Scope and Contents
Sherman Kent donated his papers to the Yale University Library between 1949 and 1981. Sherman T. Kent, Kent's son, retains all literary and property rights to these papers. Following his death these rights will become the property of Yale University. Mrs. Throop M. Wilder donated additional letters of Kent to William Kipp to the papers in 1986. The 25.25 linear feet of papers are arranged in four series:
I. CORRESPONDENCE, 1920-1980
II. WRITINGS, 1930-1976, n.d.
III. SUBJECT FILES, 1928-1974
IV. PERSONAL PAPERS, 1763-1978
Series I and II each comprise a third of the papers, with Series III and IV together comprising the other third. Oversized material from each of the series is arranged at the end of the papers.
As a highly placed member of O.S.S. and the C.I.A. Kent dealt on a daily basis with classified material. Kent was scrupulous in removing from his papers any files that were classified for security reasons. In processing the papers the staff of the Manuscripts and Archives Department removed occasional documents which bore security markings. These were removed from the papers pending a declassification review. As documents are declassified and returned, they will be added to the appropriate folder in the papers.
Series I, CORRESPONDENCE, includes all incoming and outgoing letters in the papers, though the incoming letters predominate. Only occasionally do the files include Kent's handwritten drafts of responses or carbon copies of outgoing letters. Though the earliest letters in the series date from Kent's student days, the majority of the correspondence is from the 1940s or from the 1960s and 1970s. In giving his papers to Yale Kent noted that many of his files from the 1950s had been lost.
Kent's correspondents include Yale faculty members, scholars in the field of French history, former students, colleagues from O.S.S. and C.I.A. days, and publishers of Kent's writings, as well as personal friends and family members. Additional correspondents are financial and legal advisors. Those who knew Kent well addressed their letters to "Shermo," "Buffalo," or "Buff."
The files containing the most numerous letters and also the most continuous are those for Kent family members. There are many letters from Elizabeth Thacher Kent, Kent's mother, which chronicle the family through the depression and World War II. Letters from Kent's father, William Kent, are fewer in number and concern his feelings as a parent for his son away at school. The letters from Sherman Kent's brother Roger are a full representation of his career, first in legal practice and then as chairman of the California Democratic State Central Committee. Roger, who signs himself "Eg" or "Egbert" also discusses his early political ambitions, Kent family financial investments, and the fortunes of his many children. The file for another brother William, contains letters of Sherman Kent, which describe his travels in France in the 1930s and his teaching at Yale. The letters from Kent's wife Elizabeth Gregory Kent date from Kent's many absences from home. These are full of family and local news. Correspondence with Anson Thacher, the headmaster of Thacher School, concerns the fortunes of Kent's preparatory school, which was founded by his mother's brothers. Other family correspondence is included in files for other Kents and various Arnolds, Howards, Bathricks, Bossanges, and Schardts.
In personal correspondence Kent would occasionally mention the general nature of his current projects, but these letters reveal little specific information about his career. The files of personal correspondence demonstrate Kent's sense of humor and reflect the network of his acquaintances. Numerous files include correspondence from Kent's Yale classmates such as John W. Bowman, Robert P. Joyce, William S. Stewart, and Charles Willard. The files for letters of William Kip are particularly extensive. There is also a fuller file for Kent's friend and one time neighbor James C. Cooley.
After his service in O.S.S. Kent maintained contact with several of his wartime associates, many of whom had returned to the academic world. Correspondence with Charlotte Bowman, Kent's wartime secretary, Calvin Hoover, Donald McKay, William Langer, Len Wilson, Rudolph Winnacker, and Robert Lee Wolff reflects the enduring bond that this experience fostered. These and other acquaintances formed an academic "old boy" network, giving and receiving references for wartime colleagues. The files also reflect enduring friendships formed with career military personnel such as M. P. Evenson, Alfred Gruenther, and H. W. Hill.
Many of Kent's Yale colleagues had also had experiences with some form of intelligence work, and letters in the files of William Huse Dunham, Archibald Foord, A. Whitney Griswold, Samuel B. Hemingway, Leonard Labaree, Charles Seymour, and Arnold Wolfers reflect this perspective and a sense of comraderie. Unfortunately letters of Wilmarth S. Lewis and Herman Liebert, with whom Kent shared similar experiences, are too few to be significant in this regard. Files for the Yale Library include material on Kent's involvement with the Yale Collection of War Literature.
Kent's role in postwar intelligence is less clearly demonstrated in correspondence than in other series in the papers. Official letters concerning terms of employment and salary are included in some of the United States files under office name. Bernard Brodie's letters give substantive comment on Kent's important work Strategic Intelligence for American World Policy. Other writers on intelligence subjects include John E. Sawyer, Allan Evans, and Richard Helms.
Correspondence concerning Kent's continuing interest in French history and his return to scholarly publication is included in files for Thomas Beck, David Pinkney, and for French archives. Files for Madeline Gleason and Harvard University Press concern the progress of The French Election of 1827 through its printing in 1975. On the publication of Kent's stories for children, A Boy and a Pig, but Mostly Horses, see the files of Dodd, Mead & Company.
Series II, WRITINGS, is composed of material relating to Kent's books, articles, speeches, lectures, and book reviews. For any particular writing the file may contain notes, outlines, drafts, typescripts, and printed copies. The series does not include background material or research notes, nor does it contain any correspondence about this research or publication of the writings. Kent's work on his memoirs is not organized as part of the WRITINGS but may be found in Series IV, PERSONAL PAPERS.
All of Kent's published and unpublished books are represented in this series. These include the scholarly works on French history, works of fiction, a manual on the puzzle Kent designed, Buffalo Blocks, and the work for which Kent received the most attention, Strategic Intelligence for American World Policy.
The series also includes material on Kent's book reviews, articles, speeches, and lectures. Articles are primarily on Yale topics, intelligence, or French history. Material for speeches includes both formally written presentations and notes or outlines for more informal talks. Again the subjects of French history and intelligence prevail, but there are more general remarks to various school classes or humorous remarks on the occasion of staff retirements. Speeches also include presentations made to various training programs, such as the National War College and the Defense Intelligence School.
Series III, SUBJECT FILES, includes many types of records organized by topic. There are letters, financial records and copyright information in the files "Buffalo Blocks," a geometric puzzle "for the puzzled high powered executive," which Kent planned to market. Kent's research notes on French voting patterns and the Villèle diary are filed under the topic French history. Poor quality xerox copies of materials found by Kent in French archives have been removed from the papers. Other materials microfilmed by Kent have been added to the Miscellaneous microfilm collection stored in the Manuscripts and Archives Department.
Material for the topics "Intelligence" and "National War College" is more extensive. Under "Intelligence" are filed Kent's notes relating to his role in the Paris summit in 1960 and the Cuban missle crisis of 1962. There is also material relating to Allen Dulles, notes on work done for the Research and Analysis Branch of O.S.S., and much printed material concerning the ongoing debate over the organization of intelligence gathering. The National War College files reflect Kent's involvement in the development of the curriculum for the college in 1946 and 1947 when Kent was a member of the faculty. Materials include proposals for courses and critiques, reading lists, schedules, and biographical information on students and staff.
A few folders in this series are all that remain from Kent's New Haven aldermanic campaign in 1949. These contain campaign literature, voter lists and background material. Far more extensive files at the end of the series document Kent's teaching career at Yale. These include course outlines and notes for undergraduate and graduate courses in history, as well as student papers. These materials are arranged by course number.
PERSONAL PAPERS, Series IV, includes many types of records relating to Kent's student days, travel, hobbies, and family. The series also includes biographical data, awards, photographs, and personal memorabilia. The earliest material in the papers is in this series in the form of autographs collected by Kent. Kent's student diaries are in this series as are his student papers from courses taken at Yale. Travel memorabilia from trips to Africa, the Far East, Europe, and Latin America dates from work with O.S.S. through retirement and includes notes on research trips to France.
The series also contains material documenting Kent's project to write his memoirs. Kent recorded his thoughts on tape and then had them transcribed so that he could edit these, presumably for publication. While he did not give the tapes with his papers, Kent did include the transcripts and the drafts he had made for the memoirs. Though he never completed the editing of these drafts, the memoirs chronicle Kent's entire life. They begin with Kent's family origins and describe life in Washington, at Thacher School, and undergraduate years at Yale. They continue through his decision to pursue a career in French history and give the details of his invitation to come to Washington to join the O.S.S. Kent goes into detail about people and policies, and the memoirs are the only place in the papers where one can find Kent's explanation of his side in decisions concerning the organization of intelligence gathering in the United States. The memoirs also explain how Kent saw his work for the Office of National Estimates.
- Majority of material found within 1918 - 1986
Conditions Governing Access
Classified documents in box 60 are restricted until declassified under authorization from the National Archives and Records Administration.
Conditions Governing Use
Immediate Source of Acquisition
31.75 Linear Feet (68 boxes)
Language of Materials
Biographical / Historical
In 1926 Kent completed his undergraduate education at Yale University and received his Ph.B. degree. Following his graduation Kent remained at Yale pursuing an advanced degree in French history and serving as an instructor. Kent's graduate work also took him to France for further research. He received his Ph.D. in 1933 and married Elizabeth Gregory in 1934. Kent was named an assistant professor at Yale in 1936. In 1937 he published Electoral Procedure under Louis Philippe, which was based on his dissertation. Kent also served as director of the Division of General Studies. His concern for students embarking on original research for the required senior essay led him to write Writing History, which was published in 1942.
In 1941, as the United States was poised to enter World War II, Kent took a leave of absence from Yale to join the Office of the Coordinator of Information (COI). This was later reorganized as the Office of Strategic Services, in which Kent was assigned to the Research and Analysis Branch (R&A). R&A selected and analyzed data and provided strategic surveys of various countries for those departments and agencies of government that required it. In preparation for the invasion of North Africa, Kent's unit produced the first sustained intelligence reports. When R&A was reorganized in January, 1943, Kent was placed in charge of the Europe-Africa and the Near East Division. In late fall and early winter 1943-1944 Kent toured the outposts of the division including Algiers, Corsica, Sicily, Naples, Tunis, Tripoli, and Cairo. By the end of the war Kent had gained a reputation as a hard worker who had the ability to organize his unit to get essential work done.
In 1946, when it became clear that the work of R&A would be moved to the Office of Research and Intelligence, Kent resigned to return to Yale; he had been promoted to the rank of associate professor in 1944 and would be made a full professor in 1947. At first though, he spent a semester as a civilian instructor at the National War College, helping to design their new curriculum, and then used the remaining semester to begin a new book on strategic intelligence. In November, 1949, Kent ran unsuccessfully as the Democratic candidate for alderman from New Haven's fifteenth ward.
With the publication of Strategic Intelligence for American World Policy in 1949, Kent framed the "intelligence debate," arguing that those involved in intelligence should provide the data and the analysis but that others should make policy decisions. In November, 1950, Kent returned to Washington to begin work in the Central Intelligence Agency's Office of National Estimates (ONE). He formally resigned from the Yale faculty in 1953. In 1958, Kent was named director of ONE, a post he held until his retirement from government in 1968. During this time Kent had been in Paris with Eisenhower for the Big Four Summit Meeting (1960 May) and represented the CIA at a briefing session for French President Charles DeGaulle on the Cuban missile crisis. He received the National Civil Service Award (1961) and the President's Award for Distinguished Federal Service (1967).
In retirement Kent returned to his study of French history. He made several trips to France, scouring French archives for electoral lists and discovering the Joseph de Villèle diary for 1827, still in family hands. He published (1975) this research in The French Election of 1827. At about the same time he wrote a series of children's stories, published as A Boy and a Pig, but Mostly Horses (1974). Kent died on March 11, 1986, and was survived by his wife and two children, Sherman Tecumseh Kent and Serafina Kent Bathrick.
- Bowman, Charlotte
- Bowman, John
- Brodie, Bernard, 1910-1978
- California -- Politics and government -- 1951-
- Cooley, James C.
- Dulles, Allen, 1893-1969
- Dunham, William Huse, 1901-1982
- Elizabethan Club (Yale University)
- Foord, Archibald S.
- France -- Politics and government -- 19th century
- Griswold, Alfred Whitney, 1906-1963
- Hemingway, Samuel Burdett, 1883-1958
- History -- Study and teaching
- Hoover, Calvin B. (Calvin Bryce), 1897-1974
- Intelligence service -- United States
- Joyce, Robert P.
- Kent family
- Kent, Elizabeth Gregory
- Kent, Elizabeth Thacher, 1868-1952
- Kent, Roger, 1906-1980
- Kent, Sherman
- Kip, William B.
- Labaree, Leonard Woods, 1897-1980
- Langer, William L. (William Leonard), 1896-1977
- McKay, Donald C. (Donald Cope), 1902-1959
- Military intelligence -- United States
- National War College (U.S.)
- Pinkney, David H.
- Sawyer, John E.
- Seymour, Charles, 1885-1963
- Suffrage -- France
- Thacher School (Ojai, Calif.)
- Thacher, Anson
- United States. Central Intelligence Agency
- United States. Department of State. Office of Intelligence Research and Analysis
- United States. Office of Strategic Services. Research and Analysis Branch
- Voting -- France
- Yale College (1887- ). Class of 1926
- Yale University -- Faculty
- Yale University. Department of History
- Guide to the Sherman Kent Papers
- Under Revision
- compiled by the staff of Manuscripts and Archives
- February 1997
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description note
- Finding aid written in English.
Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository
Yale University Library
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Sterling Memorial Library
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