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Ronald Dworkin papers

Call Number: MS 2071

Scope and Contents

The Ronald Dworkin papers document Dworkin’s life and career as a law professor, author, and legal philosopher. Materials primarily document his professional career and activities, including his work at Yale University, Oxford University, and New York University, as well as his academic and popular writing. A smaller amount of personal material is included, primarily from his youth.

The materials primarily contain writings and correspondence by Dworkin and other authors. Dworkin’s writings include published and draft manuscript and electronic copies of books and articles, outlines, and notes. Writings by other authors include published copies, reprints, and photocopies of articles and books, and are often related to or discuss Dworkin’s work. Correspondence includes typed letters in both physical and digital formats, as well as email. The collection also includes conference and event-related papers, course materials, personal financial and legal documents, research materials on specific subjects, and press clippings and reviews, along with a smaller amount of photographs, memorabilia, and ephemera. Many folders contain photocopies, clippings, or offprints of articles on a range of subjects. Groupings which focus on a specific theme have been noted. Many materials are annotated, primarily by Dworkin, but also by other unidentified authors. Dworkin’s professional activities are also documented in digital and audiovisual material in a variety of formats.

Materials document Dworkin’s activities from his youth through his final years. Coverage is inconsistent, however, and only a small amount of material exists for the period from the mid-1970s through the mid-1980s. The most well-documented time periods are the late 1960s and from the late 1980s until the 2010s.


  • 1938-2013


Language of Materials

The materials are predominantly in English. A small amount of material, primarily translations of Dworkin’s work or materials relating to events Dworkin attended, is in Greek, Italian, Japanese, and Mandarin.

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

1TB WD My Passport Ultra HD external hard drive (Item 2017-m-0051-0194) in Series IX, Computer Files, is unprocessed and may contain sensitive information or be in a physical state that would prohibit use. Researchers wishing to request access should email The request should outline the scope and purpose of the research project, why the researcher believes the material is relevant to their project, and contact information. If possible the request should also include a list of specific material of interest. The review may take several weeks.

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 of non-commercially produced items for their personal use should consult the ordering reproductions information on the Manuscripts and Archives website.

Original computer files may not be accessed due to their fragility. Researchers must consult access copies.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright is retained by Irene Brendel Dworkin for materials authored or otherwise produced by Ronald Dworkin. After the lifetime of Irene Brendal Dworkin or until 1 May 2035, whichever comes first, copyright passes to Yale. 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.

Copies of commercially produced audiovisual materials contained in this collection cannot be made for researcher use outside of the repository.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Irene Brendel Dworkin, 2016, 2019.


The papers are arranged in nine series and one addition: I. Numerical Files, 1948-2006. II. Conference and Event Files, 1968, 1987-2012. III. Correspondence, 1955-2012. IV. Course Materials, Circa 1963-2003. V. Personal Files, 1938-2013, undated. VI. Subject Files, 1987-2002, undated. VII. Writings, 1955-2013. VIII. Audiovisual Materials, Circa 1980s-circa 2000s. IX. Computer Files, Circa 1985-2013; and one addition.

Related Materials

Books were removed from the collection and transferred to the Lillian Goldman Law Library for individual cataloging.


38.17 Linear Feet (96 boxes)

285257 Computer Files (40.08 gigabytes)

1 External Hard Drives (1 terabyte)

Catalog Record

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

Persistent URL

Biographical / Historical

Ronald Dworkin was a legal philosopher, law professor, and writer. He wrote widely in both the academic and popular press and was a faculty member at Yale University, Oxford University, New York University, and University College London. Dworkin was born on December 11, 1931 in Providence, Rhode Island. He earned a BA from Harvard University in 1953; a BA from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar, in 1955; and an LLB from Harvard Law School in 1957.

After graduating, Dworkin clerked with Judge Learned Hand on the United States Second Circuit Court of Appeals. He then practiced law with the Sullivan & Cromwell firm in New York City. In 1962, he accepted a position as professor of law at Yale Law School, where he was later appointed to the Wesley N. Hohfeld Chair of Jurisprudence. From 1966 to 1969 he served as master of Trumbull College at Yale. In 1969, Dworkin left Yale to take a position at Oxford University, replacing H. L. A. Hart as chair of jurisprudence. Beginning in 1975, he held concurrent faculty positions at New York University and Oxford. At NYU, he founded and ran, with Thomas Nagel, the annual Colloquium in Legal, Political, and Social Philosophy. In 1997, Dworkin retired from Oxford and accepted a position as Professor of Jurisprudence at University College London.

Dworkin wrote and published extensively in both academic legal journals and the popular press. He published several books, including Taking Rights Seriously, Law’s Empire, Sovereign Virtue, and Justice for Hedgehogs. In addition, he wrote frequently for a general audience in publications including the Observer (UK), the New York Times, and most frequently in the New York Review of Books, where he was a regular contributor from the late 1960s through 2013.

Dworkin married Betsy Ross in 1958; they had two children, Jennifer and Anthony. Betsy died in 2000, and Dworkin later married Irene Brendel. Dworkin died on February 14, 2013.

Custodial History

The Ronald Dworkin papers were transferred to Yale in three portions. The first and third portions was transferred from London to the Yale Law Library and from the Yale Law Library to Manuscripts and Archives. The second portion was transferred from Dworkin’s offices at New York University to Manuscripts and Archives.

Separated Materials

Duplicate material and some financial and real estate records were removed from the collection and returned to the donor. Some original clippings and copies of Dworkin publications were photocopied for preservation, and the originals were returned to the donor. Commercially produced cassettes and videotapes were removed and returned to the donor. Books were transferred to the Lillian Goldman Law Library at Yale.

Approximately 331.4 gigabytes of computer files were removed from the digital materials in the collection, including deleted, duplicate, system, and software files. The laptops and hard drive backups contained accounts and documents from other users in addition to Dworkin. Materials from these other user accounts were identified when possible and removed from the collection. 95 3.5 inch floppy disks, 5 5.25 inch floppy disks, 5 ZIP drives, 1 SuperDisk, 1 CD-R, and 1 laptop contained only separated files. These materials were stored in boxes 29, 30, 32, and 35 in the original accession of the collection. Since those materials have been separated, those box numbers are no longer used.

Processing Information

Materials arrived to the repository in three accessions, two from London and one from New York City. The first two accessions were integrated during processing. A third, later accession was processed and arranged separately. All materials were refoldered and reboxed, and materials were rearranged to varying degrees.

More detailed notes on processing and arrangement are included in the description for each series or accession.

Guide to the Ronald Dworkin Papers
compiled by Eric Sonnenberg
April 2019
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Revision Statements

  • April 2021: Series IX, Computer Files, was processed and description added.
  • November 2021: Series Accession 2019-m-0059 was processed and description added.

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

Yale University Library
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