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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The Rockefeller Foundation’s Rural Health Program and the Oil Nationalization Crisis in Iran, 1949-1951

March 26, 2024

This research report examines the efforts of the Rockefeller Foundation (RF) to build a rural health initiative in Iran from 1949 through 1951. It details the RF's progress in contributing toward improving Iranian public health during this period, and it analyzes the impact of the Iranian oil nationalization crisis that began in early 1951 on the Rockefeller Foundation's activities. Ultimately, this report argues that the oil nationalization crisis forced the RF to end its Iranian initiative in late summer 1951 without completing its work there, but these rural health initiatives nevertheless helped lay a foundation for Iran's later public health efforts and contributed to positive American-Iranian relations prior to the 1953 coup.

Agrarian and Rural; Medicine and Healthcare; Rockefeller Foundation

A Missed Rebirth: The Rockefeller Foundation's Involvement in the Economic and Social Development of Sardinia after the Second World War

October 2, 2023

The stipend from the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC) under the Research Stipend Program has provided me with an opportunity to clarify one of the most forgotten pages of the late phase of the "Sardinian Project" i.e., the involvement of the Rockefeller Foundation (RF) in the studies for the economic and social rehabilitation and development of the Italian Island of Sardinia in the early 1950s. The issue has been particularly debated in the contemporary history of Sardinia, as well as in the political debate at that time because, despite the initial great interest, the involvement of the American institution (and other international players) did not take place. On the contrary, the economic "re-birth" of Sardinia was possible mainly through the so-called "Rebirth Plan," approved by the local and national governments in June 1962, twelve years after the "missed rebirth."Over the past seventy years, two main positions have emerged in this regard. One agrees that the RF was never involved "for a lira or a dollar" in the planning of Sardinia's socio-economic development. The second one states that the American foundation was, to some extent, directly involved, at least in the preliminary phase. However, to date, both theories have failed to look directly and deeply into the historical record for a more precise and objective reconstruction. This report summarizes the first results of my research conducted at the RAC in September 2022, which aims to gain a better knowledge of this page of local history, that possesses underrated - and largely unknown - national and international implications.

Cold War; Rockefeller Foundation

Creative Capitalism: Nelson Rockefeller’s Development Vision for Latin America and the World

May 30, 2023

This study of the American International Association for Economic and Social Development (AIA) and its associated corporations, including the commercial International Basic Economy Corporation (IBEC), illuminates an understudied chapter in the history of the public-private aid regime that grew in the mid-twentieth century to become the major industry it is today. As development aid became an American strategic priority in the decades after World War II, Nelson Rockefeller embarked on his own experiment for improving agricultural production and standards of living in poor areas of the world. His laboratory would be Latin America, the region he knew well from his wartime work at the Office of Inter-American Affairs (OIAA). Rockefeller's vision of "creative capitalism" meshed development work into a complex system of nonprofit and for-profit corporations engaged in trial-and-error projects to figure out how to develop perceived underdeveloped societies. With the announcement of President Truman's Point IV policy to deploy American development aid globally, Rockefeller advised the US government to make creative and robust use of American nonprofit and commercial expertise to implement this new strategic objective. This project illustrates just how overlapping and porous the boundaries of nonprofit and commercial development work were and the extent to which they intertwined with the state and other entities. It also shows the difficulties of agricultural and economic development abroad when conducted by small nonprofit corporations and commercial capital—even with the backing of Rockefeller wealth. These limitations meant that AIA increasingly turned to support from the burgeoning US and international public-private aid industry.

AIA-IBEC; Agrarian and Rural; American International Association for Economic and Social Development; Nelson A. Rockefeller Papers; Rockefeller Family

Academic and Architectural Modernization for Development: Financial and Technical Assistance to the University of Concepción, Chile, 1956–1968

March 16, 2023

The following research is part of my ongoing dissertation project, which examines the planning, design, and construction of university campuses vis-à-vis the intensification of mining and oil extraction in South America between 1945 and 1975. In this report, I offer a brief overview of the technical and financial assistance that the Ford Foundation (FF), the Rockefeller Foundation (RF), and the UN Special Fund (UNSF) gave to one of my case studies, the Universidad de Concepción (UdeC), located in mineral-rich Chile. Multiple holdings at the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC) reveal that these organizations provided significant aid to the UdeC between 1956 and 1968—a critical period during which the technical and financial assistance programs of the US became entangled with a national developmentalist agenda that tied scientific and engineering education to economic development. The RAC holdings I explore are extremely useful in understanding the geopolitical and economic context that shaped these aid programs, the UdeC's modernization efforts, and the agendas of the multiple actors involved in this process. The textual and visual documents I analyze also underscore the critical role that modern architecture played in all of this as an enabler of the academic reform and the economic transformation of the region, and as a persuasive signifier of "development."

Academic Research and Education; Ford Foundation; Rockefeller Foundation

Debating the Ethics of Population Control during the Cold War

February 6, 2023

Inspired by a Brazilian critique of overpopulation concerns emanating from the United States during the early 1950s, this project examines debates about the ethics of population control among staff of the Rockefeller Foundation and Population Council, from the late 1940s through the mid-1970s. The historical episodes highlighted include John D. Rockefeller, 3rd's establishment of the Population Council in 1952; the council's formation of an "ad hoc committee on policy" in the mid-1950s; reaction among population control advocates to the papal encyclical Humanae Vitae in 1968, after JDR 3rd and Population Council staff had worked to cultivate alliances with Catholic clergy, particularly Jesuits; and discussions surrounding the United Nations population conference and the simultaneous "population tribune" for representatives of non-governmental organizations, both held in Bucharest in 1974. There is brief discussion of the expansion of family planning initiatives within Latin America—often sponsored by the Population Council, the UN, and the Ford Foundation—during these decades. Among the figures discussed most frequently are John D. Rockefeller, 3rd, demographer Frank Notestein, and Population Council President Bernard Berelson. By the mid-1970s, there was a pronounced ideological split regarding population control between Population Council staff and the Vatican, as well as between advocates of population control measures in the industrialized world and representatives of developing nations who reframed concerns about poverty and resource scarcity to highlight other causes of global inequality. Feminist perspectives are largely absent or ignored early in the period analyzed but become much more evident by the 1970s.

Joan Dunlop Papers; John D. Rockefeller 3rd Papers; Population Council; Population and Reproductive Sciences; Rockefeller Family; Rockefeller Foundation

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 Birth and Death of Near East Foundation’s Community Development

October 18, 2021

My research looks at the Near East Foundation (NEF) from 1930 to 1979, exploring the rural education programs carried out in the Near East. Its predecessor, the Near East Relief (NER), provided assistance in former Ottoman territories after WWI. The epigraph above serves as an illustration of US sentiment towards the organization's work as its days of relief were almost phased out (like NER) and programs shifted to scientific philanthropy, addressing the underlying rural problems of poverty, pestilence, and ignorance. The story of the NEF is one of survival and relevance where it began by drawing on ideas of domestic philanthropy such as the Jeanes Fund, the General Education Board, and the Rockefeller Sanitary Commission for the Eradication of Hookworm Disease. These philanthropies' collective goals of education, health, and sanitation expansion into the US South formed the basic idea of reform. Additionally, the NEF drew on the Phelps-Stokes Fund's early expertise in transferring ideas of educating African Americans in the US South to expanding education in "primitive" situations in Africa. Collectively, these US organizations became a model for how NEF reimagined "primitive" Near East villages from Greece to Persia and eventually throughout the eastern hemisphere.

Academic Research and Education; Agrarian and Rural; Cold War; Education; Interwar Years; Near East Foundation

Methods and Motivations: Philanthropic Science in Decolonization-Era India, 1919-1964

October 6, 2021

How did the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations and the Population Council work with independent India to undertake unprecedented interventions in the agricultural and nutritional sciences in the context of decolonization? Contrasting with recent historical scholarship on the changes that swept the world food economy in the mid-twentieth century, this research centers on the connections between late colonial and post-independence understandings of famine, population growth, and development in South Asia. Contributing to a doctoral dissertation, this work also sheds light upon the link between the concerns of colonial-era eugenics and the debate between population regulation advocates and agricultural and nutritional scientists that would unfold over how to best address independent India's development priorities. Pursuing a broader framing of the Green Revolution of the 1960s, this project tracks the influence of the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations and the Population Council in inaugurating programs of rural development, nutritional research, and resource management, uncovering the colonial area roots of their interventions in the 1950s and 1960s. Efforts led by Indian nationalists, British colonial officials, and American philanthropists and scientists in the context of colonial development and a global population "crisis" generated institutions and ideas vital to the later Green Revolution. They receive close readings in my work to understand the underlying motives of philanthropic investment and the strategic planning involved in launching new and unprecedented programs. The motivations and inaugural planning behind these early activities reveal how far decolonization shaped the demographic and agricultural theories central to development discourse across independent South Asia.

Agriculture; Food and Nutrition; Population and Reproductive Sciences; Rockefeller Foundation

Broadcasting Modernization: Ford Foundation’s Shifting Priorities in Colombia during the Cold War, 1962-1972

September 27, 2021

The Ford Foundation was one of the most prominent private partners of President John F. Kennedy's Alliance for Progress (AFP) program, 1961-1973, aiming to modernize Latin American societies and to enhance hemispheric relations during the global Cold War. Colombia was the operation hub of the Ford Foundation, as Bogotá started to host its Latin American headquarters from 1962 until 1972, when the Foundation dissolved the office due to civil unrest in Colombia. In 1968, under McGeorge Bundy's leadership, the Ford Foundation adopted a broad, organizational strategic shift from focusing on managerial elites to alleviating poverty for the popular masses. This report synthesizes some of my findings about the internal debates about the Foundation's strategic reform and Colombia's unique significance for its work in Cold War Latin America. These findings were gathered during my visit to the Rockefeller Archive Center in January 2020 under a generous research stipend from the Archive. This is a working document for a chapter in my dissertation, tentatively titled The Power of Philanthropy: Development, Empire, and Non-State Actors in Cold War Colombia, 1961-1973.

Cold War; Ford Foundation

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.

Agriculture; International Basic Economy Corporation; J. George Harrar Papers; Rockefeller Foundation

The Origins of the Near East Foundation's Iran Programmes, 1943-1950

July 9, 2020

In October 1950, Edward C. Miller and Halsey B. Knapp, both finance officers for the philanthropic Near East Foundation (NEF), embarked on a three-month tour of the Middle East. Founded in 1915 as a direct response to the humanitarian crisis caused by the Armenian Genocide, Near East Relief (as it was then known) had gained an international reputation for its humanitarian and relief programmes. But by 1930, it transformed itself into the Near East Foundation from, in the words of Keith David Watenpaugh, "an ad hoc food relief organization to…a bureaucratized, multidisciplinary, nongovernmental 'development' organization.'" During their travels, Miller and Knapp examined the multitude of agricultural, education, and sanitation programmes operated by the NEF in Iran, Lebanon, Syria, and Greece. Their goal was to seek an answer to the question: "What is the present standing of the Near East Foundation?"

International Relations; Near East Foundation

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.

Academic Research and Education; Agriculture; Rockefeller Foundation

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