Rare Book & Manuscript Library

A. Doak Barnett papers, 1929-2010, bulk 1940-1999

Summary Information


The Arthur Doak Barnett Papers consist of personal and professional documents created and amassed by a leading scholar and government advisor on United States-China policy and relations in the 20th century. Barnett wrote, co-authored, or edited more than 20 books on China and Asia. His papers chronicle his academic, reporting, and government careers, plus his writings and travels throughout Asia and China from the 1940s through the 1990s.

At a Glance

Call No.: MS#0075
Bib ID 4078917 View CLIO record
Creator(s) Barnett, A. Doak
Title A. Doak Barnett papers, 1929-2010, bulk 1940-1999
Physical Description 92 linear feet (182 manuscript boxes)
Language(s) English , French , Korean , Japanese , Chinese .
Access You will need to make an appointment in advance to use this collection material in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room. You can schedule an appointment once you've submitted your request through your Special Collections Research Account.

This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least three business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.

This collection has no restrictions.



This collection is arranged in six series. Folder names given by Barnett have been retained when possible. Items pertaining to Eugene E. Barnett have been moved to the Eugene E. Barnett Papers 1905-1970, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University.


Scope and Content

The collection consists of documents created in the course of Barnett's academic and government careers. Included are typed and handwritten letters, reports, speeches, organizational records, academic records, instructional materials, manuscripts, photographs, cassette tapes and videos, maps, and some books.

Among the major works included are Cadres, Bureaucracy and Political Power, China and the Major Powers, Uncertain Passage, China's Economy in Global Persepctive, and the unpublished manuscript of "Reds, Rice and Revolution." Files on Association for Asian Studies projects and Barnett's Oreon Scott Lectures are also included. Also, extensive files on Columbia University, the Ford Foundation, additional materials on China's Economy in Global Perspective and other writings of Mr. Barnett.

  • Series I: Academic and Government Career, 1929-1999

    Academic and Government Career contains material from Barnett's education at Yale University and teaching tenures at Columbia University and Johns Hopkins University plus research while at the Brookings Institution. Included are documents related to numerous consultancies, activities, and honors upon retirement and his death and memorial service. Folders marked "Completed" contain accepted invitations, announcements, and requests to attend and/or speak at conferences, workshops, parties, and other professional and social events. Not included are invitations, announcements, and requests, which Barnett marked "Refused."

  • Series II: Organizations, 1950-1998

    Organizations consists of correspondence, meeting announcements, minutes, reports, background papers, and other documents from Barnett's participation throughout his career in several research and policy organizations in the United States and worldwide.

  • Series III: Alphabetical and Chronological Files, 1948-1990

    Alphabetical, Chronological consists primarily of carbon copies of correspondence Barnett dictated throughout his professional career. Some items have attachments.

  • Series IV: Writings and Master files, 1939-1997

    Writings and Master Files contains news dispatches, essays, opinion pieces, journal articles, books, and other works written by Barnett from his undergraduate days at Yale and reporting for the Chicago Daily News through retirement. He wrote the introduction to the once ubiquitous red paperback, Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung, published in 1967.

  • Series V: Mixed Media:, 1940-1997

    Mixed Media contains materials in various formats including handwritten notecards and pocket spiral notebooks, photographic prints and negatives, audio and video recordings, and travel and tourism items.

  • Series VI: Listed files

    This series is not as thoroughly processed as the preceeding five series.


Boxes 99-182 are correct in the finding aid, and have the correct barcodes in ReCAP.  Note though that the physical boxes are labeled 1-84.

Using the Collection

Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Restrictions on Access

You will need to make an appointment in advance to use this collection material in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room. You can schedule an appointment once you've submitted your request through your Special Collections Research Account.

This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least three business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.

This collection has no restrictions.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. The RBML maintains ownership of the physical material only. Copyright remains with the creator and his/her heirs. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.

Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Arthur Doak Barnett Papers; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

Related Resources:

"Interview: A. Doak Barnett." (Washington, D.C.: The Brookings Review, Fall, 1982, pp. 21-23).

"A. Doak Barnett Memorial Essay Contest." (New York: National Committee on United States-China Relations. 2000).

Obituary. "Arthur Doak Barnett, an American mandarin, died on March 17th, aged 77." (London: The Economist. March 25, 1999).

Oksenberg, Michel. "Obituary: In Memory of A. Doak Barnett." (Cambridge University Press: The China Quarterly, No. 158 (Jun., 1999), pp. 484-487).

Tyler, Patrick E. "A. Doak Barnett Dies; China Scholar, 77." (New York: The New York Times, March 19, 1999).

Eugene E. Barnett Papers 1905-1970, Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University


Materials may have been added to the collection since this finding aid was prepared. Contact rbml@columbia.edu for more information.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Date of acquisition--1980. Accession number--M80.

Gift of A. Doak Barnett, 1980, 1981, 1982.

Gift of Jeanne B. Barnett, 2010. Accession #2009-2010-M090.

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Processing Information

Processed by Jacqueline Rider, Pratt Institute, 2014.

Finding aid written by Jacqueline Rider in August 2014.

Revision Description

2009-03-25 File created.

2019-03-25 container/title XML structure fixed to just container kws

2019-05-20 EAD was imported spring 2019 as part of the ArchivesSpace Phase II migration.

Subject Headings

The subject headings listed below are found in this collection. Links below allow searches at Columbia University through the Archival Collections Portal and through CLIO, the catalog for Columbia University Libraries, as well as ArchiveGRID, a catalog that allows users to search the holdings of multiple research libraries and archives.

All links open new windows.


Heading "CUL Archives:"
"CUL Collections:"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
Association for Asian Studies Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Barnett, A. Doak Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Barnett, Eugene E. Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Brookings Institution Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Carter, Jimmy, 1924- Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Center for Strategic and International Studies (Washington, D.C.) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Chiang, Kai-shek, 1887-1975 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Chicago Daily News, Inc. Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
China -- Economic conditions -- 20th century Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
China -- Politics and government -- 20th century Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
College teachers Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Columbia University -- Faculty Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Council on Foreign Relations Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Democratic National Committee (U.S.) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Ford Foundation Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Humphrey, Hubert H. (Hubert Horatio), 1911-1978 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Institute of Current World Affairs Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Johns Hopkins University. School of Advanced International Studies Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Joint Committee on Contemporary China Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Kissinger, Henry, 1923- Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Mao, Zedong, 1893-1976 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
National Committee on United States-China Relations Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Nixon, Richard M. (Richard Milhous), 1913-1994 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Oksenberg, Michel, 1938- Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Political science -- Study and teaching Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Taiwan -- Foreign relations -- China Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
United States. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Yale University -- Students Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

History / Biographical Note

Biographical / Historical

Arthur Doak Barnett (1921-1999) was born in Shanghai, the fourth child of Eugene Epperson and Bertha Smith Barnett. His father worked in China for the Young Men's Christian Association until 1936 when the family returned to the United States. Barnett graduated from Yale University summa cum laude with undergraduate and master's degrees in international relations. He served in the U.S. Marine Corp in the Pacific during World War II.

In 1947 Barnett returned to China as a fellow of the Institute of Current World Affairs and a correspondent for the Chicago Daily News. He traveled throughout China, covering the civil war, the occupation of Peking (Beijing) in 1949, and the establishment of the People's Republic of China. After the revolution he became a public affairs officer for the American Consulate General in Hong Kong. A 1955 Daily News clipping described him as "the last American correspondent to leave China after the Reds took over.".

Returning to the United States in 1959, Barnett joined the Ford Foundation where he secured funds for research projects on China despite the political climate of McCarthyism. He joined the Columbia University faculty in 1961 as Professor of Public Law and Government and taught there for eight years. His students included Kenneth Lieberthal, an advisor on China to the Clinton Administration, and Michel Oksenberg, who participated in the Carter Administration's establishment of diplomatic relations with China.

In 1966 Barnett was principal witness for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee review of U.S. China policy. Consistently advocating a non-confrontational approach, he advised Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon to reach out to China, coining the phrase ''containment without isolation." President Ronald Reagan adopted Barnett's position against the sale of jet fighters to Taiwan in early 1980s, and the Bush and Clinton Administrations were guided by his views on the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.

Barnett was instrumental in establishing several organizations on China, including the Joint Committee on Contemporary China, the Committee on Scholarly Communications with the People's Republic of China, and the National Committee on US-China Relations.

He returned to China many times throughout his life to conduct research that formed the basis for his many published works and as a member of delegations and exchanges he helped to organize. He told an interviewer his most interesting years were spent traveling to every province in China, often on horseback, in the 1940s as a half-time reporter for the Daily News.

"We in the West, and particularly in the United States, keep going through cycles, or swings of the pendulum, from unrealistic euphoria about China to a feeling of disillusionment because it doesn't live up to our unrealistic expectations. " (Brookings, 22).

A. Doak Barnett died at age 77 in Washington, D.C.