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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International Refugee Relief on the Caucasus Front, 1915-16: Perspectives from the Rockefeller Archive Center

July 12, 2021

Humanitarian relief in the aftermath of the Armenian Genocide is now frequently referred to by historians as a watershed moment in the history of humanitarianism. Keith Watenpaugh has suggested that the efforts of the American Near East Relief (NER), coming to the rescue of surviving Armenians in the aftermath of war and genocide, were representative of a shift to a distinctive "modern" form of humanitarianism. Others have drawn upon the Armenian case to suggest that the shifts in humanitarian relief occurring around this time were more uneven. Rebecca Jinks, for example, draws attention to the way racialised and gendered colonial discourses shaped responses to displaced Armenian women. The wave of scholarship connecting the Armenian Genocide to histories of humanitarianism has thus far focused on interventions in the former Ottoman territories of the Middle East (in particular, the French mandates of Syria and Lebanon). In contrast, the response to the hundreds of thousands of Armenian refugees who fled to the Russian imperial territories of Transcaucasia (the South Caucasus) during and in the aftermath of war and genocide remains relatively less well understood.

Intellectual Relief in Europe following the First World War

September 16, 2020

This project examines the phenomenon of intellectual relief in Europe following the end of the First World War. Intellectual relief is defined as aid that was specifically aimed at intellectuals and cultural institutions and constituted not only food and medicine, but also specialist reading material and equipment. My project aims to establish why intellectuals were targeted for bespoke relief and what philanthropic and humanitarian bodies, such as the Rockefeller Foundation, Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial, and Commonwealth Fund, sought to achieve by it. It also poses the question of who the "intellectuals" were and how they were identified. In a wider sense, my research will provide a new means of understanding how Europe transitioned from war to peace and how contemporaries sought to build stable democratic states.

Shadow Diplomats: American Humanitarianism in the Era of the World Wars, 1900-1948

October 25, 2018

This project examines the development of American humanitarianism in the era of the world wars. It explores how, in the absence of state power, private citizens often filled the void. Their activities expand the common definition of diplomacy by noting myriad ways private organizations and individuals, including the Rockefeller Foundation and its partners, attempted to influence the direction of American foreign relations. The primary argument here is to demonstrate that American citizens, who grew frustrated at the lack of government involvement in world affairs during the first-half of the twentieth century, sought to insert themselves into positions of power and influence. This project shows that, in the absence of the state, many American individuals and NGOs formed partnerships and coordinated their humanitarian activities on a global scale. In specific ways, they undertook the roles and strategies of foreign policy professionals: stationing professionals in foreign offices, raising and appropriating large sums of money, providing food and medicine, coordinating the mass migration of refugees, and negotiating with foreign governments. By doing so, they acted as "shadow diplomats" – working as a shadow government in opposition to the recognized state authority, but also working in the shadows, away from most public attention and scrutiny, because they reasoned that quiet actions would produce the desired results.

Radio Research and Refugee Scholars: American Philanthropies Respond to the European Crisis before the War, 1933-39

July 19, 2018

University presidents and foundation administrators in the United States viewed the global refugee crisis precipitated by Hitler's rise to power in Germany in 1933 as a serious humanitarian disaster in need of immediate attention.  It was also, in their view, a historic opportunity to salvage the great minds of Central Europe.  For the officers of the Rockefeller Foundation, the crisis coincided with an increasing interest in sponsoring studies on radio and mass communications, public opinion, and the vulnerabilities of Western democracies to fascism.  Many European social scientists, with their background in empirical research, were ideally suited to study these problems.  The sociologist Paul Lazarsfeld, for example, chose to remain in the U.S. as a Rockefeller fellow when fascism took hold in his native Austria in 1934, and he went on to become the head of a major research institute at Columbia University.This paper considers the efforts of American citizens, academic elites, and foundation officers to aid refugee scholars and researchers by placing them at American institutions and supporting their work through grants and other forms of aid.  Officers in the Humanities and Social Sciences divisions of the Rockefeller Foundation, working in concert with the leaders of organizations like the Emergency Committee in Aid of Displaced Foreign Scholars, were instrumental in supporting these émigrés and their work in the United States.  The Emergency Committee, with the financial assistance of the Rockefeller Foundation, assisted more than six-hundred refugee scholars with securing university appointments and grants over its twelve years of existence.

A Full Round of Life for All: Transforming Near East Relief into the Near East Foundation

January 1, 2013

The Near East Foundation (NEF) declared in 1934 that it aimed to achieve a "full round of life for all" through its work in the Near East. A report explained that a full life included "health and hygiene for individual and community, economic security through effective agriculture and industry, happy homes with rights and opportunities for childhood and womanhood, the brotherhood and co-operation of national and racial and religious groups, and above all the fullness of culture and spiritual faith." These goals reflected NEF's hopes for a full social transformation in the Middle East, and show the growing influence of development ideology on its leadership. They also reflected major changes in NEF's goals from its origins as a relief organization.

Near East Relief and the Rescue of "Absorbed" Armenian Women, 1915-21

January 1, 2013

In the publicity campaigns, pamphlets, and monthly magazine of the American charity Near East Relief, one regular feature was the rescue of the Christian Armenian women and children who had been abducted or sold during the deportation marches into Turkish, Kurdish or Arab homes and forcibly converted to Islam: indeed, it became a rallying cry for American aid and action until at least 1923. One article, entitled "Those Who Turn to Us in Hope," in the Near East Relief's magazine The New Near East, described the situation in 1921: Hidden away in Mohammedan homes, varying from the palatial abodes of rich Turks to the tents of wandering Arabs, are Christian Armenian girls, numbering 63,800. Imagination pictures life in the harem as degrading in the extreme according to Western standards. The intolerance of Mohammedan towards Christians adds to the degradation of these girls the horrors of relentless persecution. It has been our imperative duty, as Christians, to effect their release wherever possible.

The Near East Foundation Records at the Rockefeller Archive Center

January 1, 2012

These words by the "father" of Arabic literature in America, and of Arab-American literature written in English, Amīn ar-Rīhānī (sometimes spelled Ameen Al Rihani," 1876-1940), offer a clear testament to the efforts and early successes of the Near East Foundation, formerly known as the Near East Relief Foundation, or the American Committee for Armenian and Assyrian Relief (ACASR). In another sense, these words speak of a historic connection between Americans and people of the area known as greater Syria, which has been overlooked or marginalized in the common disassociation between these separate geographic regions, but which is therefore so important to remember now.

The Near East Relief's Caucasus Branch Operation (1919-1920)

January 1, 2011

This report intends to expand our knowledge as well as to contribute to the existent historiography on the Near East Relief (NER), an American humanitarian organization, which has been understudied. We wish to pinpoint three main aspects of the NER's early history. The first being tension between one of the main ideological assumptions of the organization -- i.e., to carry out rehabilitation programs that went beyond short-term emergency relief -- and the absolute necessity to undertake vast relief operations. The NER's Caucasus Branch operation illustrates this tension. Second, the 1919-1920 relief operation in the Caucasus sheds light on why it was necessary for the NER to cooperate with other American organizations, such as the American Relief Administration (ARA) and the American Red Cross (ARC). We will provide details about this complex relationship later in the report. Finally, this research report provides an opportunity to reflect on the ideology(ies) and working methods of NER workers. Contrary to what one might think, the NER was far from being a monolithic organization. The Board of Trustees, the executives, and the men (and women) on the spot had different views on the NER's objectives as well as on how they 2 should be achieved. In 2009, Sarah Miglio wrote a Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC) research report entitled "America's Sacred Duty: Near East Relief and the Armenian Crisis, 1915-1930." It was based on some of the sources referred to in our RAC research report. Miglio focused on America's "Sacred Duty" in the Near East and more specifically, on the Armenians during and after the genocide. Our objective is to offer a closer look at the operational work carried out by the NER. Miglio focused on the significance of the Armenian crisis for the American public, whereas our objective is to look into more pragmatic aspects of the programs of the NER for Armenians and other civilian populations.

U.S. Food Aid and the Expectation of Gratitude, 1914-1950

January 1, 2011

Between 1914 and the 1950s, U.S. food nourished many European civilians during war and its aftermath. Upon the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, millions of Americans in a neutral nation mobilized to relieve the suffering of civilians in Europe through substantial contributions of money, food, and clothing, thus beginning a long relationship between Americans and Europeans. Non-profit organizations and U.S. government loans fed much of the population of Belgium and Northern France in 1914, using tens of thousands of volunteers and hundreds of millions of dollars under the Commission for Relief in Belgium (CRB), until the U.S. entry into the war in 1917.

Intellectuals Flee from Fascism: Rockefeller Support of Social Scientists, 1933-1945

January 1, 2010

It is an honor to speak to you today on some aspects of the refugee scholars program of the Rockefeller Foundation in the 1930s and 1940s. It is a particular honor to appear on the same platform with Professor Reiko Maekawa, whose scholarship I have known and appreciated for twenty-five years. I am similarly honored to appear with Professor Roberta Wollons, who was a colleague of mine at Case Western Reserve University. Both Professor Maekawa and Professor Wollons have made outstanding contributions to the field of American Studies, and I have learned much from them.

America's Sacred Duty: Near East Relief and the Armenian Crisis, 1915-1930

January 1, 2009

Throughout World War I and its aftermath, hundreds of thousands of refugees across Europe and Asia Minor were the recipients of humanitarian aid. But in the United States one ethnic group in particular, the Armenians, captured Americans' imaginations and prompted the nation to action. Americans worried that Armenians were targeted for extinction, so U.S. cultural and political elites took up this humanitarian cause in the name of their "Christian" citizenship. This was more than relief work in the name of modern goodwill -- it was a rescue mission undertaken with solemn vows of the American Christian's duty to protect the poor, starving Armenians. As one fundraising plea put it, "It's a big job and a holy one" to save the Armenians from the Turks. The battle lines were quickly drawn as a "degenerate" and Muslim civilization versus "progressive" and Christian civilization with the Armenians caught in the middle. This movement to save the Armenians did not operate at the edges of American society. As President Woodrow Wilson's ambassador to Germany and advisor claimed, it was the "sacred duty of Christian civilization to save Armenia."

The Rockefeller Foundation and the Intellectual Life of Refugee Scholars during the Cold War

January 1, 2009

The efforts of the Rockefeller Foundation (RF) to aid promising scholars fleeing the spread of fascism in Europe in the 1930s and 1940s have been well documented by scholars who have made use of the materials at the Rockefeller Archive Center. Less explored is the story of how these scholars' ideas and thoughts were transplanted into the American soil through the personal and intellectual networks formed between refugee scholars and American intellectuals.

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