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Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Randolph Silliman Bourne Papers, 1910-1966 

Bourne, Randolph Silliman, 1886-1918
Phys. Desc: 
8.5 linear feet (20 document boxes)
Call Number: 
Rare Book & Manuscript Library
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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.

Scope and Contents

Correspondence and manuscripts of the radical essayist Randolph Bourne (1886-1918). 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 Other essays, published and unpublished at the time of Bourne's death, and several poems are included.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.