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Collection Overview

Nurkse, Ragnar (1907-1959)
Ragnar Nurkse Papers
Public Policy Papers
Permanent URL:
1930-1960 (mostly 1945-1959)
16 boxes
Storage Note:
  • Mudd Manuscript Library (scamudd): Box 1-16


Ragnar Nurkse (1907-1959) was a leading scholar of international economics, international finance and economic development. He served in the League of Nations from 1934 to 1945 and taught at Columbia University from 1945 to 1958. Nurse's papers document his scholarly work at both the League of Nations and Columbia, and includes his research notes, drafts of articles and books, research materials and a small amount of correspondence.

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

Nurse's papers document his scholarly work at both the League of Nations and Columbia, and includes his research notes, drafts of articles and books, research materials and a small amount of correspondence. The subjects of the papers cover the broad range of Nurkse's research interests, especially capital movements, international investments and international trade.

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


The Papers have been arranged in three series:

Collection Creator Biography:


Ragnar Nurkse (1907-1959) was a leading scholar of international economics, international finance and economic development. He served in the League of Nations from 1934 to 1945 and taught at Columbia University from 1945 to 1958.

Ragnar Nurkse was born October 5, 1907 in Tallinn, Estonia. His family immigrated to Canada in the early 1930s. He married Harriet Berger of Englewood, New Jersey in 1946 and they had two sons, Dennis and Peter. Nurkse received his education at the University of Tartu, Estonia, from 1926 to 1928 and then the University of Edinburgh. He graduated from Edinburgh with a first class degree in Economics, under Professor F.W. Ogilvie, in 1932. He also earned a Carnegie Fellowship to study at the University of Vienna from 1932 to 1934. While in Vienna, he published his first economics article, entitled "Cause and Effects of Capital Movements," in German. His first book, which was on the same subject and also in German, was published in 1935.

He served in the Financial Section and Economic Intelligence Service of the League of Nations from 1934 to 1945. Nurkse was the financial analyst and was largely responsible for the annual Monetary Review. He was also involved with the publication of The Review of World Trade, World Economic Surveys, and the report of the Delegation on Economic Depressions entitled "The Transition from War to Peace Economy." League of Nations reports are typically published anonymously, but Nurkse is the author of The International Currency Experience, 1944 (except for Chapter VI), a classic in the field of international finance, and also wrote the first analytical section of The Course and Control of Inflation, 1946.

In 1945, Nurkse was offered a position in the International Monetary Fund, but he chose instead to accept an appointment at Columbia University in New York City. He was a Visiting Lecturer in Economics at Columbia University from 1945 to 1946, taught at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, from 1946 to 1947, and then returned to Columbia as an Associate Professor of Economics in 1947. In 1949, he was promoted to Full Professor of Economics, a position which he held until his death in 1959. He taught international economics, economic development, and money and banking.

Nurkse was an important figure in economic development theory as an early advocate of the "balanced growth" doctrine. He also continued to build on the Rostenstein-Rodan Theory of the Big Push and anticipated portions of the Lewis doctrine, emphasizing the role of savings and capital formation in economic development. Among his major works are International Currency Experience: Lessons of the Interwar Period (1944), Conditions of International Monetary Equilibrium (1945), and Problems of Capital Formation in Underdeveloped Countries (1953).

He spent a sabbatical at Nuffield College, Oxford from 1954 to 1955, and from 1958 to 1959 he studied economic development in Geneva and lectured around the world. The majority of his later writings, on problems of economic development and international trade, were derived from lectures given at Cairo, Istanbul, Rio de Janeiro, Singapore, and Stockholm, as well as his Columbia lecture courses.

In 1958, Ragnar Nurkse was offered a Professorship of Economics and the Director of International Finance Section position at Princeton University. He accepted, seeking to work in a smaller city. However, when Nurkse returned to Geneva in the spring of 1959, after delivering the Wicksell Memorial Lectures in Stockholm, he died suddenly at the age of 52. At the time of his death, he was working on a comprehensive book on trade and development.

Collection History


This collection was acquired in July 1995 and officially donated by Dennis Nurkse, the son of Ragnar Nurkse, in April 1998 . Additions were received from Peter Nurkse, son of Ragnar Nurkse, in April 2007 and October 2007 .


The materials separated from the collection include his Columbia faculty papers, League of Nations and other publications, early drafts of Nurkse's papers, and duplicate materials. Publications were removed to be cataloged separately. The Columbia faculty papers were transferred to the Columbia University Archives in November 2005.


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 in 2005. Finding aid written by Adriane Hanson in November 2005.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

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:

Ragnar Nurkse 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 1-16

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Related Materials

The faculty papers of Ragnar Nurkse are held at Columbia University.

This collection is part of a group of 28 collections held at the Mudd Manuscript Library related to 20th century economic thought and development, which can be located by searching for the subject "Economics-20th century" in the Princeton Library Main Catalog.


Materials from the Biography series of the Ragnar Nurkse Papers was consulted during the preparation of the biographical note.

Subject Terms:
Economic development.
Economics -- 20th century.
International finance.
International trade.
League of Nations.
Nurkse, Ragnar (1907-1959)