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 Aesthetics of Scientific Neutrality

March 25, 2021

On February 9th, 1932, the Rockefeller family's new Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), in Manhattan, opened its first architectural exhibition, "Modern Architecture: International Exhibition (1932)," curated by Philip Johnson and Henry-Russell Hitchcock. While the Museum would soon be leveraged to create connections between Latin America and the United States, beginning with Mexico in particular, "Modern Architecture" focused exclusively on designs realized within the Global North in order to challenge Europe's modern architectural hegemony, while shaping the aesthetic choices of US architects and the general public. Though the exhibition was a resounding success in its time, its co-publication, The International Style (1932), conceived by Barr and Hitchcock before the decision to launch the exhibition, has ensured the circulation of the curators' concerns over the intervening decades.

The Green Revolution’s Alignments with American Agribusiness

February 4, 2021

During the past fifteen years, a wave of Western-led development efforts has aimed to transform agriculture across Africa under the banner of the Green Revolution in Africa. These efforts build directly upon a longer history of American-led Green Revolution development projects, that began with the Rockefeller Foundation-sponsored efforts in Mexico in the 1940s and 1950s. While the early Green Revolution programs that began in Mexico and expanded throughout much of Latin America and Asia during the 1960s were largely public sector-led projects, today's Green Revolution involves a growing number of public-private partnerships between national and international development organizations and multinational corporations. My research at the Rockefeller Archive Center aimed to provide historical context for the development of the "partnership paradigm" in contemporary agricultural development. In what ways, I ask, do public-private partnerships either extend or depart from previous Green Revolution projects? While today public sector researchers often collaborate with colleagues in the private sector, how did the early Green Revolutionaries understand their efforts in relation to commercial agribusiness? While scholars have persuasively argued that the Green Revolution was resolutely capitalist in its orientation—indeed, the "Green" in Green Revolution was originally coined to suggest that American-led capitalist agricultural development would serve as a buffer against the expansion of a "Red" communist revolution in the Third World—few scholars have traced how and where early Green Revolution programs aligned with US agribusiness interests. In this research report, I survey some initial findings from my archival research along these lines.

The Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship Program in Mexico: Circulation of Students, Agronomic Professionalization and Modernization, 1940-1970

December 11, 2019

This report, which is part of an ongoing PhD investigation, presents a general panorama of the history of the Fellowship Program in Agricultural Sciences that the Rockefeller Foundation (RF) offered in Mexico from 1940 to 1970. For this purpose, the main subject of analysis is the group of Mexicans – or residents of Mexico – who carried out postgraduate studies, training or research trips abroad, mainly to the United States of America. Furthermore, analysis is also carried out regarding Latin American students who completed courses in Mexico within the Rockefeller program. This initial, and by no means exhaustive, analysis of the subject aims to show the link between the Fellowship Program and the intellectual revolution in agriculture. There was an academic and scientific exchange of ideas, promoted by the RF's philanthropic work, linked with agronomic professionalization and the Green Revolution. These considerations are the basis that will later allow my PhD-level research to center on the itineraries of the fellows. These factors will also provide the foundation for my analysis of the ways in which their aspirations influenced the program, through their adherence, criticism and/or appropriation of the guidelines for the RF's philanthropic work in science and of the agrarian goals of the Mexican government.

The Rockefeller Foundation (Non) Policy Toward Physics Research and Education in Latin America

September 10, 2019

This report provides an overview of the history of physics in Latin America through the intervention of the Rockefeller Foundation. It is mainly based on reports and correspondence located at the Rockefeller Archive Center, documenting the interaction of Rockefeller Foundation officers with Latin American physicists, providing insight into how these scientists represented themselves. It focuses on the policies of the Rockefeller Foundation behind its support for physics communities and institutions in Latin America from the 1940s to the 1960s. It provides a panoramic – but not exhaustive – view about how these orientations changed according to the group, the topic, and the geopolitical context.

Global Cattle Networks: A Study of Tropical Cattle Raising and Its Emergence within Postwar Development Strategies

August 15, 2019

The following is a report of multiple weeklong research trips that I conducted at the Rockefeller Archive Center over the past year. In particular, it covers research related to my dissertation project on the expansion of the cattle industry during the post-World War II period. Access to the Nelson Rockefeller papers, International Basic Economy Corporation (IBEC) records, David Rockefeller papers, Rockefeller Foundation records, and Winthrop Rockefeller papers provided me the opportunity to trace the underlying social and material networks of the industry, especially in terms of cattle breeding and ranch development. Moreover, the scientific reports from the Rockefeller Foundation (RF) and Ford Foundation (FF) archives provided me with insights into the increasingly global nature of cattle production, the role of beef in development projects, and the ways in which such institutional knowledge is deeply connected to specific local environmental conditions. Throughout this report, I argue that by more clearly understanding the complex networks that were motivated and constructed through Rockefeller financing, scholars of 20th century livestock and meat production can gain a deeper sense of the vital role that cattle have played in shaping mid-20th century agricultural practices in the U.S. and abroad. Moreover, such records highlight the importance of continuing to promote histories that de-emphasize western centers of power as arbiters of science and development. As I reveal in this report, projects sponsored by individual Rockefeller family members, as well as by the RF, FF, and IBEC were negotiated processes that were constrained by particular social and environmental conditions.

Nutrition and the Rockefeller Foundation in Mexico

January 1, 2016

The Rockefeller Foundation's scientific and medical enterprises in the twentieth century could be seen as one of the biggest scientific endeavors apart from the Manhattan Project. Unlike the latter, the Green Revolution -- one of the main highlights of the influence of the Foundation worldwide -- sought to counteract the effects of the atomic danger and to support the peaceful development of nations.

The Rockefeller Foundation and the Conservation of Genetic Diversity in Agricultural Crops

January 1, 2016

In 1943, the Rockefeller Foundation launched a program that aimed to increase agricultural production in Mexico through greater research and training in agricultural sciences. This program (the Mexican Agricultural Program) is often described as the starting point of what we today call the Green Revolution, the transition in agricultural production seen in parts of the Global South in the 1950s and 60s. It is less often noted that the Mexican program was also the starting point of more than five decades of Rockefeller Foundation involvement in the collection and conservation of genetic diversity in agricultural crops.

The wide adaptation of wheat: Expanding the Rockefeller Foundation's international agricultural research program

January 1, 2014

In my dissertation research, I study the history of studies on wheat adaptation to climate, beginning in the 1950s and through the 1970s. In the 1960s, Norman Borlaug, while working for the Rockefeller Foundation (RF) in Mexico, popularized the concept of wide adaptation -- meaning a crop that gives high yields and is stable across different environments. Before Borlaug popularized wide adaptation, most scientists believed the crops were best suited to the location and conditions that they were developed in. Borlaug and the RF's international wheat program challenged this conventional wisdom while expanding their wheat program in Latin and South America, South Asia, and the Middle East. Because the history of wheat improvement is closely tied to other RF programs in maize and rice, my research also examines these crop research programs.

The Transformation of the Mexican Agricultural Program: From Experiment into Ideology

January 1, 2013

During the 2012-2013 grant period, I used the Rockefeller Archive Center's (RAC) generous grant-in-aid to develop my research on the efforts of the Rockefeller Foundation (RF) to modernize agriculture in Mexico during the early years of the cold war. The aim of this research was to understand how the Mexican Agricultural Program (MAP) operated on the ground. Most scholarship on this and other "green revolution" programs during the postwar era has taken executive-level planning and discourse as representing the actual efforts and their effects in local communities. However, by reexamining the local interactions between scientists and other aid workers and their target communities, my work seeks to open up our understanding of the relations between so-called first and third world states in the cold war context.

A Review of Programmatic Material on Malaria Control Campaigns

January 1, 2012

This essay describes archival materials related to malaria control campaigns carried out by the International Health Board (IHB) of the Rockefeller Foundation (RF) in the United States and Mexico from about 1918 until the early 1940s. While I focus primarily on material held at the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC), I provide some discussion of relevant materials held elsewhere. The research presented here is part of my dissertation project, which explores the political logic of disease control in the pre-World-War-II US South and in mid-twentieth century Mexico. The RAC was an ideal source for the project, owing to the important, albeit different roles that the IHB played in public health efforts in both countries.

Fighting World Hunger on a Global Scale: The Rockefeller Foundation and the Green Revolution in Mexico

January 1, 2009

The agricultural transformation of less developed countries, commonly referred to as the Green Revolution, is the result of one of the most ambitious international development programs of US-American philanthropy. In particular, the Rockefeller Foundation (RF) was one of the first philanthropic organizations to devote substantial attention to solving problems of world hunger after World War II. The RF led the first efforts in the 1940s to increase the productivity of wheat and corn in Mexico and therefore became a central agency in altering agricultural practices on a worldwide scale. What has been called the Green Revolution was a vast and technically complex pattern of agricultural modernization, "aimed at increasing the productivity of land by means of the introduction of a science-based technology." The technological package consisted of seeds of new high-yielding varieties in conjunction with the capital-intensive utilization of chemical fertilizers and insecticides, disease-control measures, agricultural machinery and soil and water management.

The Limitations of International Health Campaigns: Mexico's Experience with the Rockefeller Foundation, 1940-1950

January 1, 2009

The rapid development of Mexico's national health administration throughout the 1920s and 1930s owed much of its success to the Rockefeller Foundation's public health initiatives. Resulting advancements included disease eradication, sanitation campaigns, and health education programs. However, by the 1940s, these projects remained understaffed, underfunded, and therefore underdeveloped. Correspondence by Rockefeller officers reveals their perpetual frustration with inadequate library and laboratory resources, lack of personnel supervision, insufficient space, inconsistency in medical education, scarcity of well-trained health officials, ineffective health networks and administration, and difficulties with acceptance in the local communities. My research explores the domestic and international obstacles to establishing a well-developed public health initiative in Mexico during the 1940s and 1950s and will offer new insight into the limitations of international health campaigns by the Rockefeller Foundation.

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