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In the 1980s, in collaboration with the faculty in the Center for the History of Political Economy in the Economics Department, Duke University’s David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library initiated an ongoing program to preserve the papers of distinguished economists. To date, the Library has received the papers of more than eighty economists, including many Nobel laureates. These collections offer a valuable resource to researchers in the history of economic thought, and include papers in virtually every area of modern economics. Please see the annotated the Economists' Papers Archive Collections section for more information.

Duke’s collections contain a wealth of economic research materials, including resources on game theory, public policy, growth theory, and many other areas. The sizes of the collections vary from very small collections of a few folders to hundreds of linear feet of material. Each of the collections has distinctive research value. Some contain all professional correspondence as well as the notes, drafts, and manuscripts of major works. Others contain information on political involvement, records of professional involvement (e.g., editorial boards, conference participation, etc.), and personal biographical material. Most of the collections are from economists working in the U.S. but include large aggregations of research material on areas worldwide.

In addition to the papers of individual economists, the library also holds the records of several organizations and journals important for the history of economic thought. Chief among them are the records of the American Economic Association which was founded in 1885 and whose records include the papers of the journal the American Economic Review. The library is actively acquiring new collections as well as organizing and cataloging existing collections.

For further information on the history of the collections, see the article “Archiving the History of Economics” by E. Roy Weintraub et al. in the Journal of Economic Literature 36.3 (September 1998), pp. 1496-1501 (link for JSTOR subscribers; AEA members see IDEAS/RePEc download).