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Spotlight on Historical Collections

A Rich Trove in a New E-Resource

Published: 02/15/2006

When HBS Research Fellow Michelle Craig McDonald searched for information on the Caribbean coffee trade in the eighteenth century, a prime source was just a few mouse clicks away.

The Making of the Modern Economy e-resource, available on HOLLIS since autumn, combines the two most important collections of business and economic literature in the world, the University of London's Goldsmiths' Library of Economic Literature and the Kress Library of Business and Economics at Harvard Business School.

Making of the Modern Economy makes available 12 million pages of material culled from 61,000 books published between 1460 and 1850, and from 466 serials that predate 1906. Subjects run the gamut from banking and finance to national defense, social conditions, agriculture, and empires. Many texts are in French, German, and other languages besides English.

McDonald has tapped in on campus, from home, and while traveling, using the e-resource for her coffee trade research and to develop a case for MBA students. Her dissertation is under revision for publication.

"The Making of the Modern Economy is an unparalleled resource for materials that are hard to find in other U.S. libraries and archives--or even anywhere else in the world," says McDonald. She has made extensive use of Edward Long's history of Jamaica and Bryan Edward's multi-volume study of the British West Indies, published in 1774 and 1794 respectively, as well as John Lownde's treatise on coffee planting in Dominica, The Coffee Planter: An Essay on the Cultivation and Manufacturing of that Article of West Indian Produce (1807), and P.J. Laborie's similar volume for Saint Domingue (now Haiti) and Jamaica, The Coffee Planter of Santo Domingo (1798).

"Laborie's work is better known, but still only available in twenty-three libraries worldwide, and most of these works are on microfilm copies from Baker's Kress Collection," McDonald notes. Lownde's book is even harder to find. Only three copies exist in American libraries, with three additional copies abroad. "Even Dominica's archive, unfortunately, lost its copy twenty years ago in a fire."

About 60 percent of the Kress Collection held in the Historical Collections Department is now available via The Making of the Modern Economy, taken from the Goldsmiths'-Kress Library of Economic Literature microfilm series created in 1972.

"This digital collection includes many rare titles in economic and business history and thought including first and early editions of economic classics by authors such as Adam Smith, Robert Malthus, and Jeremy Bentham," says Laura Linard, director of Baker Library's Historical Collections.

Researchers will also find an extensive selection of ephemeral material that provides a historical context for the growth and dissemination of ideas.

Contact: Historical Collections


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