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2005-2006 Visiting Fellows

Rainer Kattel
Tallinn University of Technology, Estonia

I. Context and Purpose of the Fellowship. The main purpose of my award was to explore the archive of Ragnar Nurkse at Mudd Manuscript library. Ragnar Nurkse (1907-1959), born in Estonia and later professor at Columbia University, is one of the most important early development economists. His papers are held by Princeton's Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library. It is only very recently that the field of economics and public policy has rediscovered development economics as an important area of research, and thus we can also detect a growing interest in Nurkse. However, the Nurkse papers at the Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library have not been used extensively in research so far.

II.Main research targets of the Fellowship. Nurkse is the best known Estonian economist. His work as financial analyst in the League of Nations in 1930s and 1940s, and, in particular, his writings on development issues in 1950s make him one of the most important pioneers in development economics. Yet, not only is his work little known in Estonia (he left Estonia as a student in 1928), but his economics generally and in particular his contribution to development issues, both theoretical and policy-related, has not need studied comprehensively in any language. Current project thus aimed at comprehensive study of Ragnar Nurkse's contribution and its relevance to the development of economic theory and policy as well as to current issues.

III. Main Findings. Nurkse library contains: 1) manuscripts of his most important independent works, manuscripts from his time at the League of Nations are very sporadic; 2) notes for his courses at Columbia; 3) extensive notes from his study times at Edinburgh and Vienna; 4) professional correspondence about lectures, teachings engagements etc; 5) copies of his main publications; 6) a lot of general scholarly notes, sometimes as notebooks, sometimes as single leaves of paper scatter around the boxes of the archive. Nurkse archive is unsorted.

The archive is very helpful in mapping Nurkse's intellectual development, particularly his connection to Austrian economics and, more importantly, to other pioneers in development economics (Rosenstein-Rodan, Furtado, Singer). The archive reveals also important details and debates about the genesis of development economics; these debates (e.g. between Nurkse and Furtado on the role of exports and exporting sectors in developing countries) are highly relevant for current debates.

IV. Summary. First, I wish to thank Friends of the Library for their kind generosity, and to thank Mudd library staff for friendliness and professionalism that made my stay in Princeton wonderfully easy and memorable. My research in Nurkse is continuing and for his 100th anniversary in 2007, I plan to republish his most important essays in development economics along with a scholarly volume on his development economics.


14 November 2005


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