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Archive of Sidney Dell


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The papers were originally grouped together in files, mainly by subject. They have been kept thus, except where the contents of a file did not match the heading, and the file has been given a new heading. The catalogue contains four series: files arranged by subject; files arranged by person; files arranged by country; and speeches, articles and other writings by Dell. The files arranged by subject contain mainly photocopies of reports, articles and other papers, with some correspondence, including miscellaneous correspondence at the end of the section. The authors of reports and other papers have not been listed. The Persons section comprises mainly correspondence with people whose letters Dell kept in separately named files. The Country section contains papers referring specifically to certain countries, groups of countries, regional economic blocs and continents.

The files are listed alphabetically by the subject with which the papers are concerned. Where there is a number of files concerning one subject these are arranged chronologically, by the earliest date of each, within that subject. In the case of UN and other acronyms, the alphabetical arrangement is based on the full title of the organization. Titles in inverted commas are the titles of articles or reports; the remainder are file titles.

There being very little personal correspondence, even with his brother, the Labour Cabinet Minister Edmund Dell, the papers are almost exclusively work related [this correspondence is now catalogued - see Separated Material below]. There are substantial sections on LDCs (with papers concerning IMF and World Bank structural adjustment policies and conditionality), and debt and development in general, as well as on transnational corporations and trade. A number of UN agencies feature in the collection, including, as well as those he served in, the International Labour Organization (ILO), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). The most notable correspondents are probably Andrew Shonfield, Director of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, 1972-7, and Nicholas, Lord Kaldor, who was Special Adviser to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, 1964-8 and 1974-6.

Geographical areas covered in depth by Dell's papers include Latin America, in particular the Latin American Free Trade Association (LAFTA) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Europe, including the European Coal and Steel (later Economic) Community (ECSC), Germany, Great Britain, Ghana, India, the USSR and the USA. The papers concerning Less Developed Countries have as their major themes debt and development, while those relating to industrialized countries concentrate more on trade and aid policies.

The fourth section comprises pieces which Dell wrote concerning a range of matters, including UN agencies and countries, as well as a complete course of lectures on international trade.


  • Creation: 1943-1990


10.12 Linear metres (92 physical shelfmarks)

Language of Materials

  • English

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark and folio or page reference, e.g. MS. Eng. c. 5798, fols. 1-2].

Please see our help page for further guidance on citing archives and manuscripts.

Full range of shelfmarks:

MSS. Eng. c. 5798-5889

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 10002


Papers of Sidney Dell (1918-90), economist, United Nations official.

Biographical / Historical

Sidney Dell (1918-90) was an economist who spent more than 40 years involved in the United Nations (UN). Beginning in 1947, when appointed Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Affairs, New York, he rose to become the Secretary of the Berlin Currency and Trade Committee of the Security Council in 1948. He was then involved in the formulation of the World Economic Survey in the 1950s, first at the Division of Economic Stability and Improvement, where he was Chief of the World Trade Analysis Section, 1951-5, then at the Bureau of General Economic Research and Policies, 1955-64 (with breaks in Santiago working for the UN Economic Commission for Latin America (ECLA) in 1958 and as Ford Foundation Fellow at King's College, Cambridge, 1960-1). This was followed by a period at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), where, during 1965-72, he was Director of the New York Office and Division for Financing relating to Trade. Following a spell in the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and a secondment as Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General in a UN Emergency Operation, 1974-5, Dell joined the United Nations Centre for Transnational Corporations (UNCTC) in 1977, becoming its Executive Director in 1983. Upon retirement in 1985 he entered the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) as Senior Fellow, where he set about the task of writing a history of the economic work of the UN. His death in 1990 left the project unfinished, save for the first of a planned series of books, The United Nations and International Business (London, 1990).

Throughout his career Dell maintained that 'poverty anywhere is a threat to prosperity everywhere', reminding the industrialized countries of the universal benefits, in terms of enhanced trade and economic growth, deriving from worldwide development. He tried while at United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) to play a part in re-arranging North-South relations through his role in creating the International Development Strategy for the Second Development Decade. Following the collapse of the Bretton Woods system in the early 1970s, Dell attempted to ensure that the new system's construction (by the Committee of Twenty) would be open to developing country influence, firstly by guiding the formation of the Group of Twenty Four (the counterpart to the Developed Countries' Group of Ten) and secondly by preaching the notion that trade, development finance and the international monetary system were interdependent. This idea, new at the time, culminated in UNCTAD being present at the Committee of Twenty's deliberations, as observer.

In 1974-5 he worked to assist Less Developed Countries (LDCs) caught up in international instability when taking reponsibility for most of the planning of the UN Emergency Operation to relieve the developing countries most affected by the oil crisis. Then, as Executive Director of UNCTC, Dell devoted his time largely to exploring how transnational corporations could best foster development in host countries. Following his move to UNITAR, Dell produced two books, the latter of which, International Development Policies (London, 1991), encapsulated Dell's philosophy regarding international co-operation for development.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The papers were given by the Dell family, Ethel, Michael and Gillian Dell and Linette Whitehead in 1994 and 1995.

Related Materials

Papers and correspondence of Edmund Dell is MSS. Eng. b. 2149-2150; c. 7569-7794; d. 3909-3948; MSS. Dell Digital 1-94.

Catalogue of the archive of Sidney Dell, 1943-90
Finding aid prepared by M. Jennings
1995; EAD version 2009
Language of description
Script of description
The cataloguing of Dell's papers was funded by a grant from the Ford Foundation. Conversion to EAD supported by the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom