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 Rockefeller Foundation and Scientific Collaboration in Late Colonial India

May 24, 2022

After submitting my doctoral thesis, I studied documents on public health research in colonial India at the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC). The visit, from the end of September to early December 2019, allowed me to expand my research on medical infrastructure and sanitary regulations in colonial India. My thesis looked at the sanitary interventions by the British colonial state and Christian missionaries in British Indian port cities in the nineteenth century for protecting the health of European seamen. In my follow-up research, I wanted to explore the development of the study of health and disease in the twentieth century. The governance of public health in this phase was arguably driven by new explorations into bacteriology and virology in various institutes across India. The Rockefeller Foundation (RF) was substantially involved in many of these disease research centers as part of its global fight for public health. It was instrumental in establishing the All-India Institute of Hygiene and Public Health (AIIHPH). As a scoping study for my pile-up project on public health in the first half of the twentieth century, I read reports and correspondence regarding the planning and early years of the institute. I spent a highly fulfilling two months with the RAC, reading important documents on the RF's medical philanthropy and its role in shaping public health research in British India. The stint also enabled me to connect with researchers working on similar subjects.

Medicine and Healthcare; Rockefeller Foundation

Constructing Changes: Seoul National University Hospital and China Medical Board Support, 1967-1978

April 7, 2022

This paper analyzes the construction of SNUH during the 1960s and 1970s, in conjunction with the changing medical landscape in Korea, focusing on support from the China Medical Board.  American influence in medical practice and education in Korea was significant, starting in the late 1950s. Much research has focused on the early American influence on Korean medicine such as missionary activities or the Minnesota Project by the International Cooperation Administration. Recently, more attention has been given to later support for Korean medicine from Western private philanthropies, such as the Rockefeller Foundation and the China Medical Board.  This support laid the material foundation and research organization for contemporary Korean medicine.

Architecture; China Medical Board, Inc.; Medicine and Healthcare

Beyond Eradication: Scientific Partnerships in Brazil and the Malaria Service of the Northeast

December 14, 2021

The study of mosquito-borne diseases, such as yellow fever and malaria, promoted an important international cooperation effort throughout the twentieth century. These activities are already well represented by a historiography dedicated to the so-called field of Rockefeller Foundation studies. Scholars have looked at the International Health Division of the Rockefeller Foundation (IHDRF) in Brazil as one of the great promoters of this cooperation, which was frequently involved with a series of complex negotiations, setbacks, and controversies. On the other hand, few studies have explored the development of cooperation between Brazilian and American scientists regarding fieldwork and continuity of research related to medical entomology and the study of microorganisms transmitted by mosquitoes. I intend to explore how scientific cooperation between Brazilians and Americans continued in light of the many challenges. They pursued their research objectives, even after the end of the cooperative eradication campaigns promoted by IHDRF, which had specific objectives, delimited by budgets and defined steps. Such is the case with the Cooperative Yellow Fever Service (CYFS) and the Malaria Service of the Northeast (MSNE). My research has benefitted from the reports, articles, and publications found in the collections of the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC) and has resulted in historical reflections on fundamental aspects of cooperation between researchers involved in IHDRF projects and on the history of mosquito-borne diseases. The research carried out at RAC has contributed to my publication of articles and important updates in a recently published book, and has also outlined plans for future projects.

Biology and Medical Research; Public Health; Rockefeller Foundation

A History of Diabetes at the Rockefeller Archive Center: The Development of Oral Hypoglycaemic Drugs and the UGDP Debate

December 3, 2021

With very generous research funding provided by the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC), I was able to travel from Scotland in early August 2018.  This was my first trip to the RAC, as well as my first time in the United States.  Having just finished up at a three-month internship at the Scottish government, I was thrilled to be granted time and financial support for archival research.  This report presents a summary of my time at the RAC and how the material I accessed there has supported my thesis.  For those interested in the history of pharmacy in the second half of the twentieth century, or specifically the history of diabetes, this report provides an overview of the history of the development of the first oral anti-diabetic agents. It highlights the debate that followed one of the most contentious medical trials in the history of medicine, the University Group Diabetes Program.

Biology and Medical Research; Mass Communications; Medicine and Healthcare; The Medical Letter

Water Marginalised?

October 26, 2021

Water can produce both favourable and unfavourable health outcomes. As this has been well known since the mid-nineteenth century, the following question arises: why did many polities across the world struggle to commit to improving water supplies and sanitation in the twentieth century? My research explores how the marginalisation of water within the fragmentary structures of imperial and international policy making shaped commitment (or lack thereof) to developing water supplies and sanitation facilities in twentieth-century Africa. By exploring how administrators and scientists did or did not conceptualise water as a key public health issue—and how this framing shaped imperial, colonial, national, and international health policy—we can better understand water's marginalisation in twentieth century health discourses. Researching at the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC), I sought to better understand the role of Rockefeller Foundation, Near East Foundation, and Ford Foundation officials and associates in conceptualising the relationship between water and health, and between water and development, particularly in relation to the Sudan and Uganda. This report will focus primarily on the work of Rockefeller Foundation officials and associate researchers between c. 1925 and 1940. It also draws from papers held by officials and associate researchers, which were written for, or on behalf of, the League of Nations Health Organisation or the British Colonial Office.

Ford Foundation; Interwar Years; Nelson C. Davis Papers; Public Health; Rockefeller Foundation

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

Rockefeller Philanthropies and Malaria Control in Early 20th Century Palestine

April 30, 2021

This report summarizes two weeks of research at the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC), conducted in April 2019. I focused my research on the involvement of Rockefeller philanthropies such as the International Health Board and Rockefeller Foundation in antimalarial operations in British-ruled Palestine during the beginning of the 20th century. The research I conducted at the RAC helped me determine that the most important scientific unit working to combat malaria in Palestine as well as to facilitate Jewish settlement in the country was, in essence, a quasi-Rockefeller agency. Additionally, the research I conducted suggests that the events in Palestine should be placed in a broader, global context of the interventions of Rockefeller's International Health Board around the world.

International Health Board

The Role of the Rockefeller Foundation in the Origins of Treponematosis Control in Haiti, 1915-1927

January 20, 2021

There has been a surge of interest in the history of colonial public health of Haiti. This body of recent scholarship has shed light on the general construction of US colonial public health, humanitarianism during the US occupation, yaws/treponematosis control campaigns, and hegemony. While it is generally understood that the treatment of treponematosis played an outsized role in the performance of enlightened US medical modernity, what is less well described is how treponematosis became the central target of US and Rockefeller Foundation efforts to solidify the legitimacy of the US colonial state. This report will argue that there existed a wide variety of infectious diseases, some of which the US occupation believed that they could treat or eradicate, including smallpox, intestinal protozoa, dysentery, malaria, hookworm disease, and treponematosis. As a result of several material and pragmatic concerns, treponematosis became the central focus of the US occupation. With regard to the prioritization of treponematosis, the operations of the Public Health Service in Haiti can be divided into at least two periods, the first spanning from the formation of the Public Health Service in 1919 to the initiation in 1924 of the General Disease and Sanitary Survey of Haiti. The second period spans from 1925, at the end of the Survey of Haiti, to the beginning of 1930, when the Public Health Service began to be dismantled and the US influence began to wane. The first period had a more general concern with public health in Haiti, while the second period became acutely focused on eradication and treatment of treponematosis. Understanding how treponematosis came to be a priority requires understanding its social significance for both the US occupation and the Haitians communities afflicted by it. This paper will argue that treponematosis had widespread symbolic significance within Haiti. Together with its relative ease of treatment, diagnosis, and evidence of success, this disease was selected by the US occupation for eradication because it was believed that it would most clearly demonstrate the superiority of US biomedicine and culture.

Public Health; Rockefeller Foundation

Nurses in the History of Psychiatry: The Role of the Rockefeller Foundation

October 14, 2020

I made multiple trips to the Rockefeller Archive Center throughout 2014 and 2015 for research on the history of psychiatry, especially in relation to nursing. I found extensive records on the Rockefeller Foundation's activities in this area. Its Medical Sciences Division had a major interest in the ways that psychiatry and psychiatric education could be used to solve social problems during and after WWII and into the Cold War period

Medicine and Healthcare; Mental Health; Nursing; Psychiatry; Rockefeller Foundation

The Establishment of the Central Medical School, Fiji

September 30, 2020

The purpose of this report is to introduce Rockefeller Foundation involvement in the early histories of the Central Medical School in Fiji. The Central Medical School was established to deal with the dramatic fall in the population of native Fijians. The fear of so-called "race extinction" motivated the British colonial government to pay greater attention to native healthcare by training select Pacific Islanders in basic medicine. The Central Medical School was run by the colonial government of Fiji, staffed by British-educated tutors, attended by students from across Oceania, assisted by the Rockefeller Foundation, and jointly operated by participating colonial administrations: Britain, Australia, New Zealand, France, and the United States. This collaboration between imperial administrations and the Rockefeller Foundation shows the importance of indigenous healthcare in the Pacific islands during the early decades of the 20th century.

Education; Medicine and Healthcare; Rockefeller Foundation

Health-Related Prison Conditions in the Progressive and Civil Rights Eras: Lessons from the Rockefeller Archive Center

September 23, 2020

During my 2019 visit to the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC), I viewed papers from more than a dozen collections, which provided perspective on how health, incarceration, politics, and policy intermingled in the twentieth century. In this report, I offer an overview of my book project, Minimal Standards of Adequacy: A History of Health Care in Modern U.S. Prisons, and analyze how portions of it will be informed by two sets of documents from the RAC. I focus first on records contained in the Bureau of Social Hygiene records, which shed light on the perspectives of Progressive Era penologists who helped to shape ideals and practices related to prison health in specific institutions, as well as in state and federal correctional systems. Next, I discuss findings from the papers of Winthrop Rockefeller, who served as governor of Arkansas from 1966 to 1970, when federal courts deemed conditions within the state's prison system unconstitutional. While I continue to undertake research for the book, this report serves as a snapshot of my current reading of select sources from two different moments in the history of US prisons. It suggests the extent to which, throughout the twentieth century, carceral institutions posed tremendous health threats to the increasing numbers of people inside them, even as radical advocates urged drastic change, and as reformers, corrections professionals, and political representatives called for more rules, regulations, and bureaucracy.

Bureau of Social Hygiene; Crime and Criminal Justice; Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial; Medicine and Healthcare; Rockefeller Family; Rockefeller University; Winthrop Rockefeller Papers

Hookworm Eradication in Brazil and Beyond

August 4, 2020

In the early-20th century, the Rockefeller Foundation's International Health Board (IHB) traveled to several areas around the world to tackle rural sanitation and hookworm disease. Yet, few historians have endeavored to evaluate the consequences of IHB-led interventions for local populations. This report describes research conducted at the Rockefeller Archive Center in order to evaluate the effectiveness of hookworm-eradication measures in Brazil (for my first book project) and worldwide (for a second major research project). I discuss the general content of the hookworm-eradication reports and offer insights into how this body of evidence could be used for scholars working outside of health- or medicine-related fields of inquiry. I argue that the content of the hookworm control reports could be better used by historians with a general interest in inequality.

International Health Board; Public Health; Rockefeller Foundation

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