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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“More than Pawns in the Game of War”: The Rockefeller Foundation, Council for Foreign Relations, and Interwar Mineral Internationalism

February 8, 2022

This report is a preliminary attempt to plot the Rockefeller Foundation's connections to resource internationalism into a global history of interwar political economy. The Foundation channeled funds to think tanks, international organizations, and resource internationalists to help devise a peaceable solution to the raw materials problem. Here, I focus on the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and a group of economic geologists studying how mineral interdependence influenced international relations. One important outcome of the Rockefeller Foundation-CFR collaboration was the Mineral Inquiry of 1931-33, which had lasting effects on US resource policies.

International Relations; Interwar Years; Office of the Messrs. Rockefeller RG 2; Rockefeller Family; Rockefeller Foundation

Water Marginalised?

October 26, 2021

Water can produce both favourable and unfavourable health outcomes. As this has been well known since the mid-nineteenth century, the following question arises: why did many polities across the world struggle to commit to improving water supplies and sanitation in the twentieth century? My research explores how the marginalisation of water within the fragmentary structures of imperial and international policy making shaped commitment (or lack thereof) to developing water supplies and sanitation facilities in twentieth-century Africa. By exploring how administrators and scientists did or did not conceptualise water as a key public health issue—and how this framing shaped imperial, colonial, national, and international health policy—we can better understand water's marginalisation in twentieth century health discourses. Researching at the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC), I sought to better understand the role of Rockefeller Foundation, Near East Foundation, and Ford Foundation officials and associates in conceptualising the relationship between water and health, and between water and development, particularly in relation to the Sudan and Uganda. This report will focus primarily on the work of Rockefeller Foundation officials and associate researchers between c. 1925 and 1940. It also draws from papers held by officials and associate researchers, which were written for, or on behalf of, the League of Nations Health Organisation or the British Colonial Office.

Ford Foundation; Interwar Years; Nelson C. Davis Papers; Public Health; Rockefeller Foundation

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

The Formation of the NBER: Insights from the Rockefeller Archive Center

September 14, 2021

During several visits to the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC) in 2017 and 2018, I viewed papers from a handful of collections which provided perspective on the early history of the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER). In my book project, tentatively titled Mapping the Future. A Euro-American History of Business Forecasting, 1920-1980, I investigate the history of four economic forecasting tools that have been developed, disseminated, and applied in the United States, in Europe, and beyond. One of them, leading indicators, was originally developed at the NBER in the 1930s and  remains, till today, one of the most prominent forecasting tools worldwide. In what follows, I offer an overview of my book project and outline the history of the formation of the NBER. In it, I make extensive references to the sources of the Rockefeller Archive Center, which provide the most profound insights into the early history of the NBER.

Commonwealth Fund; Economics; Interwar Years; Office of the Messrs. Rockefeller RG 2; Rockefeller Family; Rockefeller Foundation; Social Sciences

Polish Experts and American Internationalists in the Field of Social Science

December 23, 2020

The archival holdings of the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC) are a valuable resource for the history of expertise. I have used several of the RAC collections to write a social history of the interchange of knowledge between Polish social scientists and American internationalists in the 1920s and the 1930s. I would like to see this story as the Continental prehistory of American area studies. This report offers an overview of my work at the RAC, in particular, the types of materials I have looked through. It briefly discusses how the evidence enriched my understanding of the ways that expert knowledge traveled between Eastern Europe and the United States. 

Interwar Years; Rockefeller Foundation; Social Sciences

Saiki Tadasu and the Making of the Global Science of Nutrition, 1900-1927

December 2, 2020

This paper examines the activities of Saiki Tadasu, a leading Japanese nutrition scientist of the early twentieth century.  According to his American counterpart, Dr. Victor G. Heiser, Saiki's work was "of great benefit to the human race."  Using a variety of sources in Japanese archives, the Rockefeller Archive Center, and the League of Nations Archives, this paper focuses on Saiki to explore Japan's role in the making of a global science of nutrition, and to map out an international network of intellectual cooperation and knowledge circulation on nutrition science during this period. Inspired by the work of Iris Borowy and Tomoko Akami, it illustrates a world of scientific knowledge-sharing about human well-being which extended geographically beyond the Atlantic world, and thematically beyond disease control. Following Saiki's lead, from 1900 to 1927, Japanese nutrition scientists contributed to growing public recognition of the importance of nutrition science and championed its global development.

Biology and Medical Research; Food and Nutrition; International Health Board; Interwar Years; John Z. Bowers Papers; Rockefeller Foundation

Japanese Participants at the International Studies Conference and the Institute of Pacific Relations in the Twenty Years’ Crisis

November 19, 2020

The proposed project for the research at the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC) was "a re-assessment of the discourse of the International in the twentieth century." It was to examine how the idea of the "International" was formed. By the "International," I meant the counter-communist notion of the "International," which became the core of what we often term the "liberal international order" of the twentieth century. This research now forms a part of my broader book project. What follows here are my findings on one of the three focuses in this recent research at the RAC, which were also synthesized with documents from the League of Nations Archives and the Unesco Archives, and my thoughts on them.

International Relations; Interwar Years; Rockefeller Foundation; Social Sciences

Intellectual Relief in Europe following the First World War

September 16, 2020

This project examines the phenomenon of intellectual relief in Europe following the end of the First World War. Intellectual relief is defined as aid that was specifically aimed at intellectuals and cultural institutions and constituted not only food and medicine, but also specialist reading material and equipment. My project aims to establish why intellectuals were targeted for bespoke relief and what philanthropic and humanitarian bodies, such as the Rockefeller Foundation, Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial, and Commonwealth Fund, sought to achieve by it. It also poses the question of who the "intellectuals" were and how they were identified. In a wider sense, my research will provide a new means of understanding how Europe transitioned from war to peace and how contemporaries sought to build stable democratic states.

Commonwealth Fund; Interwar Years; Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial; Office of the Messrs. Rockefeller RG 2; Rockefeller Family; Rockefeller Foundation

Colonial Williamsburg from World Peace to World War

January 17, 2020

Opening its first building to the public in 1932, Colonial Williamsburg was a monumental immersive environment that restored the small town of Williamsburg, Virginia to its appearance during the eighteenth century. The project was spearheaded by William A. R. Goodwin, an Episcopalian minister in Williamsburg, and funded by John D. Rockefeller, Jr., who eventually spent over $60 million on the restoration. Goodwin recruited Rockefeller to fund the project by pointing out the unique opportunity that Williamsburg provided to restore an entire colonial town of historical importance. Williamsburg was the home of one of the country's oldest universities, the College of William and Mary, was frequented by such Virginians as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Patrick Henry, and had served as the capital of the Virginia colony from 1699 to 1780. But after this period, the town experienced relative isolation and a lack of economic development that left many of its colonial buildings extant, while all of its central properties could be acquired for comparatively little expense.

Interwar Years; John Marshall Papers; Leisure and Tourism; Office of the Messrs. Rockefeller RG 2; Rockefeller Family; World War II

Eradicating Misunderstandings? The Institute of International Education, Student Exchanges and Transatlantic Relations in the 1920s

November 29, 2018

The project explores a novel and increasingly prominent field of German-American relations in the 1920s, student exchanges. It traces the ambitions attached to these exchanges by U.S. internationalists (especially the Institute of International Education) and German revisionists (especially the German Academic Exchange Service) and explores how these two groups hoped to achieve their objectives. It shows that it was primarily through two mechanisms, i.e. the careful selection of exchange students as well as a concerted hospitality on campus, that both sides sought to maximize the educational and political gains of these exchanges. In all, it argues that student exchanges were an important but often neglected cultural dimension of interwar transatlantic relations, which set seminal patterns in a new field of international relations as well as facilitated the German-American rapprochement after the First World War.

Academic Research and Education; Education; Institute of International Education; International Relations; Interwar Years

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