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 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

Methods and Motivations: Philanthropic Science in Decolonization-Era India, 1919-1964

October 6, 2021

How did the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations and the Population Council work with independent India to undertake unprecedented interventions in the agricultural and nutritional sciences in the context of decolonization? Contrasting with recent historical scholarship on the changes that swept the world food economy in the mid-twentieth century, this research centers on the connections between late colonial and post-independence understandings of famine, population growth, and development in South Asia. Contributing to a doctoral dissertation, this work also sheds light upon the link between the concerns of colonial-era eugenics and the debate between population regulation advocates and agricultural and nutritional scientists that would unfold over how to best address independent India's development priorities. Pursuing a broader framing of the Green Revolution of the 1960s, this project tracks the influence of the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations and the Population Council in inaugurating programs of rural development, nutritional research, and resource management, uncovering the colonial area roots of their interventions in the 1950s and 1960s. Efforts led by Indian nationalists, British colonial officials, and American philanthropists and scientists in the context of colonial development and a global population "crisis" generated institutions and ideas vital to the later Green Revolution. They receive close readings in my work to understand the underlying motives of philanthropic investment and the strategic planning involved in launching new and unprecedented programs. The motivations and inaugural planning behind these early activities reveal how far decolonization shaped the demographic and agricultural theories central to development discourse across independent South Asia.

Agriculture; Food and Nutrition; Population and Reproductive Sciences; Rockefeller Foundation

The Green Revolution’s Alignments with American Agribusiness

February 4, 2021

During the past fifteen years, a wave of Western-led development efforts has aimed to transform agriculture across Africa under the banner of the Green Revolution in Africa. These efforts build directly upon a longer history of American-led Green Revolution development projects, that began with the Rockefeller Foundation-sponsored efforts in Mexico in the 1940s and 1950s. While the early Green Revolution programs that began in Mexico and expanded throughout much of Latin America and Asia during the 1960s were largely public sector-led projects, today's Green Revolution involves a growing number of public-private partnerships between national and international development organizations and multinational corporations. My research at the Rockefeller Archive Center aimed to provide historical context for the development of the "partnership paradigm" in contemporary agricultural development. In what ways, I ask, do public-private partnerships either extend or depart from previous Green Revolution projects? While today public sector researchers often collaborate with colleagues in the private sector, how did the early Green Revolutionaries understand their efforts in relation to commercial agribusiness? While scholars have persuasively argued that the Green Revolution was resolutely capitalist in its orientation—indeed, the "Green" in Green Revolution was originally coined to suggest that American-led capitalist agricultural development would serve as a buffer against the expansion of a "Red" communist revolution in the Third World—few scholars have traced how and where early Green Revolution programs aligned with US agribusiness interests. In this research report, I survey some initial findings from my archival research along these lines.

Agriculture; International Basic Economy Corporation; J. George Harrar Papers; Rockefeller Foundation

Modernization and Documentary Film in  the Americas

June 29, 2020

Historians and other scholars have recognized the centrality of visuality and images to the modernization theory that drove US policy in the Global South during the Cold War. However, these scholars have so far failed to take into account the process of creating and consuming images and how that process shaped popular and expert ideas of what modernization would look like. Focusing primarily on efforts in Latin America, my book will trace the complex interplay between documentary filmmaking and international development institutions and agencies formed during and in the decades after World War II. This report traces the convergence of economic development and documentary film by examining some of the 1940s productions of Nelson Rockefeller's Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs (OCIAA), as well as some Rockefeller Foundation agricultural films of the early 1960s. In particular, it looks at a few films made by director Willard Van Dyke, who was trained in the New Deal documentary tradition and went on to make films for both the OCIAA and the Rockefeller Foundation.

Agriculture; Film; International Relations; Mass Communications; Nelson A. Rockefeller Papers; Political Science; Rockefeller Family; Rockefeller Foundation; Social Sciences

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

Rural Pedagogy as a Tool of International Agricultural Development: IEB’s Club Work in Three Nordic Countries, 1923-28

January 8, 2020

On Tuesday February 13 1923, Søren Sørensen, the agricultural attaché of the Danish Legation in Washington, joined Wickliffe Rose and Wallace Buttrick for an evening dinner at the prestigious Cosmos Club in Washington D.C. Founded in 1878 to advance "science, literature, the arts and public service," the private social club was an inspired location for a meeting to discuss the terms for future collaboration between American philanthropists and the Danish government. An earlier conference with Sørensen in December, plus two ad hoc meetings with officials at the United States Department for Agriculture, convinced Rose and the leadership of the International Education Board (IEB) that Denmark offered the "most favorable conditions for first demonstration abroad." Since getting the green light to pursue his agenda on international philanthropy, Rose had been busy contemplating where best to begin implementing his vision of agrarian improvement. Denmark, the Board reasoned, was the "most highly developed in general intelligence, in agriculture, in cooperative activities, in democratic government." If properly conducted, the programme would serve as a symbol of accomplishment, "a training center from which to extend the service to other non-Slavic European countries." It would be, in Rose's phrase, "a bird of passage."

Agriculture; Children and Youth; General Education Board; International Education Board

The Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship Program in Mexico: Circulation of Students, Agronomic Professionalization and Modernization, 1940-1970

December 11, 2019

This report, which is part of an ongoing PhD investigation, presents a general panorama of the history of the Fellowship Program in Agricultural Sciences that the Rockefeller Foundation (RF) offered in Mexico from 1940 to 1970. For this purpose, the main subject of analysis is the group of Mexicans – or residents of Mexico – who carried out postgraduate studies, training or research trips abroad, mainly to the United States of America. Furthermore, analysis is also carried out regarding Latin American students who completed courses in Mexico within the Rockefeller program. This initial, and by no means exhaustive, analysis of the subject aims to show the link between the Fellowship Program and the intellectual revolution in agriculture. There was an academic and scientific exchange of ideas, promoted by the RF's philanthropic work, linked with agronomic professionalization and the Green Revolution. These considerations are the basis that will later allow my PhD-level research to center on the itineraries of the fellows. These factors will also provide the foundation for my analysis of the ways in which their aspirations influenced the program, through their adherence, criticism and/or appropriation of the guidelines for the RF's philanthropic work in science and of the agrarian goals of the Mexican government.

Academic Research and Education; Agriculture; Rockefeller Foundation

Green Revolution on Dryland: The Rockefeller Foundation and the Turkish Wheat and Training Project, 1970-1982

October 13, 2019

This report introduces the Turkish Wheat and Training Project, one of the Rockefeller Foundation's flagship agricultural programs in the Near East, and a relatively unstudied player in Turkey's "green revolution." From 1970 to 1982, the Ankara-based, multinational staff collected plant samples from around the world, experimented with high-yielding varieties of (mostly) winter wheat, facilitated Turkish scientists' education abroad, and advocated for wheat's centrality to the Turkish economy. While grafted from the green revolution's most emblematic institution—the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT)—the Turkish Wheat Project had roots in two deeper processes: the concept that Turkey was not living up to its agricultural potential and Ankara's engagement with US aid and expertise. After sketching these themes with sources from the Rockefeller Archive Center, this report narrates the wheat project's origins, participants, activities, and shortcomings. While the project's role as an engine of Turkey's agricultural "modernization" was—and remains—difficult to assess, its archive, situated at a confluence of institutions and epistemologies, is a valuable source for approaching the histories of Turkish agriculture, the green revolution, and the Cold War.

Agriculture; Ford Foundation; Population Council; Rockefeller Foundation

Transnational Flows of Expertise and Seed in the Making of Egypt’s Wheat

October 7, 2019

Wheat is one of the world's most important crops, source of almost a fifth of the world's calories. The Rockefeller Foundation has played a major role in wheat development, through its agricultural program of research, technical assistance, and educational extension. This work began with the foundation's support for the Mexican Agricultural Program in 1943, which later developed into the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT). Over the following two decades, the foundation expanded its wheat program in South America, South Asia, and the Middle East. Yet while a number of scholars have examined the impacts of this work on wheat cultivation in Mexico and South Asia, little scholarship has looked at how this influence spread to the Middle East (with the exception of some work on Turkey.) 

Agriculture; Global; Rockefeller Foundation; Transnational

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

Heavenly Harvests: Rockefeller Philanthropy, Agricultural Missions, and the Religious Roots of Development

August 6, 2019

This report examines the relationship between Rockefeller-related organizations and American missionaries who engaged in international agricultural development work during the twentieth century. From the early 1900s forward, Christian missionaries increasingly incorporated agricultural education and improvement projects into their foreign missions programs. Their participation in transnational exchanges—of scientific and agricultural knowledge, farm equipment and livestock, and raw materials, like seeds and fertilizers—prefigured the international development programs that governments and private agencies would begin to undertake, starting in the mid-twentieth century. Materials in the collections of the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC) reveal the close relationships that agricultural missionaries cultivated with philanthropies and non-profit organizations that prioritized rural development. Missionaries relied on funding from these organizations to carry out their work, and yet they also served as sources of local knowledge and expertise for those very organizations when they entered the development field themselves. Based on research conducted during the spring of 2018, this report details findings about the nature of the relationship between development-oriented philanthropies and agricultural missionaries. It draws from several RAC collections—especially those of the International Education Board (IEB), the Rockefeller Foundation (RF), the American International Association for Economic and Social Development (AIA), and the Agricultural Development Council (ADC).

Agricultural Development Council; Agriculture; Davison Fund; International Education Board; Nelson A. Rockefeller Papers; Office of the Messrs. Rockefeller RG 2; Rockefeller Family; Rockefeller Foundation

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

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