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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The Franco-American Race for the Yellow Fever Vaccine

August 30, 2021

This paper looks at the cooperation and rivalry between the Rockefeller Foundation and the French Pasteur Institute during the development of the 17-D and Dakar vaccine strains for inoculation against yellow fever. Using sources held at the Rockefeller Archive Center, this paper recovers the tenuous relationship between the researchers funded by the two institutions, and shows how their work was shaped by national, imperial, and scientific rivalries. In the race to the yellow fever vaccine, the Pastorians, in particular, utilized their imperial network, which allowed them to bypass ethical concerns raised by researchers in Paris and elsewhere, and proceeded to human trials using a vaccine that had been criticized for its adverse neurological effects on certain subjects. 

Biology and Medical Research; International Health Board; Medicine and Healthcare; Public Health; Rockefeller Foundation

University Development of American Foundations in British Africa

September 10, 2020

This paper discusses Rockefeller and Ford Foundations' participation in the development of new universities in former British Africa in the post-war era. By utilising sources from the Rockefeller Archive Center, it suggests that while American foundations' engagement with African universities has been merely described as "generous" in the context of British imperial histories, the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations had also projected their own philanthropical and diplomatic agendas for African universities. This report focuses specifically on initiatives of the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations and their perspectives on British-style development of African universities in Ghana and Nigeria. I argue that vigorous engagements of American foundations had an energising effect on the growth of African universities. Through analysis of the ways in which American foundations participated in and dominated the development of African universities, this report shows a more balanced picture of both Anglo-American cooperation and competition for new universities from the 1950s to 1970s. This research comes out of my doctoral research on British strategies for new universities at the end of the British Empire, focusing on the activities of the InterUniversity Council for Higher Education in the Colonies (later renamed the InterUniversity Council for Higher Education Overseas).

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.

Mozambique Liberation Front’s Educational Programs and the Ford Foundation: The Case of the Mozambique Institute in Dar es Salaam (1960-1964)

May 24, 2020

This report is an account of my research conducted at the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC), especially in the grant records of the Ford Foundation Archives. The data collected in RAC's repositories integrates the final part of a broader research schedule which has included archival work conducted in Dar es Salaam and Maputo. This material has been analyzed to deepen my current understanding of the Mozambique Liberation Front's (FRELIMO) formative years in exile, with special focus over its deliberations on matters of language policy. The documents consulted at the RAC reveal in great detail how FRELIMO's first president, Eduardo Mondlane, and his North American wife, Janet Rae Mondlane, steered the educational plans of the liberation movement towards creating a boarding school for Mozambican refugees in Dar es Salaam. The records are instrumental for comprehending how these projects were developed into creating what became known as the Mozambique Institute. Lastly, my report introduces a discussion regarding the Ford Foundation's decision to terminate the grant money that reached the Institute, referencing the contentious political situation that arose with Portugal. This scandal raises a number of interesting questions regarding the process of the Ford Foundation's policymaking for its grants; an analysis of this episode will be taken up beyond the scope of this report.

African Students in the United States: Circulations, Politics and Transfers in the Global 60s

May 19, 2020

When more than thirty African countries gained independence in the early 1960s, most of them faced a shortage of qualified manpower to implement their new national projects. The colonial powers had often excluded the vast majority of Africans from higher education, allowing them only to obtain technical qualifications and rarely the skills to become managers. Higher education for Africans was therefore one of the most important issues for the continent's leaders in the aftermath of independence. This goal was also important in the United States: philanthropic foundations, academics, civil rights activists, and politicians, each for different reasons, wanted to participate in the education of the new African elites. The convergence of the interests of these African and American actors led to the creation of two scholarship programs, the African Scholarship Program of American Universities (ASPAU) in 1961 and the African Graduate Fellowship Program (AFGRAD) in 1963. These two programs, which continued until the 1990s, together enabled more than 4,000 young people from 45 African countries to study in the United States.

Claude Barlow and the International Health Division’s Campaign to Eradicate Bilharzia (Schistosomiasis) in Egypt, 1929-1940

November 26, 2019

Disease eradication has often been likened to a siren song; the task has an immediate allure and a deceptive ease, yet many efforts to master eradication have floundered. The International Health Commission first encountered bilharzia (schistosomiasis) while conducting some of the first hookworm campaigns outside of the American South. While surveying the burden of hookworm in Egypt, staff stumbled across the true scale of schistosome fluke infection across the country. The Rockefeller Foundation's International Health Division returned to Egypt in 1929 and commenced an eleven-year eradication campaign overseen by parasitologists Claude Barlow and J. Allen Scott. What began as a seemingly simple mission to evaluate the success of sanitation interventions in rural villages soon became a complex and fraught program pitting both men against each other, local opinion, and the orthodoxies of international public health experts. In this research report, reflecting on one part of my wider research on the history of eradication thinking in public health, I focus on the important work of Barlow and overview significant aspects of his collected written communication held in the Rockefeller Archive Center. Beginning as an optimistic advocate of eradication, Barlow's experiences in Egypt transformed his views on the likelihood of elimination and – in important ways – foreshadows the ethical, socio-political, and technical limits currently emerging around contemporary philanthropic drives to eradicate infectious diseases.

From Afro-Brazilian into African Studies

October 30, 2019

My visit to the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC) was motivated by two interrelated research projects. The first was to study materials related to the transnational construction of the academic field of Afro-Brazilian studies in the 1930s and 1940s. The second project was to focus on the impact of the making of Afro-American studies and African studies proper, in both North and South America, and on the life and trajectories of the independence leaders of African countries from the 1950s – especially the Mozambican, Eduardo Chivambo Mondlane. The week I spent at the Rockefeller Archive Center, thanks to a small research stipend which I obtained, has proven highly productive for both research projects.

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.) 

State Building After Empire: Health Care, Family Planning, and International Aid in North Africa

August 7, 2019

This project explores the origins and expansion of family planning programs in Tunisia, Morocco, and Algeria from the 1960s into the 1980s. It asks how and why these North African countries were among the first in Africa and the Middle East to enter into voluntary partnerships with international organizations, and examines the outcomes newly sovereign leaders hoped to achieve. It shows how local leaders forged strategic alliances, albeit with varying levels of commitment, with the Population Council and the Ford Foundation, and later with USAID, the World Bank, and the WHO. Their efforts aimed to secure vital international aid, including financial, material and intellectual resources, that would support their goals to develop a more robust health care infrastructure after the end of empire. This project also demonstrates the contradictions of sovereignty and agency in the post-independence era, for on the one hand, slowed population growth would theoretically secure the North African countries' economic independence, but, on the other hand, independent leaders had to rely on transnational foreign experts for funding and material resources to achieve that goal. This study, therefore, contributes to our understanding of the complex interplay and necessary flexibility and adaptability between newly sovereign states in the Global South and international organizations after decolonization.

The Politics of Norplant: Feminism, Civil Rights, and Social Policy in the 1990s

September 27, 2018

In 1990, feminists and doctors hailed the long-term birth control device, Norplant, as the greatest advancement in birth control technology since the 1960s. By 2002, in response to an avalanche of feminist criticism and over 200 class action lawsuits, Norplant's distributor removed the contraceptive device from the U.S. market. My research, the first historical study of the drug, links the politics of Norplant to the expansion of feminism, the politicization of class action lawsuits, and the rise of neoliberalism in the 1990s.

Egyptological Conversations about Race and Science

February 15, 2018

In 1908, when James Henry Breasted published ancient copies of some Biblical texts, he hoped that one interested reader would be Booker T. Washington. Breasted wrote to Washington to bring the matter to his attention, providing him with a copy of the article and explaining its general content. At that time, Washington was preoccupied with the aftermath of an injustice done to black soldiers stationed in Brownsville, Texas, and the subsequent refusal of Theodore Roosevelt, whom Washington had formerly advised, to undo the damage to the men's reputations, careers, and futures. Nonetheless, Washington replied to Breasted the following week, expressing his polite interest in the matter and noting that although he had not had the time to acquaint himself with the ancient history of Ethiopia, he noted that many West African traditions traced their cultural heritage to "a distant place in the direction of ancient Ethiopia." Washington wondered if that "distant place" and the subject matter of Breasted's article could be one and the same. "Could it be possible that these civilizing influences had their sources in this ancient Ethiopian kingdom to which your article refers?" If Washington saw ancient "Ethiopia," that is, the southern Nile River Valley, also known as the Upper Nile, Nubia, and in contemporary political designation the Sudan, as the source of other African people's culture, Breasted would have concurred.

From Population Control to Reproductive Health Campaigns? Family Planning in Nigeria

September 27, 2017

Early in September 2015, I was discussing my research with a Ph.D. candidate that I had met for the first time at the University of Texas, Austin. I told him that I had conducted preliminary research at the British National Archives and Cadbury Research Library in Birmingham, England during the previous summer. These archives had colonial and missionary documents, respectively, and I expressed a desire to explore documents on healthcare in Nigeria by groups other than the government or the church. My colleague told me about the Rockefeller Archive Center's (RAC) collection and encouraged me to contact an archivist about documents on Nigeria. Of course, I was skeptical. "What can an archive in New York have on early Nigerian history?", I mused. Seeing my reluctance, he reiterated that there was no limit to the collection's reach and gave me a link to the website. I contacted an archivist who encouraged me to search the Center's database. I was surprised and delighted to find tons of files on medicine and reproductive health in Nigeria.

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