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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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

Foundations and Networks of Korean Studies, 1960s–1970s: Focusing on the Activities of the Council on Exchange with Asian Institutions (CEAI), the Asiatic Research Center (ARC), and the Joint Committee on Korean Studies (JCKS)

August 23, 2021

This paper analyzes the formation of Korean studies in the 1960s and 1970s, focusing on the relationship and activities of the Asiatic Research Center (ARC, the Korea University), the Council on Exchange with Asian Institutions (CEAI), and the Joint Committee on Korean Studies (JCKS). CEAI and JCKS were both connected with the Social Science Research Council (SSRC). Korean studies had no choice but to start under an America-centric and asymmetrical knowledge production system during the Cold War. In addition, Korean studies were not as developed as Chinese and Japanese studies. At that time, Korean studies were the result of mobilization and establishment of knowledge resources to obtain "citizenship" in the academy. The purpose of the CEAI's decision to support the ARC was to strengthen Chinese studies. However, the ARC was reborn later as the nucleus of Korean studies. Networks and intellectual assets formed through the ARC exchange program supported by the CEAI were inherited by the JCKS and then cycled back to the ARC. As such, Korean studies formed in Korea and the United States in the 1960s and 1970s, were not separate from each other, but were created by interactions and networks ("The co-production of Korean studies"). In the process of institutionalization of Korean studies, "empirical research based on materials/data" was the agenda that was emphasized the most. The first project launched by the ARC, supported by the Rockefeller Foundation and the Ford Foundation, was to collect and edit historical data concerning Korea. The first project JCKS started, after its establishment in 1967, was to host an academic conference inviting librarians. The institutionalization of Korean studies as "science" and the systematic collection of knowledge resources were impossible on the Korean peninsula, in the shadow of dictatorship and overwhelmed by Cold War ideology. Ironically, what made it possible were the funds and networks offered by the United States, headquarters of the Cold War. The impact of the Cold War on the knowledge production of Korean studies was strong and enormous. However, in order to grasp the meaning of its effect and aftermath, we should be free from Cold War reductionism.

Academic Research and Education; Cold War; Rockefeller Foundation; Social Science Research Council; Social Sciences

The Ford Foundation and India’s Planning Commission

April 8, 2021

I consulted the records of the Ford Foundation at the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC) in January 2015 as part of research for my dissertation titled "Planned Democracy: Development, Citizenship, and the Practices of Planning in Independent India, c. 1947—1966." My research at the RAC focused on the Ford Foundation's grants towards certain projects in India. These included ones supporting research on development, the training of economists, and the funding of a computer center at the Planning Commission. These archives offered me new insights into the depth of the Ford Foundation's involvement in postcolonial India's early experiments in economic development. They were especially useful in throwing light on how non-government institutions partnered with the Indian state in its quest to ramp up its research and data capacities.

Economics; Ford 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

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

New Paradigms of Urban Planning in Developing Countries and the Ford Foundation: The Case of the Special Programs in Urban and Regional Studies (SPURS) at MIT (1967-1976)

October 28, 2020

This report provides an overview of Ford Foundation (FF) support for the structuring of urban planning theories and methods, responding to the issues facing developing countries during the 1960s and 1970s. My research gathered much data on the FF's support for innovative urban planning and community management in developing countries from the 1950s to the 1990s. However, this report focuses specifically on the support of the Ford Foundation for the Special Program in Urban and Regional Studies (SPURS) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), from its establishment in 1967 to the early 1980s. By the early 1980s, SPURS was a durable program which trained dozens of high-profile professionals coming mostly from developing countries. The view of the program provided by the reports and correspondence located at the Rockefeller Archive Center shows the Ford Foundation's contribution and influence in setting up an internationalized professional field for urban planning. The grant records are instrumental for comprehending how this program was both developing an international network of professionals and advocating for housing policies that related to the special needs of self-help squatters' owner-builders. Lastly, my report introduces a discussion regarding the influence of SPURS in the shift of urban planning doctrine for cities of the "Global South" and especially for slums management that was recognized at the first United Nations Conference on Human Settlements, held in Vancouver in 1976, more commonly known as Habitat I.

Ford Foundation; Social Sciences; Urban and Suburban

The SSRC’s Committee on Economic Stability and the Consolidation of Large-Scale Macroeconometric Modeling in Postwar United States

October 7, 2020

This report presents ongoing research on the history of the Committee on Economic Stability of the Social Science Research Council (1959-1995), which played a major role in the consolidation of large-scale macroeconometric modeling in postwar United States, both inside and outside academia. A key characteristic of the Committee's projects was their scale, which largely surpassed previous model-building work. This feature provides interesting insights into the relevance of the Committee's work in shaping macroeconomics in the postwar period. The Committee's records offer a most valuable source for reevaluating the history of macroeconomics, since much of applied economics and economics outside of academia has been neglected in the historiography of economics.

Academic Research and Education; Economics; Social Science Research Council; Social Sciences

Brazil: Transition and Reconciliation, a Cold War Strategy

July 7, 2020

My research project analyzes the Latin American Program of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, from 1977 (when it was established) to 1983. The Center is important for Brazilian and Latin American history especially because of the iconic discussions within the social sciences about the transition to democracy and the academic and political repercussions of that process. Financed by the Rockefeller and the Ford Foundations, the Latin American Program was established under the direction of Abraham Lowenthal, with the support of a very selective group of intellectuals, including Robert A. Dahl, Juan Linz, Adam Przeworski, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Albert Otto Hirschman, Guillermo O'Donnell, Ricardo Ffrench-Davis, Leslie Manigot, Olga Pelecer de Brody, Thomas Skidmore, Karen Spalding, and Philippe C. Schmitter. The Latin American Program held three big conferences on the subject of transition and published them in four volumes in 1988, under the title Transitions from Authoritarian Rule: Prospects for Democracy, edited by Guillermo O'Donnell, Philippe C. Schmitter, and Laurence Whitehead. Albeit the importance of the "Transition Project," not much is known about the organization of the conferences and the involvement of different scholars, students, and government staff at the debates, reports, and meetings held at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, already one of the most important think tank organizations in the USA. In this project, I propose to explore the complexity of those debates, the agenda, and efforts to move from dictatorships to democratic governments.

Academic Research and Education; Cold War; Political Science; Rockefeller Foundation; Social Sciences

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

Research Report on the Social Science Research Council’s Africa Program

June 22, 2020

This is a report on the week-long archival visit that I undertook to the Rockefeller Archive Center in 2015. My main work involved reading through the archives of the Social Science Research Council's Africa Program and, in particular, the materials associated with a key meeting of scholars in the African humanities that it convened in 1984. That meeting allows us to have a fuller understanding of the trajectory of work in the African humanities in the United States since the 1980s.

Academic Research and Education; Social Science Research Council; Social Sciences

Tracing the Divergence of Behavioral and Experimental Economics in the Rockefeller Archive Center's Collections

June 9, 2020

"I once asked Amos Tversky whatever happened to the tradition of Sidney Siegel in psychology, and he said, 'You are it.' That was not a compliment. [group laughter] That was a touché. [group laughter] He was putting me down. … 'You are it. You continued a bad tradition.'" (Vernon Smith at the Witness Seminar) This brief, and at first sight innocuous, if not jocular, exchange took place during a short two-day conference. Even if we must rely solely on Smith's memory (Tversky died over two decades ago), this exchange is far from being so insignificant as to be cast aside as merely a cute anecdote. Rather, it is symptomatic of an unease growing at that time between experimental economists, including Smith, on the one hand, and a group of economists and cognitive psychologists – soon to be referred to as behavioral economists – on the other.

Economics; Psychology; Russell Sage Foundation; Social Sciences

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