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2005-2006 Visiting Fellows

Anna Barbara Sum
Freie Universität Berlin

Thanks to the generosity of the Friends of the Princeton University Library, I was able to consult Albert O. Hirschman’s papers in the Seeley G. Mudd Library. My research project focuses on the economist Albert O. Hirschman and the Culture of Experts in Development Economics from 1945 to 1970. I would like to use him as a mirror to study the culture of economic experts since he offers a fruitful insider’s point of view. Moreover, I would like to ask what kind of people served as economic “experts”, how expertness in the domain of economic development functioned and whose interests the idea of expertness was reflecting. As many of his colleagues Hirschman worked not only as a theorist but also as a development practitioner namely as an economic expert in Colombia. Recommended by the World Bank he arrived in Bogotá in 1952 and worked for the Government for two years. In order to contextualize his theoretical and practical approaches I wanted to read his research notes and field notebooks as well as the autobiographical material. In general I was interested in his correspondence to see with who in his professional field he was in contact, with whom he was friends, and with whom he disagreed. Although I knew that I would not be able to analyse his network entirely, I aimed at getting a more exact impression of his connections and the networks he was integrated in.

* I examined a great part of Hirschman’s affluent correspondence and put main focus of my analysis on the period between 1945 and 1970. The correspondence from his stay in Colombia where he worked as an economic expert for two years from 1952 to 1954 highly enriched my research. Especially in his letters to the World Bank staff he wrote about personal difficulties, projects he was involved in, and his future plans. However, the reports he wrote as a private consultant in Bogotá (1954-1956) explained very well what projects he exactly was working on and which measures he recommended in regarding development economics in Colombia.

* In addition I was able to consult the autobiographical notes which are held in his papers. Unpublished interviews were as relevant for my research project as letters to family members and friends in which he told about aspects of his childhood and youth in Berlin and his flight to Berkeley, CA by passing through various European countries.

* In preparation of his many research trips he Hirschman made lists with contacts he was given by experienced colleagues and friends. During his trips Hirschman documented in a collection of business cards, in long lists and on the back of the field notebooks the names of the people which he had met and interviewed.  For his monographs on development economics published in 1958, 1963 and 1967 he undertook research trips, too. In various field notebooks, diaries, letters and other notes, Hirschman documented interviews, notes on his interview partners and projects he visited. For example for his book Development Projects Observed (1967) there are 42 little notebooks with Hirschman’s carefully recorded interviews.

Concerning his work as an economist at the Federal Reserve Board I could read memos he wrote which show his profound knowledge about monetary policy, in particular in Italy and France.

* In his writings are also many papers and talks he held but that were never published which made them especially valuable and insightful to me. Hirschman sent drafts of his papers or talks to various of his friends and colleagues. In the relating correspondence one can find not only constructive criticisms but also statements about fundamental differences between him and some of his colleagues.

The insights provided by the consultation of the Hirschman papers are and will be of great value to my research project. They are important material to consider my research questions and helped me to advance my thesis. Therefore, my research visit was extremely fruitful and the documents I have seen constitute the major part of my sources. Thanks to the collection I could answer a lot of my questions and my thesis will be enriched with vivid documents.

I am deeply grateful to the Friends of the Princeton University Library, which made my consultation of the Hirschman papers possible concerning the finances. I wish to thank Daniel J. Linke and his staff at the Mudd Library for the great guidance and service they provided. I am also very thankful to Andrea Immel and Linda Oliveira for their welcoming and competent assistance during my stay in Princeton.


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