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Leon Trotsky (poster)

Public archives : America

– Survey –

Introductory notes and survey

Within this chapter of TrotskyanaNet we are dealing with a selection of public Trotsky archives, i.e. with a number of publicly accessible facilities preserving considerable quantities of relevant archival holdings with regard to Trotsky, Trotskyism and Trotskyists. Only U.S. and Canadian archives are dealt with here; for (Western) European archives see Public Archives : Europe.

Most of the material hosted by archival facilities is unique and thus not to be found elsewhere or — at best — as copies or microfilms. Typical examples for archival sources concerning the subjects of our website are letters, unpublished manuscripts, memoranda, minutes, notes, films, photographs, and audio tapes; most of the archives listed below are also containing Trotskyist internal bulletins (and related ephemeral serials) — material which as a rule is hardly to trace in libraries, because it is belonging to a species of documents which could be called semi-archival.

It goes without saying that scholarly historical research essentially depends on (archival) sources; as regards Trotsky, the possibilities of the research on sources can be considered as quite excellent insofar as a scholar dealing with certain aspects of Trotsky's life or work can consult a quite considerable number of archival collections benefiting from well arranged finding aids and other useful research tools, many of which in the meanwhile have been made machine-readable so that they can be consulted via Internet.

It was Trotsky himself who always was most concerned about his papers and records, their preservation and security. When he was expelled first from Moscow and then from Soviet Russian soil he fortunately was allowed to take his archival documents with him. Thus he let them be transported to Prinkipo, later to France and eventually to Mexico. In 1935/36 and 1939, considerable parts of his archives were sold by himself or — on his behalf — by his son Leon Sedov, respectively, to the IISH (Amsterdam), other parts were purchased from Trotsky by Harvard University in 1940, shortly before his assassination. Certain parts of his archives which had remained with Leon Sedov at Paris were stolen by Stalinist agents or entrusted to Boris Nicolaevsky, respectively.

The history of Trotsky's archives partly can be considered as a real mystery or adventure story, certain aspects of which are mentioned on this page as well as within the chapter Public Archives : Europe.

"The history of Trotsky's archives has been a contentious one. Some papers, such as his correspondence with Sedov, have resurfaced only lately. Others had to be purchased from persons who had denied having them. Several files were destroyed by Trotsky himself for reasons of security. Yet these collections, properly inventoried, retain a large degree of importance, particularly with regard to the history of the USSR, Germany and China. To say the least, it is most surprising that some scholars appear to have 'forgotten' to consult them". (P. Broué) *

We would like to emphasize once again that our featuring of Trotsky archives is not at all exhaustive but selective, i.e. without any claim for completeness. Mention is made of the three most relevant and renowned repositories of Trotsky's papers (Hoover Institution Archives, Houghton Library, International Institute of Social History) and of some dozen other archives housing considerable archival material relevant to Trotsky/Trotskyism research. It should be mentioned here, that you can find some (bibliographic) information about Trotsky archives in the Introduction and in chapter 1.3 of our Lubitz' Leon Trotsky Bibliography [ISSN 2190-0183].

*) Broué, Pierre: Les archives de Trotsky, in: Une histoire en révolution? : du bon usage des archives, de Moscou et d'ailleurs / sous la dir. de Serge Wolikow, Dijon, 1996, p. 297 [abstract].

Features about some American public archives and their Trotskyana holdings:

Houghton Library
(Cambridge, Mass., USA)

Houghton Library, located east of Widener Library in the Harvard Yard (click here for map search), is the repository of rare books and manuscripts belonging to the Harvard College Library, Cambridge, Mass.

The Houghton collection is quite unparalleled in the Western hemisphere, containing numerous illuminated manuscripts from the pre-1600 period, the oldest American collection of the Shakespeare folios, the world's largest collection of Russian first printings prior to 1920, Harvard's charter of 1650 which established Harvard as the nation's oldest corporation, etc.

The extraordinary rich Houghton collection of rare books and manuscripts can be consulted in the Houghton Reading Room which is open for research by scholars regardless of academic affiliation.
[For a short overview about Houghton Library's Slavic collections see Slavic & East European Resources, 5.2004 (3/4), pp. 33-35.]

Among the highlights of Houghton Library's more modern manuscript holdings is its famous Trotsky Archive (or, Trotsky Papers), a unique collection of original correspondence, manuscripts, writings, personal memoirs, diaries, papers of his secretaries, minutes of meetings, memoranda, notes, reviews, Dewey Commission exhibit papers and related ephemera, personal documents, passports, photographs, household papers, legal documents, contracts, royalty reports, miscellaneous receipts, etc.
Altogether, the Trotsky Archive consists of more than 50,000 items, thus representing the largest and most eminent Trotsky archival collection worldwide.

The material was acquired from various sources:

According to a stipulation of both Leon Trotsky and Natalia Sedova, a considerable portion of the Trotsky Papers - known as the Exile Papers - had to be treated as 'closed section', not to be opened to the public until 1980; only Trotsky's biographer Isaac Deutscher was allowed to consult this section already in the 1950s and 1960s.

On January 2, 1980 the hitherto closed section, containing some 17,500 items, was opened and Houghton Library's Reading Room in those days was filled with Trotsky scholars from Europe and America. There is hardly to find any serious historical work on Trotsky's post-1917 life, action and thought which doesn't refer to documents from the Houghton Trotsky Papers.

For administrative purposes the Trotsky Archive from the beginning was divided into 2 parts:

Most parts of the Trotsky archive have been microfilmed, thus for instance the Exile papers collection is available in Houghton Library's reading room on 38 microfilm reels, too. It should be kept in mind that these reels are reflecting the pre-catalogued state of the papers.

The history and fate of the Trotsky Papers has been narrated by various authors and persons involved, inter alia by such outstanding figures as French historian and Trotsky biographer Pierre Broué and Jean Van Heijenoort. The opening to the public of the hitherto "closed section" in 1980 was reflected in some journal and newspaper articles; the contents, scope, structure and arrangement of this goldmine of primary source information has been described in a considerable number of journal contributions. A selection of those narratives and descriptions is listed below.

The hitherto "related collections" within the framework of the Soviet papers and related collections (MS Russ 13), i.e. its ex-series II (=Van Heijenoort papers, item nos. V 1 - V 201), series III (=Harper manuscripts, item nos. H 1 - H 28), and series IV (=Dewey Commission exhibits, item nos. D 1 - D 438) in the meanwhile have been renamed and are now forming separate parts of the archive with separate call phrases (collection identifiers) and separate printed guides and electronic finding aids.

Thus, after the collection has undergone some restructuring, the Trotsky Archive at Houghton Library consists (as at Winter 2020/21) of the following collections (links referring to electronic overviews, guides, and detailed inventories):

Scholars and students looking for source material on Trotsky and on the history of the Fourth International should also pay attention to some other relevant collections deposited at Houghton Library, e.g.:

With regard to the Houghton Trotsky Archive, the following printed finding aids and related research tools are available, too:

Some items about the history, the scope and the historical relevance of the Trotsky Papers at Houghton Library:

Some items dealing with the opening of the 'closed section' of the Trotsky Papers at Houghton Library in January 1980:

Tamiment Library & Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
(New York, NY, USA)

The Tamiment Library & Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives are forming a unique and internationally renowned centre for scholarly research on labour history, radicalism, socialism, communism and anarchism. Although the focus of the collections is the documentation and preservation of the United States' labour heritage and radicalism* since 1865, there is a quite considerable number of books and journals from non-American countries, too.

The Tamiment Library originally was founded in 1906 as the Meyer London Library of the Rand School of Social Sciences; the Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives — named after a late U.S. Senator — was created in 1977 as a repository for the historically significant, non-current records of New York labour organizations; it is co-sponsored by the Tamiment Library and the New York City AFL-CIO Central Labor Council. As at 2010, Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives are an independent part of the Elmer Holmes Bobst Library which itself is a part of New York University Libraries System.

As at 2010, Tamiment Library holds more than 60,000 books, about 5,500 serials (of which 500 current) and some 1,000,000 pamphlets and ephemera (leaflets, broadsides, manifestoes, buttons, posters, etc.); the Wagner Labor Archives holds more than 300 archival collections of important organizations and individuals, occupying some 5,000 cubic ft., including a considerable number of non-print items (photographic images, videotapes, etc.) as well as oral history collections.

Tamiment Library co-operates with the Center for Research Libraries and the California Digital Library to develop a strategy to archive political websites.

Library and archives are located at New York University's Elmer Holmes Bobst Library, 10th Floor, 70 Washington Square South, New York City, NY 10012, the opening hours are varying. The majority of the holdings is retrievable via Bobst Library's online catalogue.

Tamiment Library is hosting the editorial offices of Radical History Review and American Communist History, two renowned scholarly journals. The collections are open to the public and non-circulating. In September 2000, Tamiment Library sponsored an international conference devoted to Explorations in the history of U.S. Trotskyism which was attended by some 200 participants and guests.

The website of the Tamiment Library & Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives provides detailed information about its history, collections, staff, exhibitions, conferences, programmes, funding and sponsoring. It contains also an annotated list of relevant reference works and related research tools with Tamiment call numbers, and last not least hundreds of links to the available online finding aids. Some basic information about the Tamiment Library is also to be found in Swanson, Dorothy: The Tamiment Institute/Ben Josephson Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives at New York University, in: The Library Quarterly, 59.1989 (2), pp. 148-161. Another source of information about Tamiment Library is Lee, Andrew H.: The Tamiment Library, in: London Socialist Historians Group Newsletter, no. 22 (Autumn 2004).

Regarding research on Trotsky, Trotskyism and Trotskyists, the following archival collections are of special relevance:

Some other relevant collections at Tamiment Library & Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives are:

Tamiment Library also hosts papers of (e.g.):

For a lot of other relevant resources you should also consult the Archival Collections site.

*) According to Tamiment Library's website, "Radicalism is understood as those movements and world views fundamentally opposed (from a left, as opposed to a right or conservative perspective) to capitalism as a social system, i.e., private ownership of the means of production and a state that supports it, and a belief in the possibility of replacing capitalism with another (more egalitarian) social system. Within this shared framework exist divergent views on the shortcomings of capitalism, the nature of the desired alternative social system, and the means to achieve it."

Hoover Institution Archives
(Stanford, Cal., USA)

Hoover Institution Library & Archives forms a core component of the Hoover Institution which was established at Stanford University (Stanford, California) in 1919 by Herbert Hoover (1874-1964), mining engineer, organizer of relief work in Europe during and after WW I and eventually 31st President (Republican) of the United States from 1929 to 1933.

The Hoover Institution (on War, Revolution and Peace) today is a public policy research centre devoted to advanced study of politics, economics and international affairs. It is a conservative public policy think tank (Richard V. Allen, Condoleeza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, George W. Schultz were under those listed as Hoover Institution fellows), visited by several thousand scholars and students every year.

Simultaneously, Hoover Institution has evolved into an internationally recognized, world-renowned library and archives housing (as at 2005) some 1.6 million books, uncountable pamphlets, journals and bulletins as well as about 60 million archival documents of all kinds relating to political, economic and social change.

In all there are (as at 2005) more than 5,000 separate collections in the Hoover Institution Archives, including millions of individual documents from the entire range of 20th century history and politics around the world. The material is stored in approximately 100,000 boxes and made available in the Hoover Institution Archives reading room.

Hoover Institution Library and Archives, housed in Stanford's Hoover Tower, are open to all without charge. Most of its holdings are listed in Stanford University Library's online catalogue, Socrates. However, material aquired before 1977 may be listed in Hoover's main card catalogue only, or in one of the separate card catalogues. Use of archival material is conditional upon adherence to certain rules and must be used in the reading room only, the number of photocopies of archival material is strictly limited.

Hoover Institution is privately funded, chiefly from conservative and corporate interests.

For more information about Hoover Institution Library & and Archives visit its official website

Source material for Trotsky/Trotskyism research at Hoover Institution Archives

Hoover Institution Archives must be considered a goldmine of primary source information regarding research on Trotskyism - both American and international. There are several dozen collections containing rich material for the study of the history and politics of the Trotskyist movement, for biographical studies of its leaders and activists and last not least of its founder, Leon Trotsky.

Hoover Institution Archives has continually acquired the papers of outstanding individuals who had played a more or less prominent role in the Trotskyist movement as well as the archives of some (ex-)Trotskyist parties, groups and various institutions (e.g. Socialist Workers Party, Spartacist League).

Additionally it should be mentioned that Hoover Institution is not only a top address for Trotskyist archivalia, but that there are also very considerable library holdings with regard to Trotskyist serials, pamphlets and other non-archival resources, even those issued by very tiny splinter groups or dissident sects.

Selective list of archival collections particularly relevant to Trotsky and Trotskyism research (with links to electronic finding aids):

Some literature about the Hoover Trotskyana collections:

State Historical Society of Wisconsin Archives Division
(Madison, Wis., USA)

The State Historical Society of Wisconsin (SHSW) is both a state agency and a private membership organization. Founded in 1846 it is the oldest American historical society to receive continuous public funding. By statute, it is charged with collecting, advancing, and disseminating knowledge of the State of Wisconsin and of the trans-Allegheny West. Its mission is to engage the public with the excitement of discovery, to inspire people with new perspectives on the past, and to illuminate the relevance of history in their lives today. SHSW co-operates with the University of Wisconsin at Madison, Wis.

The State Historical Society of Wisconsin maintains an extensive website. One division of SHSW is called Library-Archives. SHSW Library-Archives preserves and provides access to millions of published and unpublished items about the history of North America in the broadest sense. Outside the Library of Congress, SHSW Library-Archives is the largest collection of documents about the history of North America including letters, diaries, organization records, state and local government records, maps, photographs, films, oral histories and many other kinds of unique materials documenting American history.

On the website of SHSW Library-Archives you can find more detailed information about reference, access and information services, catalogues (e.g. about ArCat, the archives catalogue), indexes and finding aids, collections, programmes, acquisitions, contacts, fees, etc. The address of SHSW Library-Archives is: Wisconsin State Historical Society, 816 State Street, Madison, WI 53706-1482.

Beginning some 120 years ago, SHSW became one of the first institutions in the country to actively collect historical relevant material related to labour and working class movements; thus today the Society's Library-Archives holds outstanding and almost unparalleled labour history resources, both published items such as newspapers, periodicals, pamphlets and unpublished items such as internal papers of political parties and movements of the working class and of trade unions.

Danky, James P.: Sources for study of the labor movement at the State Historical Society of Wisconsin / James P. Danky and Harold L. Miller, in: Labor History, 31.1990, pp. 176-184.

Collections particularly relevant to Trotskyism preserved at SHSW Library-Archives:

Within SHSW Library-Archives' extraordinarily rich archival holdings about U.S. labour history, there are more than a dozen collections containing valuable material with regard to the study of the history of Trotskyism, particularly of the history of the U.S. arm of the movement, the SWP (Socialist Workers Party) and its forerunners, respectively.

Please note that most of SHSW's archival collections are available on microfilm only, which, however, are available either for sale or for loan via interlibrary loan network. Please note, too, that some of the materials less than twenty years old may be restricted. In case that for a collection listed below there is an electronic (online) finding aid, this is mentioned there. Collections for which there are not yet electronic finding aids, may be used by consulting the printed or mimeographed registers which are available in the Library-Archives reading room and which of course can be ordered from SHSW as photocopies.

Walter P. Reuther Library,
Archives of Labor & Urban Affairs
(Detroit, Mich., USA)

The Walter P. Reuther Library is home to the Archives of Labor & Urban Affairs (ALUA) and to the Wayne State University Archives. Its mission is collecting, preserving and making accessible the records of the American labour movement with special emphasis on industrial unionism and related social, economic and political reform movements in the U.S. ALUA's collections on urban Detroit, on student movements and on radical organizations are very strong, too. As at 2005, ALUA's resources include the papers and records of some 1,600 individuals and organizations. Altogether, the Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs houses more than 75,000 linear ft. of historical records, including some 2 million photographs and 10,000 sound recordings. Reuther Library is situated at 5401 Cass Ave., Detroit, MI 48202.

With regard to research on Trotsky/Trotskyism, the following archival collections should be of special interest:

Yale University Library
(New Haven, Conn., USA)

A considerable part of Yale University's holdings of especially valuable or rare items is housed at the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, 121 Wall Street, New Haven, CT 0651. Yale University's finding aid database is available in the WWW.

The following archival collections are particularly relevant with regard to Trotsky research:

Other archival collections preserved at Yale University Library which contain some material related to Trotsky/Trotskyism are:

Lilly Library, Manuscript Collections
(Bloomington, Ind., USA)

The Lilly Library, the rare books, manuscripts, and special collections library of the Indiana University Libraries, Bloomington, Ind., holds about 400,000 books and more than 6.5 million manuscripts, letters, autographs, etc. (as at 2005). Lilly Library's website contains detailed information about collections, information, using, hours, publications and online resources. Online collection level descriptions provide information about the contents of the manuscript collections and other details; selected descriptions include detailed inventories and guides. For bibliographic descriptions and guides which are not yet online available, a manuscripts index, a card catalogue and special card files, located in the Lilly Library reading room, can be consulted.

The following collections are particularly relevant to Trotsky/ism research:

Minnesota Historical Society Library
(St. Paul, Minn., USA)

The Library of the Minnesota Historical Society (MNHS) is situated at 345 Kelogg Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55102-1906. Minnesota Historical Society holds rich collections of printed and archival material (incl. films, tape recordings, etc.) about the SWP, the Minneapolis teamster strikes and labour trials of the 1930s and 1940s. Most of these materials are searchable in the library's on-line catalogue, click here for collection finding aids.

The following collections are particularly relevant to Trotsky/Trotskyism research:

Bakhmeteff Archive, Rare Book & Manuscript Library,
Columbia University (New York, NY, USA)

The Bakhmeteff Archive of Russian and East European Culture is the second largest depository of Russian émigré materials outside Russia, consisting primarily of letters, diaries, memoirs, tapes, photographs and other documentary currently containing about 1,700,000 items (as of 2004) in more than 1,200 collections. It was founded in 1951 receiving substantial part of its operating costs from the Humanities Fund which was established by Boris Alexandrovich Bakhmeteff (1880-1961), a professor at Columbia School of Engineering and intellectual of wide-ranging interests. Initial financing was obtained from the Rockefeller Foundation. Today, the Bakhmeteff Archive operates as part of the Rare Book and Manuscript Library of Columbia University. The archive is situated at Butler Library, 6th Fl. East, 535 West 114th St., New York, NY 10027.
About the Bakhmeteff Archive see also: Slavic & East European Information Resources, 5.2004 (3/4), pp.10-11.

With regard to Trotsky research mention should be of the following repositories:

Labadie Collection, Special Collections Library, University of Michigan
(Ann Arbor, Mich., USA)

The Joseph A. Labadie Collection (Labadie Collection of Social Protest Material) forms part of the Special Collections Library which is situated at 7th Floor, Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library, The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1205.

The Labadie Collection is one of the oldest collections of radical history in the U.S., excellently documenting a great variety of social protest movements and organizations, both American and abroad, of the 19th and 20th century. The collection comprises some 8,000 serials (of which some 600 are currently received), some 35,000 monographs and some 20,000 pamphlets (as at 2005) as well as manuscript holdings covering certain persons and subjects involved in radical movements.

Of special relevance to researchers are also the numerous ephemera (leaflets, flyers, scrapbooks, posters, photographs, cartoons, etc.) within the collection, the nucleus of which was made up by Jo (Charles Joseph Antoine) Labadie's (1850-1933) private library and papers which in 1911 he donated to the University of Michigan.

Labadie was a pioneer of the socialist labour and trade union movement in Michigan and an editor of labour papers before he became a dedicated supporter of individualist anarchism as promulgated for example by Benjamin Tucker; Labadie's byname was "the gentle anarchist".

Under the curatorship (from 1924-1952) of Agnes Ann Inglis (1870-1952), an anarchist and follower of Emma Goldman, the collection grew considerably. Even if Labadie's archival collections are not very large, they are rich in correspondence and other writings.

With regard to Trotskyism, the strength of Labadie Collection lies in the fact that there are preserved some very rare (or, 'ephemeral') serials and bulletins of Trotskyist origin hardly to find in other libraries or related facilities.

The Woodruff Library, Special Collections & Archives
(Atlanta, Ga., USA)

The Robert W. Woodruff Library forms part of the Emory University Libraries system. It is situated at 540 Asbury Circle, Atlanta, GA 30322-2870. It has a department of Special Collections & Archives.

Woodruff Library houses an archive in which can be found some material relevant to the study of the early history of American Trotskyism:

Rutgers University Libraries, Special Collections and University Archives
(New Brunswick, NJ, USA)

The Special Collections and University Archives are housed at Archibald S. Alexander Library (address: 169 College Avenue, New Brunswick, NJ 08901-1163) which is a part of the Rutgers University Libraries system.

With regard to Trotskyism research, one of its collections is worth to be particularly emphasized:

Library of Congress, Manuscript Division
(Washington, DC, USA)

The Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress - the biggest library in the world - holds some 50 mio. items in some 11,000 separate collections including some of the greatest manuscript treasures of American history and culture. Its manuscript reading room is located in the James Madison Memorial Building, 101 Independence Avenue, Washington DC 20540-4680.

Among the highlights of Library of Congress' more modern manuscript holdings and of interest with regard to Trotsky research is the following collection:

University of British Columbia Library,
Rare Books and Special Collections
(Vancouver, B.C., Canada)

UBC Library's Rare Books and Special Collections (RBSC) houses numerous collections of Canadiana including rare books, archival research materials, historic maps and photographs. It is situated at Main Library, 1956 Main Mall, Vancouver, B.C. V6T 1Z1. Rich material on Canadian Trotskyism (e.g. about the League for Socialist Action, Revolutionary Workers League) is contained in the following collection:

McMaster University Library,
William Ready Division of Archives & Research Collections,
(Hamilton, Ont., Canada)

The William Ready Division of Archives & Research Collections is a part of the McMaster University Library, situated at 1280 Main St. W., Hamilton, ON L8S 4L6. Some 120,000 book titles, some 4,800 periodical titles, 11,485 linear ft. of archival materials, and 12,650 microforms are held as at Summer 2004.

Two archival collections are of special interest with regard to the source study of Canadian Trotskyism:

Index of collection creators

Selection of published Trotsky archives

Some Trotsky archives have been published, i.e. they are available for purchase and/or can be used either in libraries possessing a copy or in the WWW; such published collections of primary source material are for example:

Wolfgang and Petra Lubitz, 2005
last rev. February 2021

https://www.trotskyana.net © by Wolfgang & Petra Lubitz