Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Randolph Silliman Bourne Papers, 1910-1966

Summary Information


Correspondence and manuscripts of the radical essayist Randolph Bourne (1886-1918).

At a Glance

Call No.: MS#0138
Bib ID 4079396 View CLIO record
Creator(s) Bourne, Randolph Silliman, 1886-1918
Title Randolph Silliman Bourne Papers, 1910-1966
Physical Description 8.5 linear feet (20 document boxes)
Language(s) English .

This collection is located on-site.

This collection has no restrictions.



Material is arranged into three series.



The collection is primarily composed of Randolph Silliman Bourne's correspondence and manuscripts, the majority of which date from approximately 1910 through 1918. The original manuscript of "The State"—one of the works for which he is best known, despite its being unfinished at the time of his death—is present. Other essays, published and unpublished at the time of Bourne's death, and several poems are included. A small group of letters, unpublished manuscripts, and published works about Bourne are also included in Series III.

  • Series I: Correspondence, circa 1910-1918

    Series I includes both personal and professional correspondence: letters written to Bourne by his friends, and letters from magazines and publishers regarding his writings.

  • Series II: Manuscripts and Documents, circa 1910-1918

    Series II includes manuscripts and typescripts of Bourne's works. The original manuscript of "The State"—one of the works for which he is best known, despite its being unfinished at the time of his death—is present. Other essays, published and unpublished at the time of Bourne's death, and several poems are included. In addition to Bourne's more formal writings, his notebooks and course materials from Columbia University, circa 1909-1913, are also in Series II, as are his European travel diaries and ephemera from 1913-1914. Clippings and pamphlets on topics of interest to Bourne, including educational reform and political movements, are included in the series as well.

  • Series III: Materials on Bourne, by others, 1918-1994

    Series III includes works by others about Bourne, such as correspondence, biographers' handwritten notes, and publications. All, or nearly all, of these materials were written after Bourne's death. Series III also includes posthumous publications of Bourne's work.

Using the Collection

Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Restrictions on Access

This collection is located on-site.

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); Randolph Silliman Bourne papers; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

Related Materials

Arthur Whittier Macmahon Papers: Papers of Bourne's Columbia University classmate and friend, who became the university's Eaton Professor of Public Administration. Includes correspondence between Bourne and Macmahon, as well as notes and correspondence about Bourne. At the Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University.

Alyse Gregory Papers: Papers of Randolph Bourne's close friend and biographer Alyse Gregory, containing correspondence between Bourne and Gregory dating from 1913 through 1918, as well as Gregory's biography of Bourne. Some of the letters may have originally been included in the Bourne correspondence given to Columbia University by Agnes de Lima. At the Beinecke Library, Yale University.

Agnes de Lima Collection of Alyse Gregory: Includes letters from Gregory to de Lima discussing Gregory's biography of Randolph Bourne and de Lima's memories of Bourne. At the Beinecke Library, Yale University.

Elizabeth Shepley Sergeant Papers: Papers of Bourne's friend and fellow New Republic contributor. Includes correspondence between Sergeant and Bourne dating from 1915 to 1916. At the Beinecke Library, Yale University.

James Oppenheim Papers: Papers of Bourne's Seven Arts publisher, fellow World War I opponent, and elegist James Oppenheim. At the Manuscripts and Archives Division of the New York Public Library.

Alternate Form Available

Boxes 1-10 have: microfilm copy.

Ownership and Custodial History

Gift of Agnes De Lima, 1955-1966; gift of John Moreau, 1966; gift of Mrs. Arthur W. MacMahon, 1978.

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Processing Information

Cataloged Christina Hilton Fenn 04/07/89.

Revision Description

2009-06-26 File created.

2013-03-25 xml document instance created by Carrie Hintz

2019-02-04 Finding aid updated by Celeste Brewer: related materials and custodial history notes added; biographical and scope and content notes revised; and Series III added to better distinguish between items created or owned by Bourne, and items created after his death.

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:"
Columbia College (New York, N.Y.) -- Students Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
De Lima, Agnes Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Disability studies Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Education Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Europe -- Description and travel Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Gregory, Alyse, 1884-1967 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Moreau, John Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Political science Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Publishers and publishing Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Radicalism -- United States -- History -- 20th century Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Teall, Dorothy Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
World War, 1914-1918 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

History / Biographical Note

Biographical Note

Randolph Silliman Bourne was a radical leftist intellectual and essayist. He was born in Bloomfield, New Jersey in 1886. His difficult birth left him with facial scars from an improper forceps delivery, and a bout of spinal tuberculosis at the age of four curved his spine and stunted his growth. His essay "The Handicapped—By One of Them," published in the Atlantic Monthly in 1911, is a foundational work in disability studies. Bourne is best known for his essays in The Seven Arts and The New Republic that sharply criticized U.S. involvement in World War I and that took American intellectuals, notably his former mentor John Dewey, to task for their support of U.S. interventionist policy.

Bourne attended Columbia University, where he studied under John Dewey and Charles Beard. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1912 and a Master's in 1913. He was a contributor to, and eventually editor of, the Columbia Monthly. While enrolled at Columbia, Bourne also published regularly in the Atlantic Monthly; his collected essays for that magazine were published as Youth and Life by Houghton Mifflin in 1913.

From 1913 to 1914, Bourne studied in Europe on Columbia University's Richard Watson Gilder Fellowship. After returning to New York, he resumed his writing career, publishing extensively in The New Republic and The Dial, and in other outlets. He also published The Gary Schools (1916) and Education and Living (1917) books advocating for progressive educational reforms. He became a contributing editor of The Dial in 1918.

Published sources disagree on the exact date, but Randolph Bourne died of influenza in New York City on or around December 23, 1918.