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2004-2005 Visiting Fellows

David Ekbladh
Visiting Scholar
SAIS, Johns Hopkins University

I am pleased to submit the final report for my 2004 Princeton Library Research Fellowship. This award allowed me to visit the Seely G. Mudd Manuscript Library in the spring and summer of 2004 for research in a number of its collections relating to my interests. I am currently completing a book on the place of modernization in the foreign relations of the United States in the twentieth century, when the concept became a basic means for many elements of American society to engage the world. The state along with host of non-governmental bodies, ranging from foundations, voluntary groups, missionaries, and business, found modernization a powerful means to achieve their various goals and ambitions as well as a basic way of understanding a world in transition.

The Mudd Library has an unparalleled set of collections that relate to my topic. The locus of my research was the records of a private development consulting firm, Development and Resources (D&R). The company, formed by David Lilienthal (whose invaluable papers were also consulted) in 1955, sought to promote development around the globe-for a profit. It was involved in projects in critical areas like Iran and South Vietnam during the 1960s and 1970s. What makes D&R so compelling is the fact it was exporting development ideas hammered out in the United States itself. Lilienthal was a prominent New Dealer, having led the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) in the 1930s and much of D&R's staff was drawn from that organization. As the Cold War competition between the U.S. and the USSR increasingly came to be played out in the "Third World" the TVA became a powerful symbol of what U.S. development programs promised poorer nations. Lilienthal and others saw the TVA a framework that claimed to have a means to install vital technology in poorer nations while providing the space for "grassroots" participation on the part of local peoples.

From my research I established how important the example of the TVA was as a rhetorical justification and a guide for the actions of D&R. A surprising discovery was how these ideas eventually circled back to the United States. In the mid-1960s D&R jumped into many domestic "Great Society" programs. To win contracts in places as varied as Brooklyn, Michigan, and on Navajo reservations it pointed to its overseas experience in fostering development. Modernization ideas born of the New Deal, were projected into the world only to return as the U.S. confronted its own rooted poverty and injustice.

The term of my fellowship also allowed me to dig into the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) papers that have recently become available. I had not appreciated the wealth of information contained in the meeting and study group materials held in the CFR collection. Convened to deal with particular issues on the international agenda the study and meeting groups brought together a cross section of important policymakers and thinkers. As many of the groups produced transcripts or summaries of they are invaluable snapshots of elite thinking at critical points. In relation to my project, the Council's papers showed how important development programs were considered to the success of larger U.S. strategies in the world. For example, it was interesting to find council members discussing the work of D&R in South Vietnam in 1967 and how they linked the successful completion of its modernization programs to the overall American war effort.

The fellowship also gave me time to delve into the papers of W. Arthur Lewis, a prominent development economist; Harry Dexter White an economist who helped found the World Bank; William Bundy a key policy maker in the 1960s; and Raymond Fosdick, a president of the Rockefeller Foundation and strong advocate of domestic and international development. These papers mark the contributions of these individuals to the idea of modernization but they also show the complementary interplay of various institutions in the conceptualization and implementation of development. Their often interrelated work is a reminder that development is a complex mix of a variety of actors.

I also took advantage of the wider access to the Princeton Library system provided under the terms of the fellowship. I utilized the Firestone Library for secondary materials and internet access that supported my research.

A final word should be said about the peerless staff of the Mudd Library. Researchers' requests are handled rapidly; staff, quite literally, drop what they are doing to handle record request and to answer inquiries. The collections also bear the stamp of thorough preparation in their organization and detailed finding aids. The knowledge, professionalism, and courtesy of the staff are perhaps the greatest asset of the institution.


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