Douglass C. North papers, 1942-2012

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North, Douglass Cecil
Douglass C. North (1920-2015) was a Nobel Prize winner the Spencer T. Olin Professor Emeritus in Arts and Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis. This collection documents his professional life through his correspondence, writings, and professional and faculty activities. It forms part of the Economists' Papers Archive.
50 Linear Feet (100 boxes.)
Material in English.
Collection ID:


Scope and content:

This collection chiefly consists of professional correspondence written and received by North, writings by him and other colleagues, and files on conferences attended by him. There are also materials related to courses that he taught. The collection documents his career as an economist and professor at the University of California, Berkeley; the University of Washington; Rice University; and Washington University in St. Louis, and it reflects his interests in economics, the economic history of the western world, transaction costs, economic development, institutional change, and industrialization and technology. More specifically, the papers document his long-standing interest in explaining institutional change and political economies without relying exclusively on neo-classical economic theories.

Among the correspondents are Yoram Barzel, Robert Bates, Reuven Brenner, Robert Clower, R. H. Coase, Robert Fogel, Robert Haveman, Robert Keohane, Simon Kuznets, Deirdre N. McCloskey, Emily Chamlee-Wright, Elinor Ostrom, Vernon Smith, T. N. Srinivasan, John J. Wallis and Barry R. Weingast. Some of these correspondents are also represented in the Writings series, which contains drafts, notes, and reprints of writings by North as well as writings by his colleagues.

North's secretary at Washington University at St. Louis, Fannie Batt, is an important figure in understanding the nature of this collection. After receiving the Nobel Prize in 1993, his correspondence expanded substantially, and Batt was tasked with handling it. She printed email for him from her email account. His responses to emails are not as frequent as one would expect; existing responses were often dictated by North and typed by Batt.

Biographical / historical:
Date Event
Born in Cambridge, MA
Worked for one summer with Dorothea Lange, photographer; her husband, in Economics Department at University of California, convinced North to study economics
BA, University of California, Berkeley
Served in US Merchant Marines
Professor, University of Washington
PhD, University of California, Berkeley
Research Associate, National Bureau of Economic Research
Coeditor, Journal of Economic History
The Economic Growth of the United States, 1790 to 1860
Director, Institute of Economic Research, Washington University
Growth and Welfare in the American Past: A New Economic History
Became interested in European economic history and spent the year in Geneva as Ford Faculty Fellow
(with L. E. Davis) Institutional Change and American Economic Growth
President, Economic History Association
(with R. P. Thomas) The Rise of the Western World: A New Economic History
Visiting Director, Centre de Recherche Historique, Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes
Peterkin Professor of Political Economy, Rice University
Structure and Change in Economic History
Pitt Professor of American Institutions, University of Cambridge
Henry R. Luce Professor of Law and Liberty and Professor of Economics and of History, Washington University in St. Louis; founded Center in Political Economy
Institutions, Institutional Change, and Economic Performance
Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences with Robert W. Fogel
Fellow, British Academy
Advisor, "World Development Report 1997: The State in a Changing World," World Bank
Understanding the Process of Economic Change
(with John J. Wallis and Barry R. Weingast) Violence and Social Orders: A Conceptual Framework for Interpreting Recorded Human History
(with John J. Wallis, Steven B. Webb and Barry R. Weingast) In the Shadow of Violence: Politics, Economics, and the Problems of Development
Died in Benzonia, MI
Acquisition information:
The Douglass C. North papers were received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library as gifts in 1993, 2000, 2008, and 2013.
Processing information:

Reprocessed by Catherine Herfeld, Paula Jeannet, Danilo Ramalho da Silva, and Emily Skarbek, August 2012; Tomas Kristofory and Meghan Lyon, 2018.

Encoded by Catherine Herfeld, Paula Jeannet, and Danilo Ramalho da Silva.

Accessions described in this collection guide: 1993-0275, 2000-0086, 2008-0109, and 2013-0195.


The Douglass C. North papers are arranged into six series: Professional Correspondence, Conference and Seminars, Initiatives and Academic Life, Publishing, Teaching, and Writings.

Rules or conventions:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard


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The copyright interests in this collection have not been transferred to Duke University. For more information, consult the Rubenstein Library's Citations, Permissions, and Copyright guide.

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Preferred citation:

[Identification of item], Douglass C. North papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Duke University.