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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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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

Report on Research on the Rockefeller Foundation and American Psychiatry

May 28, 2020

I am working on a history of the psychiatric profession in the United States during the long twentieth century – roughly speaking from 1900 to the present. Any such history must perforce take account of the enormous role the Rockefeller Foundation (RF) played in shaping developments in the middle decades of this century. Though Rockefeller support for some aspects of psychiatry began in the nineteen-teens and –twenties (for example with support for the work of Thomas Salmon at the National Committee on Mental Hygiene, and as part of the more general support for the Institute of Human Relations at Yale), at the beginning of the 1930s, psychiatry was elevated to the major focus of the Medical Sciences division of the Rockefeller Foundation, and under Alan Gregg, the RF poured resources into both supporting individual researchers in the field, and underwriting academic departments to upgrade the training of future generations of psychiatrists.

The Daily Life of Hygiene and Public Health in Republican China

May 7, 2020

The Peking Union Medical College was the leading medical education institution in China for decades, producing doctors and nurses whose qualifications were on par with those from American universities. But alongside the running of this medical college and attached hospital, the China Medical Board was also involved in the conception, establishment, staffing, and funding of a range of smaller-scale, localised initiatives that prioritised public health and hygiene education at the grassroots level. From the Rockefeller Archive Center, I gathered reports, accounts, and correspondence about such projects as the Peking First Health Station, the Shanghai Kao-Chiao Health Demonstration Area, and the Mass Education Movement at Ting Hsien, to demonstrate how hygiene was taught and health services were provided to Chinese laypeople in the early twentieth century. The China Medical Board worked with local governments, sponsors, and reformists to adapt global ideals of hygienic reform and localise them for norms and culture. In time, they would create distinctly Chinese models of communal hygiene that could be emulated throughout Republican China. My dissertation examines the experiences of these reformists and highlights how the proliferation of their projects features in the everyday lives of the Chinese people in the early twentieth century. Moreover, it demonstrates that public health initiatives thrived on the municipal, provincial, and county levels, even when the centralised national government was in flux.

God Bless the Pill: Contraception and Sexuality in Tri-Faith America

February 27, 2020

"God Bless the Pill: Contraception and Sexuality in Tri-Faith America" charts the illuminating and unexpectedly complex history of the contemporary debate over abortion, contraception, and religious freedom. For the contemporary period, we think of battles over contraception as occurring between conservative Christians (Protestant and Catholic) and secular Americans. However, these debates have a much more diverse religious history in which liberal Protestants and Jews played a prominent role. For instance, in 1958, the chairman of the New York City municipal hospital system prevented a Jewish doctor from providing a diabetic Protestant woman with the contraception she needed to prevent a life-threatening pregnancy. In response, the New York metropolitan area's Jewish and Protestant clergy launched a campaign that changed hospital policy. This two-month-long public relations battle used both arguments about religious freedom and theological and halakhic defenses of contraception. Theirs were not the first religious voices to speak publicly for contraceptive access, but they set the tone for a public alliance between Jews and Protestants against more conservative Catholic teaching on the pill and shifted much of the debate from the morality of contraception to contraceptive decisions as an arena for religious freedom.

A Tale of Two (Nursing) Schools: Sofia and Zagreb through the Rockefeller Foundation’s Lens

January 28, 2020

This paper addresses the following set of questions: What constituted the "nursing question" in Bulgaria and the "nursing situation" in interwar Yugoslavia? What comparisons could be made about those two cases? What were the other international organizations involved in nursing education and how did they compete/collaborate with the RF? How did the development of nursing training in Europe, sponsored by the RF, intertwine with various administrative reorganizations within the RF?

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.

The Initiation and Development of Public Health Nursing in China: Transnational Flow of Nurses, Knowledge, and Culture

November 19, 2019

The initiation of public health nursing in China in 1920s was a result of the transnational flow of people, knowledge and culture. Transnational educational institutions and non-governmental organizations, represented by Peking Union Medical College (PUMC) and the Rockefeller Foundation, as well as by individuals, played a dominant role in shaping the initiation and development of public health in China in the 1920s to 1930s. PUMC was the hub to disseminate its founder's vision and model in public health in China through integration of education with empirical initiatives in public health. Nursing education programs of the School of Nursing at PUMC provided expertise, human resources, and leadership in public health in China from the 1920s until the beginning of the 1950s. Throughout this time, as a profession predominated by women, public health nursing served as a good example to demonstrate women's role in the transnational flow of people, knowledge, and culture.

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