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Abstract

This thesis examines the participation of the multinational firm Nestlé in international development. It analyses how this participation first emerged in the firm’s home country, Switzerland, in the late nineteenth century, before being deployed on an imperial and international scale from the inter-war period to the 1970s. Its main finding is that although since the 1970s transnational companies have been frequently castigated for their detrimental impacts in the developing world, this was not always the case. As archival records exhumed by this project show, there was a time when Nestlé’s participation in development was viewed by many as a promising prospect, if not always as an unmitigated blessing. The thesis specifically charts Nestlé’s involvement in three interdependent fields of development – agriculture, public health and medicine, and humanitarian relief. It argues that this involvement hinged on long-term collaborations with national and colonial governments, transnational scientific communities, and international and humanitarian organisations.

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