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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America's Global Civil Religion: Making the UN Sacred in the Postwar US

June 21, 2023

The founding of the United Nations represented not only a new venue for international cooperation, but also an opportunity for re-thinking the place of America in the world. This report attends to the religious dimensions of that re-calibration, highlighting especially the role of the Rockefeller family in crafting a civil religion of the United Nations in the late 1940s. Drawing on long-standing aspects of American civic culture that placed the nation in sacred history, the religion of global community, presented to the American people in hymns, prayers, and community celebrations, was both deeply familiar and altogether new. Letters to the Rockefeller family from ordinary Americans, and the family's own administrative records, reveal both the popular appeal of this reformulated civil religion and the tremendous efforts exerted to bring it to life. In the end, it never quite became fully realized; "the flickering flame of the United Nations burn(ed) too low," in the words of Robert Bellah. But UN civil religion mattered all the same, as both a tool of Cold War nationalism and a springboard for new modes of spiritualized global consciousness.

Global; Nelson A. Rockefeller Papers; Office of the Messrs. Rockefeller RG 2; Religion; Rockefeller Family

The Rockefeller Foundation, the League of Nations’ Intellectual Cooperation Project, and the Idea of “Internationalism” during the Second World War

March 23, 2022

In this report, I focus on documents that highlight the relationship among the Rockefeller Foundation, the International Institute of Intellectual Cooperation (IIIC), linked to the League of Nations, and the refugee scholar Henri Bonnet, the French intellectual and director of the IIIC, in the early 1940s. After the Nazi invasion of Paris in the Second World War, the formulation of a temporary center of intellectual cooperation in the Americas was placed on the agenda. Brazilian physiologist Miguel Ozório de Almeida had been well acquainted with Henri Bonnet and he took part in the Committee for the study of the establishment of this center. The main objective of this research report is to take a fresh look at these debates.

Global; Rockefeller Foundation; World War II

The Ford Foundation, NGOs, and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea

February 24, 2021

While not well known among the general public, the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea remains one of the most important global environmental agreements ever reached. Under the auspices of the United Nations, delegates from over 150 nations worked for almost a decade to develop a comprehensive legal regime to govern the oceans. Yet these delegates did not discuss and debate alone. They were joined by a transnational network of activists, lawyers, scientists, and other professionals concerned with humanity's changing relationship with the oceans. Between the late 1960s and early 1980s, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) brought these different groups together in conferences, workshops, and other informal gatherings to advance scholarship, shape policy, and educate the public. But without the direct sponsorship of participating states, NGOs had to look elsewhere for the resources necessary to realize their mission. Philanthropic organizations, such as the Ford Foundation, often supplied a crucial source of funding. With the financial backing of wealthy foundations, smaller NGOs could explore ideas, establish relationships, and highlight voices left out of the official negotiations.

Ford Foundation; Global

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

A History of Climate Action through Foundations’ Archives

May 29, 2018

After two years of intensive negotiations, 156 countries signed a Framework Convention on Climate Change at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), convened in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992. Bert Bolin, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) from 1988 to 1997, believed that it would not have happened if a "well-organized and scientifically credible assessment had not been available in 1990." In turn, the IPCC assessment was possible "only because assessments initiated by the US National Academy of Sciences and the international scientific community had begun a decade earlier." As stated by Bolin, "the emergence of the climate change issue was primarily scientifically driven." But how did the issue move from the realm of science to the realm of politics? Who were the agents of this process? A series of documents produced by scientists, NGO and foundation officers, preserved in archival collections at the Rockefeller Archive Center, provides previously unexplored information about how the climate change issue broke onto the international policy making agenda in the 1980s.

Ecology and Environment; Ford Foundation; Global; Rockefeller Brothers Fund; Rockefeller Foundation

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