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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.

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)
Related Names
Milgram, Stanley, 1933-1984
Language of Materials