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 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?"

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.

"Bringing the Machine to the House": The IBEC System and Experimental Housing in Baghdad, Iraq, 1953-58

August 27, 2019

This report studies the International Basic Economy Corporation (IBEC) Housing Corporation (IHC) and its attempts to build prefabricated housing in Baghdad, Iraq during the 1950s. Architect Wallace K. Harrison experimented with cast-in-place concrete to create "a house built like a sidewalk." This process came to be known as the "IBEC System," leading to IHC mass-produced housing projects in Virginia, Florida, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Iraq, and Iran. In 1955, the Development Board of Iraq hired Greek architect Constantinos Doxiadis to develop a comprehensive five-year plan for the nation's housing shortages. With Doxiadis urging experimentation in construction technique and with IHC's desire to secure access to the Middle East, IHC applied for contracts to build mass-produced housing in Iraq under this program. In 1950s Iraq, Pan-Arabism was taking hold. IHC imported expensive equipment into Baghdad and built demonstration housing, with the ambition to build hundreds of houses; however, on July 14, 1958, the reigning monarchy was overthrown and IHC, along with other western firms, left Iraq, abandoning their projects and equipment. This short report summarizes this story.

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.

Making Manpower: The Ford Foundation's Building of Postcolonial Political Economy in India and Indonesia

December 20, 2017

My dissertation analyzes the International Labor Organization's (ILO) postcolonial development activities in India and Indonesia based around productivity and its relationship to economic inequality. Accordingly, I zoomed in on the Ford Foundation's collections that were connected to the ILO, India, and Indonesia. Neither the Ford nor the Rockefeller Foundation had a sustained connection to sponsoring the ILO, and the documents were scant. Thankfully, Ford granted considerable funds and expert guidance to both India and Indonesia. This researcher's report will begin with an introduction to the climate of political economy and development that infused Ford's notions of manpower and political economy. It then transitions to a description of my findings for India and Indonesia. Indonesia's fractured history is well displayed by the timing of the Ford Foundation's technical assistance, in spite of the limited archival material for my dissertation. It closes with a meditation on the meaning of development, capitalism, and shifts in international political economy at the end of the twentieth century.

Planning and Ideology: American-Yugoslav Project

December 11, 2017

In 1968 the Ford Foundation (FF) approved a grant of $180,000 to Wayne State University (WSU) over a two-year period to support the American-Yugoslav Project (AYP). The grant proposal was made by Jack C. Fischer, Vladimir Mušič and Lojze Rojec to Stanley T. Gordon of the FF in order to assist the American-Yugoslav Project for Regional and Urban Planning Studies and thus to complete experimental plans for the city and region of Ljubljana. At the same time the FF grant would also continue to support interdisciplinary training in urban-regional planning methods for Yugoslav specialists.

Economic Expertise and Rural Improvement in Iran, 1948-1963

November 29, 2017

Americans played a key role in Iran's oil-based development program of the 1950s and early 1960s, both through the U.S. government's official overseas development programs and private organizations. Oil has historically been viewed as a key foundation of the Pahlavi regime of Mohammed Reza Shah (r. 1941-1979). According to Ruhollah Ramazani, following the U.S.-supported 1953 coup d'etat, "neither political consolidation nor economic rehabilitation could be envisaged" without the financial resources accrued from oil, "the backbone of the Iranian economy." Iran's oil was placed in the hands of an international consortium of oil companies through a new oil agreement with the shah's government in 1954, and annual revenues from the consortium's sale of Iranian oil abroad grew from $33 million to $338 million between 1955 and 1960. Yet oil power needed expertise to be applied effectively, and from the U.S. point of view the Pahlavi state seemed rickety and corrupt, in need of American "know-how" to turn its oil power into lasting socio-economic growth and political stability for the shah's regime.

The Culture and Practice of International Health in Asia and the Pacific

November 14, 2017

My work at the Rockefeller Archive Center evolved into a study of the making of an international community of public health experts and researchers across imperial Asia and the Pacific. My initial interest lay with the history professional associations, particularly the Far Eastern Association of Tropical Medicine (FEATM) and the Pacific Science Association (PSA). The FEATM was established in Manila in 1908, largely through American initiative, whilst the Pacific Science Association developed out of a similar dynamic in Hawaii in 1920. In addition to fostering the exchange of ideas, research, and practices, these associations also proclaimed the goal of cultivating international understanding, fellowship, and ultimately peace through cooperation. Many of the personnel of the International Health Board (IHB) of the Rockefeller Foundation were either founders or enthusiastic participants in these associations, whilst the IHB supported many of the institutions, projects, and students across Asia and the Pacific that presented their work at their international congresses. I thus hoped to use officers diaries, correspondence, and reports held at the Rockefeller Archive Center to trace the movements and connections between health officials and scientists in Asia and the Pacific. The official publications of the FEATM and PSA promoted the goodwill of international conferences, so it was important to consult more private and confidential sources to discover what tensions and hostilities coexisted with cooperation and exchange.

A Tale of Missed Opportunities: The Role of the United States in the Protracted Modernization of Brazilian Capitalism

November 13, 2017

From the Monroe Doctrine in the first quarter of the 19th century to the Good Neighbor Policy in the 1930s, the United States has continuously sought, in a consistent, multifaceted, and persistently paternalistic and often violently interventionist fashion, to exert its economic preponderance, political leverage, and cultural sway in the Western hemisphere. In the second half of the twentieth century, this regional pattern of behavior acquired a new, more concerted, and unprecedentedly self-professed benevolent format. Cold War dynamics required an original set of policies from the Colossus of the North in order to deal with the rising demands for economic prosperity and political democracy burgeoning across Latin American nations.

The Inverted "Red Triangle" and Communicating the Small Family Norm in the Developing World

September 22, 2017

In December 1968, Frank Wilder presented a paper in a Carolina-USAID Workshop on 'Mass Communications in Family Planning.' This was, perhaps, the first time he presented the inverted "Red Triangle" to the developing world. As a consultant to the Ford Foundation's India Office focused on Mass Communications for Family Planning, he had been working on the symbol for the past three years. In his paper, he added a note that the symbol was now ready for circulation across the 'developing countries' or what we know as the Global South.

Modernization through Home Economics: The American International Association in Brazil, 1947-1961

September 21, 2017

The activities of the American International Association in Brazil and Venezuela have attracted the attention of scholars interested in examining the organization as an example of the complex economic, political, and cultural relationships between the United States and Latin America in the mid-twentieth century. A 2013 historiographic essay by Claiton Marcio da Silva on scholarship concerning the AIA's initiatives in Brazil reveals a particular interest among Brazilian scholars in Nelson Rockefeller's economic and political influence as projected through the AIA and affiliated organizations, including the International Basic Economy Corporation. As da Silva notes, debate within Brazilian scholarship prior to the 1990s primarily centered on whether the AIA was a missionary-like endeavor to foster economic development or an imperialist project to establish North American dominance. With the cultural turn in the 1990s, scholars have complicated this narrative with explorations of Latin American participation in the AIA and IBEC, and these organizations' connections to the broader development of consumer culture. Though scholars have become more interested in examining these organizations from a cultural perspective, recent scholarship remains focused on the AIA's efforts to modernize Brazilian agricultural practices. The organization's efforts to spread modern, North American home economics practices to poor rural and urban households remains largely unexamined.

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