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Bronislaw Malinowski papers

Call Number: MS 19
Scope and Contents

The papers of Bronislaw Malinowski in the Yale University Library consist of correspondence, manuscripts of some of his published writings, publications, manuscripts of lectures, fieldwork notebooks, miscellaneous notes, photographs memorabilia and a variety of printed matter. The papers in the Yale University Library are not the entire corpus of Malinowski's materials; the London School of Economics has some of Malinowski's papers, a collection which include some correspondence, fieldwork journals, notes and research materials.

The Malinowski papers have been organized into four main series: (a) correspondence; (b) writings, lectures, and research materials; (c)writings of others; and (d) special files.

Series I, "Correspondence," is composed of letters received by Malinowski and carbon copies of his letters to others. There is also a small amount of correspondence of Elsie Malinowska, his wife, and Józefa Malinowska, his mother. The users of these papers will find many electostatic copies of letters in the correspondence series. This is a result of the fact that Malinowski often used the backs of letters for notes, drafts and miscellaneous writing having no relationship to the letters. In such cases, the manuscript original letter has been placed with the notes and research materials, and a copy of the letter has been made for the correspondence series. The correspondence is far from complete. There are very few letters for the last years of Malinowski's life (1938-1942) when he was living in the United States; consult the file for Maria Levinskaya for these letters. Most of his correspondence for these years apparently is at the London School of Economics. Also, in many cases where there apparently were a large number of letters exchanged with individuals and organizations, only a few now remain in Malinowski's files.

Malisowski corresponded with scholars in many disciplines in many countries, but principally with anthropologists, psychologists, and sociologists living in Europe, Asia, Africa and the United States. His correspondents wrote in English, German, Polish, French, and Italian. They included Felix Gross, J. Huizinga, Wilhelm Reich, Bertrand Russell, E. A. Westermarck, D. H. Westermann, Elton Mayo, Melville Herskovitz, M. F. Ashley Montagu, and A. W. Hoernlé, as well as many others. There are approximately fifty items of Malinowski's correspondence with Brenda and C. G. Seligman of the London School of Economics, nearly thirty of which were written during the years Malinowski spent in New Guinea, the Trobriand Islands, and Australia. It was during his early years that Malinowski's friendship with Seligman was closest. There are also some forty-five items of correspondence with Sir James Frazer and Lady Frazer. Another prominent figure whose correspondence with Malinowski is substantially represented in these papers is Havelock Ellis. There are approximately thirty letters from Ellis and one third that number of letters from Malinowski to Ellis, in which they discuss each other's writings and theories, Freudian psychoanalysis, and current publications.

The manuscripts also contain some forty-seven letters from his friend Princess Marie Bonaparte, and fifteen letters that Malinowski wrote to her in the period 1932-1938. Several of his letters discuss Malinowski's attempt to nominate Sigmund Freud for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1938.

One important class of materials in Series I is Malinowski's correspondence with former students engaged in anthropological fieldwork and research in all parts of the world. Among the many former students whose letters are in the files are: Edith Clarke, in London and Jamaica; Hortense Powdermaker in the United States; Ian Hogbin in the Solomon Islands; Raymond Firth in Australia; Reo Fortune in Astraulia and China; and J.C. DeGraft-Johnson, Meyer Fortes, Sjoerd Hofstra, S. F. Nadel, Lucy Mair, Margaret Read, Otto Raum, Audrey Richards, and Godfrey Wilson in Africa.

Series I also contains correspondence with scholarly journals and reviews to which Malinowski contributed, as well as correspondence with British and American publishers. There is correspondence with administrators in the Colonial Service, with the London School of Economics, and with the British Broadcasting Corporation. Series I also contains correspondence with family and friends in the Poland and Australia, and legal and financial correspondence. During his research expeditions and for years afterward, Malinowski corresponded with Billy Hancock and Raphael Bruno, pearl dealers in the Trobriand Islands.

Series II, "Writings, Lectures, and Research Materials," is composed of Malinowski's lectures, interviews, articles, reviews, notes, fieldwork materials, and books. The lectures are primarily in manuscript form. In some cases in addition to the manuscript there are revised drafts and galleys. There are manuscript copies of The Sexual Life of Savages and Coral Gardens and Their Magic, as well as Malinowski's own copies of these and other published works.

Series II also contains field notebooks and field notes which date from the period of Malinowski's research in New Guinea. Accompanying this material are several hundred photographs of the Mailu and Trobriand Islanders. The negatives for these photographs have not been given to the Yale University Library.

There are two archive boxes of notes and fragments on anthropological and sociological subjects, often in the form of notes about and critiques of the writings and theories of others. Some of this material appears to have originated as early as during Malinowski's years as a graduate student. The subjects of later notes suggest that much of this material was eventually incorporated into lectures, articles and books.

"Writings of Others,"Series III, consist principally of books, articles and papers written by students and colleagues of Malinowski. In addition to writings of Audrey Richards, Fei Hsiao-Tung, and C.G. Seligman,there are copies of Frazer's The Golden Bough (annotated by Malinowski) and of Garnered Sheaves (autographed by the author). There is also a copy of Freud's Drie Abhandlungen zur Sexual Theorie annotated throughout by Malinowski. Included in this series are several of Malinowski's books.

Series IV, "Special Files," consist of memorabilia, including certificates, bulletins, and clippings, advertisements for Malinowski's books and lectures, memorial tributes, and photographs. Among the items are war-time travel permits and certificates issued to Malinowski as as alien by the Commonwealth of Australia during his years of fieldwork in New Guinea, 1914-1918. There are also accounts of the memorial meetings held in New York City and London in 1942 after Malinowski's death. The photographs in Series IV are pictures of Malinowski and of his family in Poland, as well as of Elsie Malinowska and the children. There are also photographs of family friends in Australia and Europe.

Conditions Governing Access

Series I, Boxes 1-10, and Series II, Box 24 are available on microfilm. Patrons must use FILM HM 129 instead of the originals. Restricted material in Box 5 was not filmed.

Conditions Governing Use

Unpublished materials authored or otherwise produced by the creator(s) of this collection are in the public domain. There are no restrictions on use. 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 Mrs. Valetta Malinowska in 1972. Gift of Ronald Waterbury, 2003.


Arranged in four series and one addition: I. Correspondence. II. Writings, Lectures, and Research Materials. II. Writings of Others. IV. Special Files.

Associated Materials

Bronislaw Malinowski Papers, London School of Economics and Political Science.

Majority of material found within 1914 - 1939
15.75 Linear Feet
Related Names
Malinowski, Bronislaw, 1884-1942
Language of Materials