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Papers of Alexander Gerschenkron


Alexander Gerschenkron (1904-1978) was a professor of economics at Harvard from 1948 to 1975. The collection contains his professional and personal correspondence, research notes, unpublished manuscripts, and course materials for Economics 233.


  • Creation: 1940 - 1978


Researcher Access

Open for research with the following exceptions: Harvard University records are restricted for 50 years. Personnel and student records are closed for 80 years. Specific restrictions are noted at the series level. Requires review by archivist.


20.47 cubic feet (58 document boxes, 1 half document box)

The Papers of Alexander Gerschenkron contain correspondence, research notes, unpublished manuscripts, and course materials. Correspondence contains primarily professional correspondence with individuals, societies, journals, and companies; and with Harvard Department of Economics, Russian Research Center, Harvard University Press, and Library Committee. It includes correspondence with colleagues regarding editorial comments on manuscripts, with prospective students at Russian Research Center, and inter-Harvard correspondence about curriculum revision. The correspondence also concerns Gerschenkron's government work in Washington, D.C. Research material contains notes on books, annotations for Gerschenkron's writings, and some draft manuscripts mostly on economic history. There is also personal correspondence regarding house rentals in Cambridge, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. The collection also contains manuscripts not known to have been published by Gerschenkron as monographs or articles; addresses; sermons; translation; and papers on various topics. Course material includes examinations, grades, syllabi, reading lists, and course descriptions.

Biographical Note on Alexander Gerschenkron

Alexander Gerschenkron (1904-1978) was the Walter S. Barker Professor of Economics at Harvard. Gerschenkron was born in Odessa, Ukraine (then part of the Russian Empire). He left Odessa in 1920 and moved to Vienna, Austria, where he attended the University of Vienna, graduating in 1928. In 1938, Gerschenkron began working as a research assistant in Vienna for American economics professor Charles Gulick (University of California Berkeley), helping Gulick to write his book, Austria from Habsburg to Hitler. Gerschenkron fled Vienna following the German invasion of Austria in 1938, first arriving in England and soon moving to California at the invitation of Gulick, who offered him a research assistant position at Berkeley. Around 1943, just before his first book, Bread and Democracy in Germany was published, Gerschenkron was promoted to lecturer at Berkeley and began to teach courses in economic history and international trade. In 1944, he accepted a job as a European economic analyst at the Federal Reserve in Washington, D.C. In 1948, he joined the faculty of the Harvard economics department, receiving a full professorship in 1951 and retiring in 1975. He taught Economics 233: The Economic History of Europe.

After publishing a research paper titled “Economic Relations with the USSR” in 1945 while working for the Federal Reserve, Gerschenkron became known as an expert in Soviet economics. In the 1950s, during his early years at Harvard, Gerschenkron focused his research on Soviet industrial production. His findings led to what is now called the “Gerschenkron effect.” He also wrote about “economic backwardness,” a linear theory of economic development. Gerschenkron also spoke several languages - including Russian, German, English, Latin, Swedish, and Bulgarian - and translated works.


The collection is arranged in eight series. The collection follows the arrangement of call numbers given to series upon receipt at the Harvard University Archives.

  1. Autobiography (The Uses of Adversity) (HUGFP 45.4)
  2. General correspondence, 1948-1975 (HUGFP 45.10)
  3. Special correspondence, 1948-1978 (HUGFP 45.12)
  4. House rental correspondence, 1961-1972 (HUGFP 45.20)
  5. Miscellaneous notes, letters, reprints, 1955-1978 (HUGFP 45.25)
  6. Research notes and notebooks, 1948-1974 (HUGFP 45.45)
  7. Unpublished manuscripts, 1940-1975 (HUGFP 45.50)
  8. Economics 233 A & B course material: exams, grades, and syllabi, [circa 1949-1975] (HUGFP 45.65)


Gift of Maria Gerschenkron Dawidoff, received 1980-07-22; accession 8952, with the exception of Miscellaneous notes, letters, reprints, 1955-1978 (HUGFP 45.25); additional accession information noted at the series level.

Related Materials

In the Harvard University Archives
  1. Gerschenkron, Alexander. Papers by and about Alexander Gerschenkron, circa 1940-1978 (HUGB G368).
  2. Records of the Quarterly Journal of Economics, 1954-1956 (UAV 720.15).
  3. Usher, Abbott. Miscellaneous Papers (HUGB U786.10).

Inventory update

This document last updated 2022 May 02.

Processing Information

The finding aid was created by Erin Clauss in June 2020. Information in this finding aid was assembled from legacy paper inventories and container management data. Titles are transcribed, except those in square brackets. The collection was not re-examined.

Gerschenkron, Alexander. Papers of Alexander Gerschenkron, 1940-1978 : an inventory
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Repository Details

Part of the Harvard University Archives Repository

Holding nearly four centuries of materials, the Harvard University Archives is the principal repository for the institutional records of Harvard University and the personal archives of Harvard faculty, as well as collections related to students, alumni, Harvard-affiliates and other associated topics. The collections document the intellectual, cultural, administrative and social life of Harvard and the influence of the University as it emerged across the globe.

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