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James Gustave Speth papers

Call Number: MS 2068
Scope and Contents

The James Gustave Speth Papers consist of Speth’s professional papers from 1977 to 2013, with the bulk falling between 1977 and 2000, and covers much of his career in environmental law. This material also documents his career in global development, particularly in facilitating the development of third world countries and creating international policies both on the behalf of the environment and the elimination of poverty.

These materials document Speth’s professional activities in the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Council on Environmental Quality, the World Resources Institute, the Clinton Transition, and the United Nations Development Programme. The papers show the progression of Speth's non-academic career and provide insight into his priorities in environmental protection and development, such as access to clean water, encouraging knowledgeable and productive leadership, and global climate change. The papers contain correspondence, speeches, writings, administrative memoranda, press releases, publications, photographs and meeting minutes. This collection does not contain material documenting Speth’s personal activities, teaching, or his tenure as dean of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Science, the records of which are in School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University, Records of the Dean (RU 40).

Materials documenting Speth’s work on the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) as one of its founders focuses primarily on lawsuits against the United States government, but also contains important documentation on the early history of the NRDC. Speth's position with the NRDC led him to the Council on Environmental Quality, and materials in that series are primarily correspondence pertaining to environmental development and correspondence with the Executive Office of the President of the United States. After leaving the Council of Environmental Quality, Speth’s career focused more specifically on the development of impoverished countries and communities, specifically with his work as the founder and president of the World Resources Institute. The United Nations Development Programme series is the most robust and contains significant documentation of Speth’s work in development programs that he administrated, such as the Resident Coordinator program. Speth’s travel across the world and his activities in international development are documented in travel materials, including itineraries, agendas, and memorandums, as well as photographs from professional events. Photographs are primarily of individuals or professional groups and are mostly unidentified. Additionally, this material provides a snapshot of the larger initiatives taken by the United Nations in the 1990s, including the United Nations reform led by Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Language of Materials

The materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The bulk of the James Gustave Speth Papers is open to researchers. Access to Series V, boxes 74-76 is restricted until 1 January 2021 by donor request.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright for unpublished materials authored or otherwise produced by James Gustave Speth was transferred to Yale University in 2017. These materials may be used for non-commercial purposes without seeking permission from Yale University as the copyright holder. For other uses of these materials, please contact Copyright status for other collection materials is unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of James Gustave Speth, 2017.


The James Gustave Speth Papers are arranged in five series: Natural Resources Defense Council, Council on Environmental Quality, World Resources Institute, Clinton Transition, and United Nations Development Programme. These series are listed chronologically and reflect the timeline of Speth's career.

40.25 Linear Feet (83 boxes)
Related Names
Speth, James Gustave
Language of Materials