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Princeton economics processing project completed

More than 1,100 feet of records providing insights into 20th-century economics history available


Princeton University’s Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library has completed a two-year project to process all of its economics-related public policy collections to modern standards. These collections provide a rich resource about American economic thought and policies in the 20th century and the impact of American economic policy and the ideas of some of the leading economic thinkers on the emerging world economy, especially in developing nations.

Twenty-eight collections, totaling more than 1,100 linear feet, were processed through the support of the John Foster and Janet Avery Dulles Fund and a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission. Electronic finding aids for each collection are available on the library’s website for researchers.

The collections as a whole document economic activity that spans the globe, including every settled continent. The main subjects documented by the papers are public and international finance, economic development and economic policy, as well as monetary policy, policies during World War I and II, business history and demography. These records provide insight into the economic debates that thrived during the 20th century: the establishment or disavowal of the gold standard; international monetary policy and free trade; the various approaches to what was called Third World development (including population control); and means to alleviate depression and/or inflation. In a time when free market ideas are ascendant, these collections bear testament that the path was neither linear nor smooth.

The collections document both the theory and practical application of economics and include the papers of scholars, U.S. government officials, advisers to governments throughout the world, bankers, lawyers, business leaders, a policy advocacy group, and organizations devoted to economic development. Among the important collections are the papers of Edwin W. Kemmerer, adviser to many countries on monetary policy during the 1920s; Jacob Viner, one of the most prominent economic scholars of the 20th century; Nobel Laureate W. Arthur Lewis; and Albert O. Hirschman, a leading scholar in the field of economic development. Kemmerer, Viner and Lewis were members of the Princeton faculty, while Hirschman was at the Institute for Advanced Study.

Records of prominent organizations were also processed as part of the project, including those of the Development and Resources Corporation, a for-profit concern involved in economic development around the world, such as a substantial project in Iran; Women’s World Banking, a nonprofit international financial institution that facilitates the participation of women entrepreneurs in the modern economy; and the Economists’ National Committee on Monetary Policy, an advocacy group for monetary policy, especially for the gold standard, in the United States.

The project began in October 2005 with the hiring of project archivist Adriane Hanson to oversee the work on the 28 collections. She was joined in January 2006 by special collections assistant Christopher Shannon and a small group of student assistants. In two years, the team arranged and rehoused all 28 collections, ranging in size from one box to 450 boxes. Hanson wrote finding aids and catalog records for each of the collections, which are now available online to aid researchers in discovering and utilizing these resources.

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