Last summer I put some time aside to draft an article about academic clientelism, in numismatics and beyond. By 'academic clientelism' I mean the problem that academic institutions sometimes become clients of wealthy external agencies, and then tailor their conclusions to suit their pay masters, without regard to scholarly integrity.

My starting point was the career of Prof. Andrew Murray Watson at Toronto University. In 1967 Watson published a paper (EHR 1967 p. 1) critical of the Yale scholar, Prof Lopez. It bore upon the flight of silver currency from Europe in the 14th and 15th centuries, and suggested that matters of class interest were involved. It was a wonderful paper, a breath of fresh air to the study of numismatic economic history. Shortly after the paper appeared, Prof Munro was appointed at Toronto, and took over the sort of research brief previously held by Watson. (Munro had then very recently gained a Phd studying under Lopez at Yale). Prof Watson meanwhile took to working in a completely different field, funded by the Ford Foundation. At least superficially this suggested to me the possibility that Ford money might have been used to influence the direction of study in this area of numismatics.

It seemed implausible to me that such an act could be ad hoc, it would only be credible as part of some kind of much broader directed programme of influence. I spent some time hunting out evidence for such a programme, and it seemed to me that I found it. Lopez had written for the French Annales journal, and views similar to his on the matter of 15th century ‘bullion famines’ had been later promoted in the writings of the French Professor Braudel. I found I was not alone in judging Braudel’s writings unacceptably superficial. Yet a great deal of Ford Foundation money had been poured into promoting the views of Braudel and his Annales school from the 1950’s onward. Both Braudel and Lopez were closely associated with Lucien Febvre, a founder of the Annales journal, a French professor with links to both politicians and bankers on the French scene going back to the 1920’s. (The Annales co-founder, Bloch, resigned when Febvre conformed under Vichy in WWII. Febvre went on to become the chief editor of UNESCO publication. Bloch went on to be shot by the Gestapo)

I made enquiries and could only find one journal at the intellectual end of the spectrum in the UK with a reputation for taking on serious conspiracy issues in a hard nosed way. This is called Lobster, and is edited by Robin Ramsay. I contacted Robin and was told that (on the basis of his extensive knowledge of the conspiracy scene), the sort of suggestions I was coming up with were completely unknown to him, that I seemed to be opening up a whole new area of research. So I put together a draft article and sent it off. Robin's 'referee' formed the opinion that the views I endorsed were inadequately substantiated (‘half baked’, and ‘baloney’!). I formed the opinion that Lobster was too closely tied to left wing career academics in the state sector - that the sort of explanations I viewed as propaganda, being disseminated by clients of the Ford Foundation and kindred bodies, were viewed as axiomatic, part of the fundamental framework of reality, by the supposedly critically independent academic left leaning sub-culture of late 20th century Britain.

Shortly after I gave up on this exchange, I came across a web page lodged (in Spanish) by a sociologist called Pico, bearing upon clientelism in sociology. He was naming many of the same people I named, and the same institutions I named, and as far as I could ascertain, drawing the same sort of conclusions I drew. Following up on his extensive bibliography I discovered Mazon writing in French. And via Mazon I discovered that Febvre had been negotiating with the Rockerfeller Foundation as far back as 1927. Also via Pico I discovered Seybold, one of a group of American writers on Political Science. Seybold was also making the same sort of allegations, and exposing the same sort of skewed perspectives being insinuated onto the academic agenda by the same external funding bodies, most notably the Ford Foundation through the influence of its Palo Alto centre. And following up on this clue led me to a series of revelations on the web by an insider, Terry Nichols Clark, called 'Clientelism and the University'.

And the conclusion that I came to after my summer's labour was that as far as the Spanish, French and Americans go, maybe you can fool most of the people most of the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time. But as far as the British go, you can, it seems, fool all the people all the time.