Former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker ’49 donated his public service papers to the University on Sept. 11, according to University Archivist and Curator of Public Policy PapersDaniel Linke.
The collection of Volcker’s papers, currently comprised of 29 boxes with an additional 30 expected in the coming months, is located in the Mudd Manuscript Library, a division of the Princeton University Library's Department of Rare Books and Special Collections.
Covering Volcker’s time as chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, Undersecretary of the Treasury for Monetary Affairs and president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the papers include correspondence, speeches, reports and memos. Additional materials will pertain to Volcker's work with the World Bank, United Nations and President Barack Obama's Economic Recovery Advisory Board.
Volcker did not respond to a request for comment.
Linke explained that the acquisition of these papers was the culmination of about eight years' worth of on-and-off correspondence between himself and Volcker.
“It’s in the last year and a half, essentially, that things got serious,” Linke said. “Giving up his papers is a really significant thing for him to do.”
Linke explained that Volcker and his staff are in the process of gathering and collating the records that will be adding to the collection in the coming months.
Linke noted that some documents currently housed in the collection include correspondence between Volcker and then-U.S. Vice President George H.W. Bush, and between Volcker and then-U.S. President Ronald Reagan. The papers also contain a transcript of Volcker's testimonybefore the White House Joint Economic Committee about his monetary policy stance in 1982.
These kinds of documents, Linke explained, provide an invaluable resource for historical study of U.S. economic history.
One of the areas in which the University collects is economic development, Linke said. He noted that the Mudd Library houses about 35 collections on this topic from across the 20thcentury.
Linke explained that when Volcker himself toured the Mudd Library, he noted the presence of papers from James Baker, whose time as Secretary of the Treasury overlapped with Volcker’s time at the Fed. Having Volcker’s papers to study in conjunction with Baker’s will offer students the unique chance to conduct a primary-source study of 1980s U.S. economic policy from two important vantage points, the Treasury and the Fed,Linke said.
“We acquire collections not only for the value they have in and of themselves, but also for how they relate to other collections,” Linke said. These connections supply invaluable resources for triangulation and synthesis in forming an original argument in students’ independent work, he added.
Rachel Van Unen, Public Policy Papers Project Archivist at the Mudd Library, noted that for any students interested in economics, Volcker’s papers will make the collection a very rich one since he held so many prominent positions.
Economics professor Elizabeth Bogan, who in 2008 served on the faculty committee that picked the 25 most influential Princetonians of all time and nominated Volcker for the list, explained that having Volcker’s papers at the University will provide students and other viewers of the papers with a deeper understanding of what happened during the years that Volcker was head of the Fed, a time that Bogan considers particularly significant.
“He broke inflation and greatly reduced and/or eliminated inflationary expectations. I think that set the stage for the long-term period of stable growth that the U.S. had without inflation,” Bogan said.
She also noted that Volcker’s economic policies had worldwide effects, such as inspiring many countries around the world to keep their inflationary target around 2 percent, and that he has served the United States in many ways, noting his role in the Dodd-Frank Bill, specifically in the proposal of the bill's Volcker Rule.
The D0dd-Frank Bill sought to regulate Wall Street, and the Volcker Rule restricts banks from making certain investments that are often referred to as proprietary trading.
"He tried to make sure that we get a separation between commercial banking and all of the different financial activities so that the money supply is protected," Bogan said.
Bogan said at the undergraduate level, Volcker’s papers are more likely to be used by history students who want to better understand aspects of U.S. economic history than they are to be used by students studying economics.
"I'm excited to have the manuscripts here at Princeton," Bogan said.