Philanthropic Funding of the British Social Sciences after World War Two

by Katherine Ambler

Dec 17, 2019

My research undertaken at the Rockefeller Archive Center focused on US philanthropic funding of the British social sciences in the post-World War Two period. In particular, I was interested in the significance of Rockefeller Foundation funding for the development of anthropology and sociology in British universities and research institutes. While the significance of the Rockefeller Foundation for the growth and consolidation of British social anthropology in the interwar period has been well established, there has been little consideration of this later period. Studies of philanthropic funding of the social sciences in the post-war period, moreover, often concentrate on the impact of the Cold War and the foreign policy objectives that are perceived to drive the patronage of particular research agendas, inevitably centring the US perspective. However, Mark Solovey, for example, has pointed to the multiple factors beyond Cold War politics that influenced academic perspectives, such as personal relationships, local dynamics, and transnational networks. Along these lines, by focusing on the attitudes and interests of the British-based applicants and recipients of funding from US foundations, as well as the foundations themselves, I hope to shift the focus away from US foreign policy objectives and towards the dynamics of the social sciences in Britain in the post-war period, as well as the transatlantic interactions between academics in these fields. This investigation of the relationship between US foundations and British academics is part of my broader project that aims to uncover some of the negotiations and compromises that lie behind the production of particular works and ideas in the field of social anthropology in the 1950s and 1960s.

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