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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Paul Ylvisaker, “Indigenous Leadership,” and the Origins of Community Action

July 21, 2021

This report examines how Paul Ylvisaker developed his view that the development of "indigenous leadership" represented the key to solving the urban problems of the 1960s. It also looks at how that view shaped the development of the community action programs at the Ford Foundation and in the Johnson administration. I argue that his conception of what "indigenous leadership" meant and the role it should play in US urban politics was formed through a brief stint working on a Ford Foundation project in Calcutta. This conception then affected his management of early conflicts in the Ford Foundation's Gray Areas program, where community action originated. Ultimately, I argue, this story illuminates one way in which debates about community action, antipoverty policy, and urban politics in the early to mid-1960s were conditioned by Americans' competing visions of decolonization and the postcolonial world.

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.

Co-operatives and Contraceptives: Family Planning and Theories of Rural Development in Comilla, East Pakistan

March 15, 2021

Why did Pakistan (including both present-day Pakistan and Bangladesh) emerge as a crucial site for global population control programs? Operating at multiple scales of analysis, my project explores the motivations for advocating family planning programs by different groups in Pakistan from the early 1950s to 1971 - these included social scientists, Islamic modernists, women social workers, and politicians and bureaucrats. It also examines the interactions between these local groups and global actors on questions of population control. I look at the implementation of both research and action-oriented family planning projects, and explore their attempts to organize and reconfigure social and economic relations. The friction arising from the planning and implementation of these projects provides fruitful ground for examining debates over foreign aid, modernization, the role of Islam, and state-formation in a decolonizing society. Family planning schemes operated at different scales; some were pilot projects at the village level, while others were provincial or national in scope. However, they were all transnational enterprises, and sites of interaction between local and global ideas, actors, and institutions. This research report focuses on the Pakistan Academy for Rural Development at Comilla as a site for examining the relationship between family planning and rural development.

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.

A New Dealized Grand Old Party: Labor, Civil Rights, and the Remaking of American Liberalism, 1935-1973

July 21, 2020

Drawing on the wealth of material from the Nelson A. Rockefeller papers held at the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC), my dissertation project examines the rise and fall of the "liberal" wing of the mid-twentieth century Republican Party. Big city Republicans from industrial states faced social movements that made mass democracy a vibrant force. Liberal Republicans emerged among the typically wellto-do men and women of older and established neighborhoods in New York, San Francisco, and Minneapolis. While no less an elite class than other Republican partisans, urban Republicans witnessed the upheavals and political transformation of the city firsthand. Unlike the rural and suburban right, big city Republicans simply could not imagine mounting a frontal assault against the vaunted New Deal coalition. In this setting, the reactionary bent of the party's base actually looked more like an electoral liability. Liberal Republicans insisted that winning statewide (or national) office required votes from major cities home to a diverse and organized working class that otherwise voted for Democrats. But securing any significant segment of that vote required a series of accommodations that most Republicans simply could not tolerate.

The Business/Labor Working Group

May 13, 2020

In February 1976, New York Senator Jacob Javits summoned a group of public officials, including Governor Hugh Carey, New York City Mayor Abraham Beame, and some leading businessmen to his New York offices to discuss how to create jobs in the city. Since the recession of 1970–71, private-sector employment had fallen sharply, a trend greatly exacerbated by deep cuts to the public-sector work force during the previous year's scrape with bankruptcy. As the city emerged from the brink of insolvency, with its fiscal hands tied as a result, Javits wanted to discuss ways to "improve the perceived and actual business climate" of the city—specifically, "to prepare an analysis of the measures required to keep business (and therefore employment) in the City" and to develop a plan "for New York City's best prospects for economic development during the next 3 to 5 years." Out of this meeting, Javits moved to organize a task force "aimed at improving the employment climate in New York City." Carey was initially "highly skeptical" of the task-force idea, but Javits and Beame were enthusiastic, and with their support, Chase Manhattan Bank Chairman David Rockefeller pushed the plan ahead. From these beginnings emerged the Business/Labor Working Group (B/LWG), a collection of business and private-sector union leaders which issued a widely-read set of recommendations in late 1976.

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.

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 Medical Spur to Postcolonial Science in Southeast Asia: Indonesia and the Philippines during the Early Decades of the Cold War

June 13, 2019

For the first time in 1943—at the height of the Japanese occupation of the Indonesian archipelago—Soekarno expressed the relationship between medicine and nation-building. He had foreseen, in the not-too-distant future when the country would proclaim its independence from colonial rule, that physicians would have a unique niche in Indonesian society —as advocates of the largely illiterate Indonesian masses. He envisioned that a physician would not only treat the sick, but also educate the public about preventative health measures such that Indonesia would become a strong and healthy nation. Eleven years later, President Ramon Magsaysay of the Philippines asserted in his first State of the Nation Address that no nation could go ahead if crippled by disease. These two vignettes attest to the centrality of public health in nation-building in postcolonial Indonesia and the Philippines.

Whither the Rural? The Debate over Rural America’s Future, 1945-1980

November 19, 2018

            Following World War II, rural America experienced a number of interconnected transformations that raised the question of what its future might look like, or whether or not it even had one. My project examines the response of policymakers, rural people, and social scientists to the problems these changes created, which I am calling the "rural crisis." More specifically, my dissertation examines how rural problems were understood by these groups, and the various ways they sought to build a new, more prosperous rural America and redefine the meaning of rural in the process. My research tracks the debates and implementation of public policies across distinct rural settings in California, Missouri, and Georgia.The records at the Rockefeller Archive Center contain significant insights into the broader debate that occurred in postwar America about how rural areas might be revitalized. The records of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Ford Foundation, Mitchell Sviridoff, Bernard McDonald, and Winthrop Rockefeller demonstrate that many Americans did not want to abandon rural places or encourage rural people to migrate. Instead, a variety of groups, from low-income black farmers in the South to foundation officials in New York grappled with the best way to revive declining rural communities. The Archive Center provides some documentation for "nonfarm" development programs that aimed to create a new economic base for rural America outside farming. More significantly, the Center's records provide extensive evidence for a vision of farm reform rooted in economic and racial justice that commanded significant attention in the postwar period.

Urbanist William H. Whyte and the Observational Study of Public Spaces in New York City

October 16, 2018

I visited the Rockefeller Archive Center to research the William H. Whyte papers for my doctoral dissertation, "Transactional Terrains: Partnerships, Bargains and the Postwar Redefinition of the Public Realm, New York City 1965-1980," that traces the architectural and urban history of the privatization of the public realm. At the center of the research is New York City during the "urban crisis" years of the 1960s. The period saw an ongoing shift in how city and state governments initiated, financed, and managed architecture and urban development. As an administrative apparatus of crisis management, the public-private partnership was the fiscal and legal device that was at the center of this shift. With the public-private partnership, there was an increased emphasis on transactions between jurisdictional authorities and private sector actors. The 1960s witnessed the beginnings of organized cultivation of private sector participation by city and state governments, in the funding, management, and provision of public goods (parks, plazas, and housing). By examining the ecology and economy of these public-private partnerships, the dissertation seeks to examine the privatization of the public realm in New York City as a series of complex intersections between the city's economic, political, urban, architectural and real-estate histories beginning in the 1960s. Urbanist William H. Whyte's writings, research, and speeches on the design and value of public spaces in New York City have shaped policy and theory in architecture, urban design, and planning since the early 1960s. He was a prominent figure, specifically for my first chapter.

Capital City: Local Businesses and Global Development Institutions in Calcutta’s Economic Decline

October 11, 2018

When the Ford Foundation entered India in 1951, its focus was overwhelmingly rural. As its presence expanded over time, it branched out to other areas such as education and culture, small-scale industrial development, manpower and management, population control and family planning, and technical training. Historians of development and U.S. foreign relations have over the past decade explored various facets of the foundation's activities in India. However, thus far, its role in the urban sphere in India and perhaps even globally has not received much scholarly attention. I began my research at the Rockefeller Archive Center in September 2017, with the intention of studying a very specific urban project in India: the Ford Foundation's planning assistance to Calcutta (now Kolkata) from 1961 to 1974, then India's largest and industrially most important city. Given the lack of secondary references on this topic, I came in with some basic questions. 1) Why did the Ford Foundation get involved in Calcutta's urban renewal project? 2) What was the nature of the Foundation's involvement? More specifically, was it a grant for training or simply a planning program? At that stage in my dissertation research, I had hoped to have a chapter on the Ford Foundation and use it as a contrast to study the response of locally-based Indian and British businesses to Calcutta's civic and infrastructural problems, which had started to make international headlines by the late 1950s. In fact, my main focus was on Calcutta's businesses. However, as I will chart out in this report, the archival materials at the RAC persuaded me to reorient and broaden my core research questions and framework.

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