understanding the relationships forged between individuals (British, Indian and also American), institutions and exchange of ideas in the single presidency of Madras. The diaries of the RF officers in India, particularly of William S. Carter, along with the records on rural health and nursing, will shape my thesis significantly by playing perfectly the role of 'informed outsiders' in this context. I have also been delighted to identify materials on women's health at the RAC, which has been an under-researched area in the context of colonial south India. All of these kinds of source materials are particularly valuable, given the scarcity of detailed reports and documents of the inter-war medical changes in colonial India.

Agrarian and Rural; Medicine and Healthcare; Rockefeller Foundation; Women

Making PATH: The Ford Foundation and Appropriate Technology for International Health

April 10, 2018

In 1977, Dr. Gordon Perkin, a Canadian obstetrician-gynecologist, and his colleague Dr. Richard Mahoney, an expert in contraceptive development, left their jobs at the Ford Foundation. Together with reproductive health expert Dr. Gordon Duncan, a consultant to the Foundation, the three researchers formed their own non-profit organization, the Program for the Introduction and Adaptation of Contraceptive Technology (PIACT). The trio left Ford on very good terms. Their former boss, Chief Program Officer Dr. Oscar Harkavy—known to friends and close colleagues as "Bud"—helped to ensure that the Ford Foundation became PIACT's first funder and one of its most consistent early boosters. With a pledge of $92,000 in seed money from the Foundation and donated office space in Seattle, the three co-founders set to work designing novel contraceptive programs for the developing world.

Agrarian and Rural; Ford Foundation; Medicine and Healthcare; Technology

Improving Health and Labor Conditions for Coffee Workers: The Role of the Rockefeller Foundation in the Campaigns Against Hookworm in Colombia, 1919 – 1938

February 27, 2018

Hookworm disease received later attention from the Colombian government than it received in other Latin American countries, such as Costa Rica or Brazil. In those countries, the campaigns to combat hookworm were framed within a large national project and had broad support of the government before the arrival of the Rockefeller Foundation (RF). Although in Colombia doctors began to study the disease in the first decade of the twentieth century, and warned early on about the risks to coffee and sugarcane plantation workers, the government did not take such warnings seriously until the 1920s.  At that time, it signed a cooperation agreement with the Rockefeller Foundation to start the fight against tropical anemia.

Agrarian and Rural; Medicine and Healthcare; Public Health; Rockefeller Foundation

Economic Expertise and Rural Improvement in Iran, 1948-1963

November 29, 2017

Americans played a key role in Iran's oil-based development program of the 1950s and early 1960s, both through the U.S. government's official overseas development programs and private organizations. Oil has historically been viewed as a key foundation of the Pahlavi regime of Mohammed Reza Shah (r. 1941-1979). According to Ruhollah Ramazani, following the U.S.-supported 1953 coup d'etat, "neither political consolidation nor economic rehabilitation could be envisaged" without the financial resources accrued from oil, "the backbone of the Iranian economy." Iran's oil was placed in the hands of an international consortium of oil companies through a new oil agreement with the shah's government in 1954, and annual revenues from the consortium's sale of Iranian oil abroad grew from $33 million to $338 million between 1955 and 1960. Yet oil power needed expertise to be applied effectively, and from the U.S. point of view the Pahlavi state seemed rickety and corrupt, in need of American "know-how" to turn its oil power into lasting socio-economic growth and political stability for the shah's regime.

Agrarian and Rural; Ford Foundation

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