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About the Holdings

Research Themes

As the central institution in development assistance, the World Bank has developed and disseminated theories of economic development based upon its own practical experience in development projects; the Bank's experience has been informed as well by the significant number of research projects which have been conducted by the institution.

The Archives offers a vast amount of original source material dealing with the themes and topics of economic development such as:

  • theories of development assistance
  • effectiveness and sustainability of development
  • the role of the state in fostering development
  • the role of aid organizations and non-governmental organizations in fostering development
  • the role of developed countries in formulating assistance for developing countries
  • mechanisms for country assistance
  • the political, institutional, social and cultural factors affecting development
  • the economic history of its member countries
  • the effect of international aid organizations upon internal country politics
  • the role of the environment in economic development
  • the effects of economic liberalism upon political, social and cultural values, and others
  • negative transfers of funds from developing countries to developed countries

Archival records from the World Bank also inform discussion of significant twentieth century historical events such as:

  • the Indus Basin waters dispute
  • the Suez Canal settlement
  • Aswan Dam construction
  • the world debt crisis of the 1980's
  • the Middle East political situation

Research Material Contained in The Archives

The Archives contains the program-related and administrative records produced by the World Bank Group institutions, and offers a vast amount of original source material related to economic development. The collection covers a broad perspective on the business activities of the Bank, including records relating to lending operations, policy decision making, relations with donor and client countries, and administration. Broad institutional persistent business functions are defined at the Fonds level, and accessible by reviewing the Archives Finding Aids.

The primary records contained in the World Bank Group Archives are the Operational Correspondence files for each country, which contain general information about member countries, and detailed information on each development project carried out in the country. The Operational Correspondence files are a source of historical information on the country economy as a whole, as well as the status of particular sectors of the economy, such as transportation, rural development, education, health and nutrition, infrastructure, etc. The project files reveal the rationale for the project, the proposed solution for the need, the process of negotiations between member governments and the Bank, the conditionalities required for financing, the implementation and supervision of the project, and the completion and final evaluation.

Other records related to development assistance which can be found in the World Bank Group Archives are:

  • records describing the evolution of development assistance theory
  • the policies and procedures for development projects
  • economic studies and research studies, including the Bank Group's large publication and dissemination activities
  • the growth of cooperative agreements with other international and development organizations, regional consultative groups, non-governmental organizations, and other interested parties
  • data describing world economic conditions
  • non-lending services such technical assistance, sponsorship of conferences and seminars, etc.

The internal organizational and structural mechanisms of the World Bank Group are also described in the archival records. Included are:

  • copies of records from the Bretton Woods conferences (which created the IBRD), records of the inaugural meeting in Savannah, Georgia, and of each subsequent annual meeting
  • records describing the organization and structure of each of the Bank Group institutions and their internal departments
  • records describing executive decision making by Bank Group presidents, vice presidents and senior managers
  • records detailing membership for each member country
  • records describing the financing of Bank Group operations through capital subscription, bond and currency transactions, and cofinancing

The Bank Group Archives also contains a large amount of non-textual records such as photographs and films related to development projects and development assistance and oral history interviews conducted with individuals significant in Bank Group history.

The non-operational records refer to administrative, legal and fiscal activities. Included are records relating to economic research and analysis, development education and training, personnel, organizational structure, institutional budgeting, public relations, administrative services, accounting, financial resource mobilization, etc.

For more information on the Archives holdings please consult Guide to the World Bank Group Archives, 1946-1986

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