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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Cultivating Moderates: East-West Exchanges and International Influences on Poland’s Transition to Democracy

May 13, 2022

Beginning in the 1950s, American nongovernmental organizations and US government agencies sponsored exchange programs to bring Eastern European scientists, humanists, scholars, and professionals to Western Europe and the United States, in the belief that exposure to the West would pull East Europeans toward democratic capitalism and undermine communist power. Four decades later in 1989, Poles from both government and opposition groups sat together at a round table to negotiate a transformation from one-party communist rule to capitalist democracy. But did these trips and experiences influence how political elites sought to reform their society at the end of the Cold War? Put most broadly, can pathways of influence and shifts in perception within specific epistemic communities be measured, mapped, and visualized to better illustrate and understand exogenous influences on the democratization process in Eastern Europe?This interdisciplinary project combines traditional, archivally-based qualitative techniques used by historians with digital network analysis tools to better understand the complex, overlapping networks of political revolution and international exchange that came together during the Round Table negotiations in Warsaw in 1989.

Cold War; Ford Foundation; International Relations; Rockefeller Foundation

Designing a Pictorial Language: Rudolf Modley’s Search for Philanthropic Support for the Development of a Universal System of Symbols

May 3, 2022

In 1966, acclaimed cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead, and graphic designer Rudolf Modley established the nonprofit Glyphs, Inc., to advance the research, classification, and promotion of universal graphic symbols around the world. Creating a visual language and system of symbols, they believed, could transcend language and lead to greater international understanding and harmony. But despite their esteemed records and vast international contacts, Mead and Modley's ambitious and utopian vision was never fully realized, stalled by lack of financing, unclear and unrealistic goals, differences over philosophy and methodology, and competition and criticism from other comparable endeavors. The correspondence, memos, proposals and reports available in the Rockefeller Archive Center holdings -- notably those of the Ford Foundation (and its affiliate, the Fund for the Advancement of Education), the Rockefeller Foundation (specifically those of the Rockefeller-funded General Education Board), and the Russell Sage Foundation -- provide rich insight into the journey and obstacles faced by Rudolf Modley in raising philanthropic support for his ambitious vision in the decades leading up to the formation of Glyphs, Inc. They shed light on the competing effort of renowned industrial designer Henry Dreyfuss to create an international dictionary of symbols, their differing methods and approach, and their lack of familiarity as designers with the nuances of raising philanthropic funds for their ambitious endeavor. Both Modley and Dreyfuss would go on to publish seminal books on graphic and pictorial symbols in the 1970s, but their tireless efforts to garner support from philanthropic foundations were fraught with false starts and disappointments.

Ford Foundation; General Education Board; Humanities; Rockefeller Foundation; Russell Sage Foundation

Siegfried Kracauer’s New York Networks

April 20, 2022

When Siegfried Kracauer arrived in the United States in May 1941 aboard the Nyassa, he was one of countless German émigrés to have narrowly escaped the Nazi conquest of Europe. By the time of his death a quarter century later, Kracauer had found his footing in the American scene, having published significant contributions to the emerging discipline of film studies (From Caligari to Hitler, 1947; Theory of Film, 1960). He had been hard at work on a monograph about the craft of the historian, which would be published posthumously as History: The Last Things Before the Last (1969). How did this exile gain his bearings upon disembarking in New York Harbor? What were the waystations? Who provided the helping hands? Where did Kracauer turn? 

Film; Humanities; Mass Communications; Political Science; Rockefeller Foundation; Social Sciences

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

Red Scare Recovery: The Ford Foundation’s Role in Rescuing China after McCarthyism

March 9, 2022

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, McCarthyism blighted the American intellectual landscape. The search for communists and communist sympathizers destroyed the careers of many scholars whose work touched on sensitive or controversial topics. It was exactly this "multistranded nature of McCarthyism" that made it so vexing for its antagonists and has made it such fertile ground for historians.

Academic Research and Education; Cold War; Ford Foundation; Rockefeller Foundation

Towards a Philosophical Entente: The Inter-American Conferences of Philosophy in the Mid-Twentieth Century

February 17, 2022

During the Second World War, some of the most wide-ranging and encompassing projects that aimed to bring together Latin and North American philosophers were conceived.  The need to encourage better hemispheric understanding and the idea that philosophy, understood as the highest form of civilization and a response to irrationality and violence, were two of the main motivations for organizing academic meetings and promoting philosophical interchange in the 1940s. In this context, the Inter-American Congresses of Philosophy took place as an effort to set the foundation of an "American" school of thought, in the hemispheric sense of the word, an effort that remains unparalleled to this date.This report sketches the motivations, players, and ideas involved in these conferences, some of the first large-scale projects aimed at fostering the possibility of using philosophy as a common ground for the two Americas. It will become clear that instrumental to this endeavor were certain institutions, especially the Rockefeller Foundation, and a few individuals, such as Charles Hendel, Cornelius Krusé, and William Berrien. Cultural and language barriers, different intellectual backgrounds, and the full reintegration of European philosophers in the philosophical debates will explain why those efforts did not lead to a more continuous philosophical exchange nor to an expression of a North and South American philosophy. 

Academic Research and Education; Philosophy; Rockefeller Foundation

“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

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

Beyond Eradication: Scientific Partnerships in Brazil and the Malaria Service of the Northeast

December 14, 2021

The study of mosquito-borne diseases, such as yellow fever and malaria, promoted an important international cooperation effort throughout the twentieth century. These activities are already well represented by a historiography dedicated to the so-called field of Rockefeller Foundation studies. Scholars have looked at the International Health Division of the Rockefeller Foundation (IHDRF) in Brazil as one of the great promoters of this cooperation, which was frequently involved with a series of complex negotiations, setbacks, and controversies. On the other hand, few studies have explored the development of cooperation between Brazilian and American scientists regarding fieldwork and continuity of research related to medical entomology and the study of microorganisms transmitted by mosquitoes. I intend to explore how scientific cooperation between Brazilians and Americans continued in light of the many challenges. They pursued their research objectives, even after the end of the cooperative eradication campaigns promoted by IHDRF, which had specific objectives, delimited by budgets and defined steps. Such is the case with the Cooperative Yellow Fever Service (CYFS) and the Malaria Service of the Northeast (MSNE). My research has benefitted from the reports, articles, and publications found in the collections of the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC) and has resulted in historical reflections on fundamental aspects of cooperation between researchers involved in IHDRF projects and on the history of mosquito-borne diseases. The research carried out at RAC has contributed to my publication of articles and important updates in a recently published book, and has also outlined plans for future projects.

Biology and Medical Research; Public Health; Rockefeller Foundation

“The Gentleman We’re All Talking About”: William Beveridge and the Idea of Postwar Social Planning in the United States during World War II

November 23, 2021

This report traces a 1943 trip to the United States by British economist William Beveridge, whose 1943 "Beveridge Plan" laid the foundation for the postwar British welfare state. Funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, the trip coincided with a period of intense debate in the United States over the future of the New Deal state and the role of social security and social welfarism in postwar planning. Drawing on previously untapped records at the Rockefeller Archive Center, I use Beveridge's trip, and the reception that he received in the United States, to explore transnational ideas about social security and social and economic rights and how they were contested and debated in the United States. Beveridge's trip to the United States sheds light on how domestic ideas about postwar planning shifted during the war against the backdrop of race relations, the wartime defense economy, and the evolving relationship between business, labor, and the state.

African American Studies; Rockefeller Foundation; World War II

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

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

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