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COLLECTION Identifier: MS Am 2031

Erik H. and Joan M. Erikson papers

Papers of American psychoanalyst, educator, and author Erik Erikson.


  • 1925-1985
  • Majority of material found in 1960-1980

Language of Materials

Collection materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on physical access to the bulk of this material.

Due to the confidential nature of the sections labeled "Clinical letters and Compositions of a Clinical Nature," these sections have been restricted and may only be consulted with the written permission of Professor Kai Erikson, Department of Sociology, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut 06520.

Audio tape recordings, item (1744): Restricted: fragile; use surrogate. For access to original consult curatorial staff. [Readers must use listening copies of these original tapes].


25.7 linear feet (79 boxes)

The papers of Erik Homburger Erikson, the German born American psychoanalyst and educator, contain correspondence, compositions, source files, clinical records (including notes, drawings, photographs and slides), clippings, audio tapes of presentations and awards and citations. There are some materials concerning his co-editor and wife, Joan Mowat Serson Erikson. The collection spans the American years, almost nothing is here that pre-dates their 1933 arrival in the United States. Though the papers contain letters and compositions between 1933 and 1960, the bulk of the papers are post-1960. The correspondence sections are abundant in letters with colleagues of the psychoanalytic/academic community such as Peter Blos, Anna Freud, Gerald Holton, Julian Huxley, Sudhir Kakar, Robert P. Knight, Robert Lifton, Margaret Mead, Alexander Mitscherlich, Lois Barclay Murphy, Maria and Gerhart Piers, Don Price, David Rapaport, David Riesman, Nevitt Sanford, Neil Smelser, Benjamin Spock, David Van Tassel and Robert Wallerstein. Erikson's connection to the Austen Riggs center, Stockbridge, Massachusetts figures prominently in both the correspondence and the clinical sections of the papers. There are also lenghty files to and from the W.W. Norton Publishing Co., George Brockway, President. Family letters are rare--there are only a few letters to and from his children and his sisters.

Of particular note in the composition sections are the manuscripts for the various lecture series that Erikson delivered throughout the years, such as: lectures in India (both in the 1960's and 1970's), the Gauss seminars at Princeton University (1969), Loyola University (Chicago, 1970), Godkin lectures at Harvard University (1972), the Jefferson lectures for the National Endowment for the Humanities (1973), and the Einstein lectures for the symposium in Jerusalem (1979). Materials relating to "Play" abound throughout. There are, however, no manuscripts for his major works, Childhood and Society, Young Man Luther or Gandhi's Truth and there are scant materials relating to his teaching at Harvard University during the 1960's. The compositions of a clinical nature contain observation notes, photos, slides and drawings of patients and subjects from various time periods including: work at Yale University in the 1930's; University of California--Berkeley study from the 1940's; Austen Riggs work from the 1950's-1970's; research carried out in India and Pakistan, the Charleston Playhouse, the Manhattan Country Day School and the Crow Indians, from the 1960's and 1970's.

Biographical / Historical

German born (as Erik Homburger), Erik Erikson (1902-1994) was an American psychoanalyst, educator and author. In 1930 he married Joan Mowat Serson, a Canadian dancer and artist. In 1933 they immigrated from Vienna to the U.S. He was best known for his work in child development and life-span studies, coining the phrase "identity crisis", and in the field that became known as psychohistory.


Organized into the following series:
  1. I. Letters to Erik H. Erikson
  2. II. Letters from Erik H. Erikson
  3. III. Other letters
  4. IV. Routine letters to and from Erik H. Erikson
  5. V. Clinical letters to and from Erik H. Erikson
  6. VI. Compositions by Erik H. Erikson
  7. ___a. Compositions, 1929-1984
  8. ___ b. Undated compositions and notes
  9. ___c. Compositions of a clinical nature, 1925-1971
  10. ___d. Audio tape recording compositions
  11. VII. Compositions by others
  12. VIII. Other material
  13. ___a. Printed material by Erik H. Erikson
  14. ___b. Printed material by others
  15. ___c. Awards and citations of Erik H. Erikson
Please note that several item numbers were inadvertently omitted from this finding aid, thus numbering will not always be sequential.

Physical Location

b, pf

Immediate Source of Acquisition

85M-42. Gift of Erik H. and Joan M. Erikson, 2A St. John's Road Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, to the President and Fellows of Harvard College: The Erik H. and Joan M. Erikson Center, a branch of the Harvard Department of Psychiatry, and the Houghton Library of the Harvard College Library; received: 1985.

2004M-132. pfMS Am 2031 (1923): Gift of Lawrence Jacob Friedman; received: 2005 May 11.

Processing Information

Processed by: Bonnie B. Salt
Link to catalog
Erikson, Erik H. (Erik Homburger), 1902-1994. Erik H. and Joan M. Erikson papers, 1925-1985: Guide.
Houghton Library, Harvard College Library

Repository Details

Part of the Houghton Library Repository

Houghton Library is Harvard College's principal repository for rare books and manuscripts, literary and performing arts archives, and more. The library's holdings of primary source material are managed by an expert staff and shared with scholars, students and the public in the reading room.

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