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The University of Texas at Austin


Briscoe Center Acquires the Papers of Norman Birnbaum
Papers Expand Center's Growing Intellectual History Holdings

Professor Norman Birnbaum
Professor Norman Birnbaum

October 15, 2013

The Briscoe Center has acquired the papers of American sociologist Professor Norman Birnbaum. Professor Birnbaum is a renowned intellectual who has been active in politics, academia, and journalism on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean since the 1950s.

"I chose the Briscoe Center because of the quality and depth of the collection. Having my papers there makes me feel part of a wider and broader sort of American history," said Birnbaum. "I trust that future scholars will use the documents of my own trajectory to imagine the range of experiences open to American scholars and thinkers in the past century and the beginning of this one."

Norman Birnbaum was born in New York in 1926. He has taught sociology at the London School of Economics, Oxford University, the University of Strasbourg and Amherst College. He is Professor Emeritus at Georgetown University Law Center. A prolific author and essayist, his writings include The Crisis of Industrial Society (1969), Toward a Critical Sociology (1971), and After Progress: American Social Reform and European Socialism in the Twentieth Century (2001).

Active in politics and journalism, Birnbaum was a founding editor of New Left Review and remains a member of the editorial board of The Nation. He served as an advisor to the Ted Kennedy Presidential Campaign in 1980, and as a consultant to the National Security Council. He has also worked as a consultant for several European political parties and unions.

"Norman Birnbaum's career spans the Cuban missile crisis, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and 9/11. His papers enrich the Briscoe Center's growing strength in intellectual history," said Don Carleton, executive director of the Briscoe Center. "The collection joins others at the center documenting the lives and careers of significant American scholars, including Walter Prescott Webb, Lewis Gould, Clarence Ayres, Lewis Filler, and C. Wright Mills."

This sizable collection includes Birnbaum's correspondence with academics, journalists, and other intellectuals; documents relating to his political activism; conference materials and presentations; lecture notes and teaching materials; draft copies and research notes from editorials, books, and other published works; as well as unpublished materials and restricted items.

Professor Birnbaum was "especially glad" for his archive to be connected to Austin, where his friend Professor James Galbraith (LBJ School of Public Affairs) teaches and which, "is in its own way as cosmopolitan and central to modern history as the unknown territory of Manhattan I took the subway to as a boy from the Bronx."

"For over sixty years, Norman Birnbaum has conducted one of the most diverse, fascinating, and erudite bodies of correspondence in modern American letters," said Galbraith. "Churchmen, philosophers, unionists, spies, diplomats, and revolutionaries know him, and he knows them well. His letters will inform and delight generations of scholars for years to come."