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John Hersey Papers

Call Number: RG 145

Scope and Contents

This collection contains research materials gathered by Hersey while preparing to write his novel, The Call. The main figure in this novel, David Treadup, was partly based on the lives of six actual missionaries to China, including Hersey's father. Hersey did a considerable amount of research in the personal papers of China missionaries and other figures such as ecumenical leader John R. Mott. The first five notebooks contain primarily copies of original documents related to mission work and political and social events in China. The sixth notebook (which was originally in two sections) consists of Hersey's notes on a variety of secondary sources.


  • 1900-1985


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of John Hersey.


  1. I. Notebook 1
  2. II. Notebook 2
  3. III. Notebook 3
  4. IV. Notebook 4
  5. V. Notebook 5
  6. VI. Notebook 6


2.5 Linear Feet (6 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

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

Persistent URL


This collection contains research materials for Hersey's novel The Call (1985), a fictional account of a missionary to China. John Hersey (1914-1993), a prominent American author, was born in Tianjin (Tientsin), China, the son of missionaries.

Biographical / Historical

John Hersey was born on June 17, 1914 at Tianjin (Tientsin), China, where his parents were missionaries. His father, Roscoe M. Hersey, Sr. worked for the YMCA. John Hersey returned to America where he attended Hotchkiss and then Yale, graduating in 1936. He spent a year at Clare College, Cambridge, served as secretary to Sinclair Lewis briefly and joined Time in 1937. During the Second World War broke out he was sent to the Far East and travelled in China and Japan, before becoming a war correspondent with the Marines. He went on to write numerous novels on a variety of subject. Hersey died in 1993.

Processing Information

Place names were modernized in the description, with the name originally used in the collection material or in an older version of the finding aid in parenthesis: e.g. “Beijing (Peking)” or “Benin (Dahomey)”. Original alphabetization has been maintained: e.g. "Beijing (Peking)" is still alphabetized under "P".

Guide to the John Hersey Papers
Compiled by Martha Lund Smalley
Description rules
Finding Aid Prepared According To Local Divinity Library Descriptive Practices
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Yale Divinity Library Repository

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