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Stanley Milgram papers

Call Number: MS 1406

Scope and Contents

The Stanley Milgram Papers consist of correspondence, research files, writings files, and teaching files, which document Milgram's work as an innovative researcher and teacher in the field of social psychology. Files concerning his experiments cover the entire span of his career and highlight his work on obedience to authority, television violence, urban psychology, and communication patterns within society. While all phases of Milgram's teaching career are represented in the papers, the bulk of the teaching files date from Milgram's years at CUNY.

The Stanley Milgram Papers date from 1927-1986, though the bulk of the papers date after 1960. They are arranged in five series. The arrangement reflects, for the most part, Milgram's filing order. No general attempt has been made to rearrange material into series by topic or format. The dates given for individual files are the dates of the material in the files. Since there are printed materials in the files which Milgram used for background information, some files bear dates prior to Milgram's active professional career. Similarly, files for audio tapes and films which have recently been copied to allow research access on current equipment bear the date of the reformatting. The original copies of these materials, however, are in files dating from the time Milgram created them.

Series I, GENERAL FILES, is arranged in two sections: Chronological and Alphabetical. The Chronological section is composed almost entirely of correspondence arranged in very rough chronological order. The Alphabetical section includes: correspondence with selected individuals, which is filed by correspondent name; subject files, which incorporate correspondence, background material, and notes concerning a wide variety of topics, and files of personal material arranged by record type such as drawings and poems. The files in this section are arranged in alphabetical order. The topics covered by the subject files in this series do not duplicate or overlap with those of files found in Series II through V.

The Chronological section contains both incoming letters and copies of outgoing copies of Milgram's letters from 1954-1985. Some incoming letters are attached to Milgram's outgoing response, though there is no consistent pattern for filing by either the first or last date. Correspondents include personal friends, former students, and professional colleagues, such as Howard Leventhal, Andre Modigliani, Jeff Travers, Charles Korte, Robert L. Shotland, Phil Zimbardo, Elinor Mannucci, Roger Brown, Irving Janis, Judith Waters, Jerome Singer, Zick Rubin, Henri Tajfel, John Sabini, and Harold Takooshian. There is also correspondence with publishers, agents, co-authors like Hans Toch, organizations requesting Milgram to speak, persons requesting reprints, and members of the general public writing to comment on Milgram's work. Included in these files are also Milgram's critiques of manuscripts by others and reviews of grant proposals. The exchanges include some discussions of teaching and administrative duties at Yale and Harvard. There is a much larger quantity of this type of correspondence during Milgram's tenure at CUNY, which includes exchanges with Mina Rees, Irwin Katz, Harold Proshansky, and Mort Bard.

The Alphabetical section also includes correspondence with personal friends, former teachers, former students, and professional colleagues, such as Stuart Albert, Gordon Allport, Elliot Aronson, Solomon Asch, Alan Elms, Roy Feldman, Robert Frager, Harry Fromm, Paul Hollander, Sparks Lunney, Leon Mann, Serge Moscovici, and Maury Silver. There are also voluminous files on administrative matters at CUNY. The Milgram papers have only a small quantity of personal memorabilia, most of which is filed in this section. These files are composed of audio tapes, drawings, films, notes taken by Milgram in classes at Harvard, photographs, poems, and writings about Milgram and his work.

Series II, STUDIES, contains materials such as correspondence, notes, financial records, sample forms and instructions, writings of others concerning the subject of the experiment which serve as background for the study and as comment on the results of the study, and analyses of data for experiments designed and conducted by Milgram. (Data generated in the course of these studies is arranged in Series V. Files from experiments conducted as part of a course are filed in Series IV with other teaching materials about that course.) Each study is identified in the listing by a shortened descriptive title which is underlined. These titles appear in the listing in alphabetical order. For some of the fourteen studies there may be as little as one folder of such material, but there are extensive files for Cyranic, New York-Paris, Obedience, Small world, and TV violence.

Milgram kept detailed notes about the structuring of his experiments and the complex variations he undertook. The researcher will find it helpful to refer to study notebooks for Obedience (Series II, folder 163) and TV violence (Series II, folders 222-224) before trying to utilize the other material available for these studies. These notebooks outline the multiple conditions in each of these experiments. Grant applications, where available, are another useful source for understanding Milgram's research and interpreting the relevance of other material to a study.

Series III, WRITINGS, includes materials relating to Milgram's numerous books and articles, speeches, films, and one exhibition. The series reflects the themes explored in Milgram's studies but also includes Milgram's letters to the editor, reviews, and commentary on other areas of interest to him. The series includes files for published works, complete but unpublished works, and works never completed. For any given title, the series may contain correspondence with publishers, producers, reviewers, or persons making arrangements for a speaking engagement. There may also be notes, financial records, drafts, illustrations, printed copies, promotional materials, itineraries, and copies of reviews. (More general comments about Milgram's writings may be found in Series I under the heading "Writings on Milgram or his work." For the films there are also production materials such as outtakes and audio and video tapes.

Series IV, TEACHING FILES, includes course materials from Milgram's teaching assignments at Yale University, Harvard University, and the City University of New York. The series includes Milgram's notes, audio tapes of some class lectures and discussions, class rosters, syllabi, examination questions, and student papers and other assignments. The most extensive files are those for courses in experimental psychology. These files include the apparatus of studies carried out by the class as well as some data and data analysis generated by the study and records of expenditures. Some of these class studies relate to work Milgram developed in his own later studies, such as the lost letter technique and the cyranoid study. Milgram's interests in photography, film, and video are also reflected in these files.

Series V, DATA FILES, is composed of data collected by Milgram in the course of eleven of his studies; Milgram generated the bulk of the data in the Cyranic, New York-Paris, Obedience, Small world, and TV violence studies. The accumulated data includes lists of subjects, correspondence with subjects, questionnaires and other forms completed by subjects, audio and video tapes of experiments, and transcripts of interviews. (Some examples of questionnaire forms are included in Series II.) Motion picture film footage of actual experimental situations, made at the end of the obedience to authority study, was used in the production of Milgram's film Obedience. This data is arranged with other material pertaining to the film in Series III. anonymized copies of the film have been transferred to a video tape (box 85), which is open to research.

Oversize materials from all series and anonymized copies of data files in Series V are filed at the end of the papers. The listing includes cross-references to all materials which have been arranged with the oversize or anonymized data.

The reader should note from these descriptions that there is no one place to look for all material on a particular topic or of a particular document type. In searching a subject, Milgram's work on obedience or on his cyranic studies for example, relevant material might be found in: the Chronological section of GENERAL FILES around the time of the experiment or in exchanges with selected correspondents in the Alphabetical section; in STUDIES under the name of the experiment; in the WRITINGS series, since Milgram often wrote or spoke about his experimental work; in TEACHING FILES since Milgram often used his studies as the basis for class assignments and discussion; and in DATA FILES which contain the raw data from an experiment. Similarly, there is no one series for all of Milgram's correspondence, audio tapes, photographs or any other document type. One can find correspondence, for example, in the GENERAL FILES in either the chronological or alphabetical sections; in the files for any particular experiment in STUDIES; in the WRITINGS concerning a publication or speaking engagement; or with subjects in the DATA FILES. The folder listing highlights files of audio tapes, video tapes, and films. Photographs are also noted, though individual photographs attached as enclosures in a letter are not listed separately.


  • 1927-1993


Conditions Governing Access

Recommendations in boxes 19 and 20 are restricted until 2060.

Materials in Series V, Data Files, are restricted for seventy-five years from the date of the conclusion of the experiment (2035-2060).

Original audiovisual materials, as well as preservation and duplicating masters, may not be played. Researchers must consult use copies, or if none exist must pay for a use copy, which is retained by the repository. Researchers wishing to obtain an additional copy for their personal use should consult Copying Services information on the Manuscripts and Archives web site.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright and other associated proprietary rights are retained by the estate of Alexandra Milgram for materials authored or otherwise produced by Stanley Milgram. 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 Alexandra Milgram, 1985, 1992, 1993, 1998, 2007, 2008, and 2016.


The materials are arranged in five series and four additions: I. General Files, 1954-1985; II. Studies, 1927-1984; III. Writings, 1954-1993; IV. Teaching Files, 1960-1984; V. Data files, 1960-1984.


293.85 Linear Feet (614 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


The papers consist of correspondence, research and data files, writings, audiovisual material, and course material, documenting Stanley Milgram's work as an innovative researcher and teacher in the field of social psychology. The papers highlight Milgram's work on obedience to authority, television violence, urban psychology, and communication patterns within society.

Biographical / Historical

Stanley Milgram was born in New York City, on August 15, 1933. He attended James Monroe High School in the Bronx, graduating in 1950. After receiving an A.B. degree from Queens College in 1954, he entered Harvard University's Department of Social Relations as a Ford Foundation fellow in the behavioral sciences.

At Harvard, Milgram studied with Gordon W. Allport and Solomon E. Asch. Milgram served as Asch's teaching assistant at Harvard and later worked as his research assistant at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. From 1957 to 1959 Milgram conducted field research leading to his 1960 Ph.D. dissertation "Conformity in Norway and France." Milgram continued to examine conformity and the effects of group pressure in later experiments at Yale University.

From 1960 to 1963 Milgram was an assistant professor of psychology at Yale. During this time he conducted his innovative and controversial experiments on obedience to authority. Milgram's experiment was designed to examine how far one individual will go in hurting another at the behest of a recognized authority figure. Employing more than twenty variations of the experimental situation, Milgram examined the relation of gender, setting, education, and other factors on an individual's willingness to comply with the experimenter's orders to give electric shocks to another person. The experiments also provoked controversy relating to the ethics of experimenting on human subjects. Milgram's findings appeared in numerous articles. He later described his work in the book Obedience to Authority: an Experimental View (1974).

From 1963 through 1967 Milgram taught psychology at Harvard University and served as the executive director of the Comparative International Program in the Department of Social Research. During this period he investigated communications systems. Using his lost letter technique Milgram developed a method for gauging community attitudes toward political groups and other institutions. By deliberately losing stamped envelopes addressed to various organizations and individuals and comparing the proportions of letters found and mailed to each target, Milgram was able to gauge the prevailing attitude toward the various organizations. In his small world research, Milgram sought a method to determine how many intermediate acquaintance links are needed to connect any two people in the world.

Milgram accepted a professorship in psychology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York in 1967, on whose faculty he would remain until the end of his life. He received a Guggenheim fellowship to study in Paris during the academic year 1972-1973. In 1980 he was made Distinguished Professor of Psychology.

Early in his tenure at CUNY, Milgram designed an experiment to examine the influence of violence in television programming on individual behavior. Milgram was able to get CBS to produce a particular episode of its dramatic series Medical Center with three different endings and he used these three versions in a series of field experiments in which resulting anti-social acts could be observed.

At CUNY Milgram also expanded his interest in the field of urban psychology, studying such concepts as groups and crowds, overload, social intrusion, the familiar stranger, and cognitive maps. In the latter study Milgram analyzed and compared the ability of New Yorkers and Parisians to identify photographs of various locations throughout their cities and to represent their city on a hand-drawn map. While at CUNY Milgram also studied the sociological and psychological effects of the camera and photography as a human activity.

At the very end of his life, Milgram was engaged in a set of experiments in which subjects interviewed an individual who appeared to be conversing normally but who in fact was delivering the responses and comments of a third person. The third person would communicate to him through a tiny radio receiver in the ear. Milgram called this technique "cyranic speech."

In addition to his books and numerous papers, Milgram was an accomplished documentary filmmaker. His films included Obedience, Invitation to Social Psychology, Independence and Conformity, Nonverbal Communication, and Human Aggression. He won a silver medal at the International Film and Television Festival in 1972 for his work on The City and the Self. His films were distributed widely for use in teaching about social psychology.

Milgram was a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Psychological Association, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He died on December 20, 1984.

Guide to the Stanley Milgram Papers
compiled by Diane E. Kaplan with Lynn Kalinauskas, George R. Krompacky, Jr., Kimberly I. Saylor, Robert Bartels, and staff of Manuscripts and Archives
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Revision Statements

  • April 2017: accession added

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

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