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Archival description
Records of the Office of the Historian Series
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Administrative files

This series contains basic information on the establishment and progress of the World Bank History Project. Most of the documents are printouts of routine email messages, with the exception of the records in the project structure file, which are incoming and outgoing paper correspondence. The Project background/contract file contains a copy of the official agreement between the Brookings Institution and the Bank to undertake the study; it also contains handwritten and typed notes of the first meeting of the International Advisory Council on January 22, 1990. The Archives 1991-1993 file contains a list of senior personnel at the Bank each year from 1968-1991.

Chronological files

This chronological series contains both incoming and outgoing correspondence transmitted through email, postal mail, or fax. Some handwritten notes between the three co-authors are included. There is no general chronological file between August 1, 1991, and June 30, 1994. Some of the correspondence includes commentary on the history of the Bank, particularly in the chronological file of John Lewis, but the majority of the messages are routine, such as requests for oral interviews and requests for data and documents from Bank offices. Other correspondence consists of comments on drafts, either on draft chapters of the history or on other writings by the authors. Two small files contain a single incoming letter from Sidney Dell (1990) and Peter Wright (1992), each enclosing multiple documents for the authors to use.

Correspondence - March 5, 1990, letter

In February, 1990, John Lewis and Richard Webb sent approximately 700 letters to senior Bank staff, followed by hundreds more letters on March 5, 1990, to Bank alumni, present and former Executive Directors of the Bank, and present and former members of the Development Committee, asking them for ideas about which subjects the study should emphasize. They asked for responses by the end of March. This series contains the responses to the mailings in the form of letters as well as a few notes of telephone calls. Some responses are very brief, while others provide extended comments on suggested topics or enclose copies of speeches or documents. The responses from former Executive Directors often include information on representational duties and the influence the EDs had on the Bank's policies. While some of the respondents were later interviewed, for others this is the only source for their views. Replies drafted by Lewis and Webb are also included.

Correspondence with Volume II authors

The World Bank History Project commissioned essays for the second volume of the history. This series contains the correspondence between the project staff and the essay authors and some correspondence between readers of draft essays and the project staff. Also included is correspondence about essays that ultimately were not included in the volume.

Volume I drafts and related writings

This series is a fragment of the files that must have been created during the drafting of the chapters in Volume 1 of The World Bank: Its First Half Century. The files are of three types: comments on drafts by the three authors; background reports by staff researchers; and papers prepared for other purposes but related to the themes of Volume I.

The comments cover draft chapters on: agriculture and rural development; external relations; policy-based lending; and the International Development Association. The comments are from readers both within and outside the Bank and from co-authors. The files also include some background materials as well as a draft of the book's table of contents. The authors were assisted by staff researchers, who prepared background papers or reports on groups of files for use by the authors. The series also includes: Lewis's file as a reader for the North-South Institute's project on multinational development banks, including drafts and comments; Kapur and Webb's paper on the evolution of these banks for a conference on the fiftieth anniversary of Bretton Woods; and Webb's article on policy reform in Peru for a conference at the Institute for International Economics.

Volume II drafts

The authors conceived Volume II of The World Bank: Its First Half Century as a series of essays that would look at the Bank from outside vantage points, including the points of view of borrowers, lenders, the economics profession,and political analysts. The project contracted with authors for these essays, and this series consists of submitted drafts as well as exchanges of comments with the authors. It includes both essays that were published in volume IIand also a draft on Brazil and a draft on politics and the Bank that ultimately were not included.

Verification files

This series contains correspondence related to fact and footnote verification. Series contains files for some subjects in Volume I and some chapters of Volume II. The subject verification files contain copies of internal Bank documents or articles that were located during the verification process and are often marked with the footnote numbers to which they provide verification. Verification files for only three of the Volume II chapters exist.

Authors' conference

On June 2 and 3, 1992, the World Bank History Project held a conference with all the authors of essays for Volume II of The World Bank: Its First Half Century. Each author presented his draft paper and explained the approach he had taken. Not all authors participated, but at least some of the authors not present sent papers in advance. This untranscribed set of tapes records the discussion at the two day conference. Series contains reference copies producedby the Bank Archives of all of the conference tapes. As such, only six of the twelve tapes are original.

Advisory committee's files

The World Bank History Project was advised by three committees. One, a formal advisory committee of persons external to the Bank, was formed by the project in 1990 and held four meetings: January 22-24, 1990; September 26-27, 1990; April 9-10, 1992; September 30-October 2, 1993. The second, a group of former staff members of the Bank and related institutions, was established as a Guidance and Closure Committee by the Brookings Institution in 1994 to help the project in its final stages. Finally, the Bank established an internal review committee to read and comment on all chapters of the two volumes.

Only two paper files exist on the work of these committees, but other correspondence is found throughout the files of both the project and of Office of the Historian. One file, titled, Comments on Volume I, contains comments from both the advisory committee and the Bank's review committee plus comments from other persons to whom the authors sent drafts for review. The file is organized by chapter. Some of the comments are extremely long and contain information about the topic for the consideration of the authors rather than simply comments on the draft text. The second file, World Bank Review Committee Comments on Volume II, is organized alphabetically by the name of the author contributing the chapter.

The series also contains audio tapes of the four meetings of the international advisory committee. The project files contain no transcript or minutes of the meetings.

Finally, one audio tape is a dictated set of comments by an unknown reader of the fifth chapter of Volume I written by Richard Webb.

Series contains dupiclate reference copies created by the Bank Archives of nearly all of the tapes; as such, only 31 of the 60 tapes listed in the extent are original.


At the first meeting of the project's advisory committee in January, 1990 the authors were advised to undertake a series of interviews. The authors agreed and embarked on an extensive interview program, ultimately talking with 149 persons. The interviews were conducted during the entire life of the project and included discussions with current and former Bank staff and executive directors, persons from related institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the Asian Development Bank, and prominent external observers of the Bank. Some of the interviews were noted in footnotes in the published volumes of The World Bank: Its First Half Century. Series contains dupicate reference copies of almost all of the original interview tapes.

A series of interviews were conducted during a research trip the authors made to India, Bangladesh, Indonesia and the Philippines in November, 1991. These interviews were primarily with national leaders and focus particularly on the 1980s.

Some of the persons interviewed by the authors were also interviewed by the Bank's own oral history program; some also were interviewed by Robert Oliver for his biography of Bank president George D. Woods. The series also contains some of the transcripts from these older interviews.

Research materials

This series consists of electrostatic copies of documents obtained and collected by the World Bank History Project staff in the course of researching and writing The World Bank: Its First Half Century. The documents relate primarily to the topics of the chapters in Volume I; a few are the background to the research papers prepared by the project's research assistants. The authors filed the copies by subject, sometimes with cryptic subject titles. Some files may have been kept by an individual staff member,but those files have been combined in this general reference series.

The majority of the documents copied in these files are in the archives of the Bank, but some are also copies received from former Bank staff or from non-Bank sources.

Administrative files

This series reflects a variety of the activities undertaken by the Office of the Historian. The activities file contains lists of oral histories conducted by the project and lists of records the historian had when the office closed. The Paris file reports on records that are in the Bank's Paris office, while the CPP file reports on the master set of Country Program Papers, Country Strategy Papers, and Country Assistance Strategy Papers. A file that relates to the Presidents' papers includes: notes on the contents and a few copies of documents from the Eugene Meyer papers at the Library of Congress; notes, descriptions, and a list of George Woods' papers at Columbia University Library; and series descriptions of McNamara's records in the Bank.

Chronological files

This chronological series primarily contains outgoing letters and memoranda. Many of the items relate to the oral history program: making appointments for interviews; sending proposed questions; and sending transcripts to the person interviewed. Other memoranda send Bank reviewers draft chapters from the World Bank history project and send comments to the project from the reviewers; some memoranda also send the work of the Historian's Office out for comment. Letters and memoranda to the Brookings Institution and to senior Bank staff track the progress of the history project.

World Bank History Project liaison records

In 1989 the World Bank commissioned the Brookings Institution to prepare a history of the Bank as part of the commemoration of the Bank's fiftieth anniversary. Originally planned for publication in 1994, the two volume work, The World Bank: Its First Half Century, was published in 1997. When the Office of the Historian was established at the beginning of 1993, the task of liaison between the Bank and Brookings and the authors fell to the Historian. This series documents the evolving relationship between the Bank and the Brookings Institution's World Bank History Project, both before and after the establishment of the Historian's Office.

The first subseries, the chronological General Files, shows the genesis of the idea for a history (including copies of documents on the Bank's history dating back to December 1967), the funding of the project, and the administration of the relationship between the Bank and the Brookings Institution. Files contain a transcript of the meeting of the project advisory committee in 1993.

An Internal Review Group was established by the Bank in 1993 to read and comment on each chapter produced by the project. The Office of the Historian served as secretary for the group, both sending out chapters for review and transmitting the group members' comments to the project. The second subseries is the correspondence of the historian with the group and with the project.

The Office of the Historian conducted its own oral history program at the same time as the World Bank History Project wasinterviewing people for the fiftieth anniversary volumes. Each program provided some copies of interviews to the other, and the third sub-series contains a file about the interviews, including lists of persons interviewed by the project, and duplicate copies of rough transcripts of some project interviews, including those with World Bank Group presidents A.W. Clausen, Barber B. Conable, and Lewis T. Preston.

The fourth subseries is the draft of the history, arranged by volume and thereunder by chapter. Nocopy exists for chapter 8 of volume II. The copies are not annotated.

Correspondence/manuscripts by former staff

When the Historian's office was established, a number of former Bank staff contributed documents or reminiscences to the office. This series includes the incoming correspondence and the enclosed papers, reports and manuscripts, some written by the sender and others written by colleagues of the sender. The items cover various topics, including: early Bank operations (William Katzenstein's Budgeting in the World Bank, 1947-1956); language training; and the Young Professionals program.

Items within this series may also be found among the records of the Bank, but these copies were regarded by their authors or possessors as so significant that the Historian's office needed to be made aware of them.


The terms of reference for the Office of the Historian included the responsibility to develop and maintain an authoritative record of events . . and maintain a running narrative of them, prepare background papers and ad hoc histories, and select and prepare records for publication. This series contains the files of the publications - whether final or draft, articles or books, published or unpublished - that Office staff or contractors developed. Some files contain only the final publication, while others include background documents and occasional correspondence.