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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A Missed Rebirth: The Rockefeller Foundation's Involvement in the Economic and Social Development of Sardinia after the Second World War

October 2, 2023

The stipend from the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC) under the Research Stipend Program has provided me with an opportunity to clarify one of the most forgotten pages of the late phase of the "Sardinian Project" i.e., the involvement of the Rockefeller Foundation (RF) in the studies for the economic and social rehabilitation and development of the Italian Island of Sardinia in the early 1950s. The issue has been particularly debated in the contemporary history of Sardinia, as well as in the political debate at that time because, despite the initial great interest, the involvement of the American institution (and other international players) did not take place. On the contrary, the economic "re-birth" of Sardinia was possible mainly through the so-called "Rebirth Plan," approved by the local and national governments in June 1962, twelve years after the "missed rebirth."Over the past seventy years, two main positions have emerged in this regard. One agrees that the RF was never involved "for a lira or a dollar" in the planning of Sardinia's socio-economic development. The second one states that the American foundation was, to some extent, directly involved, at least in the preliminary phase. However, to date, both theories have failed to look directly and deeply into the historical record for a more precise and objective reconstruction. This report summarizes the first results of my research conducted at the RAC in September 2022, which aims to gain a better knowledge of this page of local history, that possesses underrated - and largely unknown - national and international implications.

Cold War; Rockefeller Foundation

The Rockefeller Foundation, Luigi and Mario Einaudi, and the Social Sciences in Italy (1926-1969)

January 1, 2016

The transnational character of the social sciences resides in their ability to offer spaces of socialization through the construction of international networks and the promotion of scientific policies of international exchange. The Rockefeller Foundation (RF) embodied this transnational quality. Its program of grants and fellowships supported the institutionalization of the social sciences in the European academic context during the 1920s and 1930s. The RF's objective for the social sciences was to export a specific method of research based on (a) an experimental rather than a theoretical approach, (b) the rationalization of departments and laboratories, (c) intellectual cooperation, and (d) scientific specialization. While the RF conducted the program with considerable success in France, the presence of the Fascist dictatorship in Italy caused it to encounter difficulties there

The Rockefeller Foundation Fellows and Grants in the Humanities and Social Sciences, 1924-1970: Renewing Social Sciences, Reshaping Academic Disciplines, and the Making of a Transnational Network in Italy

January 1, 2012

The first part of my research at the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC) involved a collective project that intended to create a large database of Rockefeller Foundation (RF) social science fellows between the two wars. The second part of my work focused on Italian fellows in the humanities and social sciences from 1929 to the 1960s and can be seen as an illustration of the collective project.

An American Utopia: Adriano Buzzati-Traverso (1913-1983) and the International Laboratory of Genetics and Biophysics in Naples

January 1, 2011

In a monographic issue of Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences (33, 2002) dedicated to molecular biology in postwar Europe, Bruno J. Strasser re-examined and compared the institutionalization of molecular biology in four European local contexts (Cologne, Cambridge, Paris and Geneva), examining how the new field was construed and how it was legitimized and acquired its broader meaning. From this comparative approach, five common themes stand out: 1) the role of physics in the atomic age 2) the relationship between fundamental research and medical applications 3) the "Americanisation" of scientific research 4) the value of science in the reconstruction of national identities 5) the drive towards interdisciplinary research.

Today Sardinia, Tomorrow the World: Malaria, the Rockefeller Foundation, and Mosquito Eradication

January 1, 2004

For most of us, mosquito eradication may be one of our secret hopes. At least in this instance, we might ignore biocentric arguments that remind us that these creatures, too, deserve a place in the great chain of being. The little brutes, after all, serve as fish fodder or bat fodder; swarms of them coax caribou herds to migrate each summer across the arctic plains -- in fact caribou lose so much blood during the mosquito season, that they must compensate by consuming extra calories and so transform arctic grasslands in the process. Mosquitoes undoubtedly occupy vital niches in ecosystems from the poles to the equator. Yet mosquitoes are almost never protected by environmental regulations. The U.S. Endangered Species Act, for one, does not apply to insects that are pests that pose an "overwhelming and overriding risk" to humans. While working in the Rockefeller Archives Center this summer, I discovered that the mosquito war is alive and well when helicopters began spraying plumes of insecticide over New York City as a measure for controlling West Nile Virus.

Supermarkets Italiani: Nelson A. Rockefeller's International Basic Economy Corporation and the Introduction of Supermarkets to Italy

January 1, 2001

When I started my research on the arrival of mass marketing and mass distribution in Italy, my aim was to explain the origin of a peculiar phenomenon. Thousands of small shopkeepers were still the only traders in the 1950s, while supermarkets and department stores were already common in Europe and the United States. These small shops were usually run on a family basis, and they did not sell processed food or frozen products. Hence, there was a kind of "displacement" between the level of development enjoyed by the production industry and the backwardness of the retail trade world. The first supermarket in Italy finally opened in Milan in 1957, starting a rapid diffusion of the new sales systems. The International Basic Economy Corporation (IBEC), an American corporation based in New York and owned by Nelson A. Rockefeller, created that supermarket. Until my visit to the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC), I had been able to gather little information on the story or about the company's motivations and final results. Newspapers and local archives were not particularly helpful.

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