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Collection Overview

Viner, Jacob, 1892-1970
Jacob Viner Papers
Public Policy Papers
Permanent URL:
1909-1979 (mostly 1930-1960)
144 boxes
Storage Note:
  • Mudd Manuscript Library (scamudd): Box 1-144


Jacob Viner (1892-1970) is considered one of the greatest economists of the twentieth century. His career was spent at the University of Chicago and Princeton University, and he also frequently served as an advisor to the United States government. His primary academic interests included international economics, international economic relations, and the history of economic thought, but his investigations ranged across many disciplines. Viner's papers document his scholarship, as well as his government service, and include correspondence, manuscripts, reports, and research materials.

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

Viner's papers document his scholarship, as well as his government service, and include correspondence, manuscripts, reports, and research materials. The correspondence file spans his career and contains correspondence with many prominent economists.

Please see the series descriptions in the contents list for additional information about individual series.


The Papers have been arranged in six series:

Collection Creator Biography:

Viner, Jacob, 1892-1970

Jacob Viner (1892-1970) is considered one of the greatest economists of the twentieth century. His career was spent at the University of Chicago and Princeton University, and he also frequently served as an advisor to the United States government. His primary academic interests included international economics, international economic relations, and the history of economic thought, but his investigations ranged across many disciplines. His studies included all areas of economics, as well as the fields of history, philosophy, literature, international relations, social science, intellectual history, and religion.

Jacob "Jack" Viner was born on May 3, 1892 in Montreal, Canada to Samuel P. and Rachel (Smilovici) Viner, who had immigrated to Canada from Romania a few years before. Viner moved to the United States in 1914 and became a naturalized citizen in 1924. He married Frances V. Klein of West Virginia on September 15, 1919, and they had two children: a son, Arthur, and a daughter, Ellen (Seiler).

Viner graduated with a B.A. from McGill University in 1914, where he studied economics under Stephen Leacock. He then enrolled at Harvard University, where he earned his M.A. in 1915 and his Ph.D. in 1922. At Harvard, he was a student of Professor Frank W. Taussig, who influenced Viner's life-long interest in international economics. Viner's doctoral dissertation, Canada's Balance of International Indebtedness, was prepared under the supervision of Taussig.

Viner accepted a position as an instructor at the University of Chicago in 1916, and became an assistant professor of economics in 1919. In 1923, he was promoted to associate professor, and in 1925 to full professor. In 1940, he became the Martin Hill Distinguished Service Professor. Viner held this position until he left the university in 1946 to accept a position at Princeton University. While at the University of Chicago, Viner was influential in elevating the level of the Economics Department and also greatly strengthened the library in the social sciences through his work on collection development. He first taught public finance and international economic policy. By the late 1920s, he was teaching value and distribution theory, international economic theory and policy, and the history of economic thought.

Viner moved to Princeton University in 1946 after the recruitment efforts of Princeton's president Harold W. Dodds. At Princeton, Viner was the Walker Professor of Economics and International Finance from 1950 to 1960, when he retired professor emeritus. The two classes Viner typically taught at Princeton, both graduate level, were the theory of international trade and the history of economic doctrines. Viner also served as a member of the Editorial Board and ex officio Trustee of the University Press from 1950 to 1953, and as an elective Trustee of the University Press from 1959 to 1961, where he set guidelines for the publication of scholarly books. He was also active in strengthening the collections of the Princeton University Library.

During his career at the University of Chicago and Princeton University, Viner also served as a visiting lecturer or professor at many leading institutions, including the Institut Universitaire de Hautes Etudes Internationales in Geneva, Switzerland (1930-31 and 1933-34), Stanford University (1937), Yale University (1942-43), Hitchcock Professor at the University of California (1945), the London School of Economics (1946), Marshall Lecturer at Cambridge (1946), and the National University of Brazil (1950). Viner was also a permanent member of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton from 1946 to 1970.

Viner gained an international reputation early in his career for his contributions to the theory of cost and pricing, international economics, the history of economic thought, and a variety of other fields. During his career, Viner wrote ten books and monographs, as well as over 250 articles and book reviews in professional journals, scholarly and semipopular magazines, symposia, and conference proceedings. Among his important works are his first book Dumping: A Problem in International Trade (1923), and his second, based on his doctoral dissertation, Canada's Balance of International Indebtedness (1924). Studies in the Theory of International Trade (1937) is considered his magnum opus and is a classic in the field. His other significant works include Trade Relations Between Freemarket and Controlled Economies (1943), The Customs Union Issue (1950), International Economics (1951), International Trade and Economic Development (1952), and Problems of Monetary Control (1964). Viner was also the editor of the Journal of Political Economy from 1929 to 1946, often jointly with Frank H. Knight, and brought the journal to its peak of distinction. For his 65th birthday, his friends and students published a selection of his writings in The Long View and the Short (1958), providing a sample of the depth and breadth of his contributions to scholarship.

Viner was also frequently called upon throughout his career to serve as an adviser to the United States government and to represent the United States as a delegate to international economic conferences. He was an advisor to the United States Tariff Commission from 1917 to 1919 under Frank Taussig, and also advised the Shipping Board in 1918. From 1934 to 1942, he intermittently served as special assistant to the United States Secretary of the Treasury, Henry Morgenthau, Jr., and as special expert for the United States Treasury Department. Through his work with Morgenthau, Viner was influential in establishing the economic policies of the Roosevelt administration, in particular the planning of the Social Security Program. He was a delegate to the International Studies Conference of the League for Intellectual Cooperation, in London in 1933 and in Bergen, Norway in 1939. He also served as alternate American representative to the Economic Committee of the League of Nations at Geneva in 1933. Additionally, Viner served as a consultant to the State Department from 1943 to 1952 and as a consultant for the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System in 1955.

Viner retired in 1960 but continued his research and scholarship. He remained a member of the Princeton University community, making regular trips to the library for his research. As he worked, Viner frequently became engaged in discussions with colleagues and students, continuing to teach informally and exchange ideas. Viner also served as the only Professor Emeritus on the Advisory Council of the Princeton University Library. During his retirement, Viner spent a year (1961-1962) at Harvard University as the Taussig Research Professor, wrote a monograph on monetary control, and wrote the introduction for the Guide to John Rae's Life of Adam Smith (1965).

Viner was well recognized and awarded for his scholarly work. He was a fellow or member of numerous honorary academies in the United States and abroad, including the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the British Academy, the London School of Economics and Political Science, the Manchester Statistical Society, the Swedish Royal Academy, and the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei in Rome. He was an elected member of the American Philosophical Society and gave the Jayne lectures in 1966 on "The Role of Providence in the Social Order: An Essay in Intellectual History." He also served as president of the American Economic Association in 1939 and was elected a distinguished fellow of the association in 1965.

Viner received honorary degrees from 13 universities over the course of his career, including Princeton University. He was the recipient of a special award from the American Council of Learned Societies in 1958, and the Medal of Honor from Rice University in 1962. In 1962, he was also awarded the Francis A. Walker Medal, given by the American Economic Association once every five years to an economist who has made a contribution of the highest distinction to economics. It is their most prestigious honor.

Jacob Viner passed away on September 12, 1970.

Collection History


This collection was donated by Arthur Viner and Ellen Seiler, the children of Jacob Viner, in December 1973 , with an addition in December 2005 .


The materials separated from this collection include student term papers, grades and letters of recommendation, personal papers, and duplicate materials. Publications have been removed to be cataloged separately.


These papers were processed with the generous support of the National Historical Publications and Records Commission and the John Foster and Janet Avery Dulles Fund.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Adriane Hanson, Christopher Shannon, and Elissa Frankle in 2006. Finding aid written by Adriane Hanson in July 2006.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. To cite or publish quotations that fall within Fair Use, as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission is required. For instances beyond Fair Use, any copyright vested in the donor has passed to The Trustees of Princeton University and researchers do not need to obtain permission, complete any forms, or receive a letter to move forward with use of donor-created materials within the collection. For materials in the collection not created by the donor, or where the material is not an original, the copyright is likely not held by the University. In these instances, it is the responsibility of the researcher to determine whether any permissions related to copyright, privacy, publicity, or any other rights are necessary for their intended use of the Library's materials, and to obtain all required permissions from any existing rights holders, if they have not already done so. Princeton University Library's Special Collections does not charge any permission or use fees for the publication of images of materials from our collections. The department does request that its collections be properly cited and images credited. More detailed information can be found on the Copyright, Credit and Citations Guidelines page on our website. If you have a question about who owns the copyright for an item, you may request clarification by contacting us through the Ask Us! form.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

For preservation reasons, original analog and digital media may not be read or played back in the reading room. Users may visually inspect physical media but may not remove it from its enclosure. All analog audiovisual media must be digitized to preservation-quality standards prior to use. Audiovisual digitization requests are processed by an approved third-party vendor. Please note, the transfer time required can be as little as several weeks to as long as several months and there may be financial costs associated with the process. Requests should be directed through the Ask Us Form.

Credit this material:

Jacob Viner Papers; Public Policy Papers, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library
65 Olden Street
Princeton, NJ 08540, USA
(609) 258-6345
Storage Note:
  • Mudd Manuscript Library (scamudd): Box 1-144

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Related Materials

Jacob Viner was interviewed as part of the Columbia Oral History Project. In "Reminiscences of Jacob Viner, 1953" he discusses a range of subjects from his government service. The transcript and tapes of the interview are available at Columbia University.

Some materials were transferred from the Jacob Viner Papers to other collections at Princeton University. Council on Foreign Relations reports were transferred to the Council on Foreign Relations Records, also held at the Mudd Manuscript Library. A print of a portrait of John Stuart Mill (after George F. Watts) by Paul Adolphe Rajon (1843-1888) was transferred to the Graphic Arts Collection at the Firestone Library.

This collection is part of a group of 28 Mudd Manuscript Library collections related to 20th century economic thought and development which were processed as part of a National Historical Publications and Records Commission funded project. Researchers wishing to access these collections should search for the subject "Economics - 20th century" or related terms in the Princeton University Library Main Catalog.


The following sources were consulted during preparation of biographical note: "Biographical Data, Dr. Jacob Viner, Professor of Economics, Department of Economics and Sociology, Princeton University." April 1956. Materials from Series 1: Biographical; Jacob Viner Papers, Box and Folder Number; Public Policy Papers, Special Collections, Princeton University Library. "On the Centenary of Jacob Viner's Birth: A Retrospective View of the Man and His Work," by Arthur I. Bloomfield. Journal of Economic Literature (Vol. XXX). December 1992.

Subject Terms:
Economics -- 20th century.
Economics -- History.
Economics -- Research.
Economists -- United States.
Finance -- United States.
International economic relations.
International finance.
International trade.
World War, 1939-1945 -- Economic aspects.
Genre Terms:
Lecture notes.
United States. Department of State
United States. Department of the Treasury
University of Chicago.
League of Nations.
Princeton University
Viner, Jacob, 1892-1970
United States -- Economic conditions -- 20th century.
United States -- Economic policy -- 20th century.