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HUGFP 15.xx and HUGFP 42.xx

Parsons, Talcott, 1902-1979. Papers of Talcott Parsons, 1921-1979 : an inventory

Harvard University Archives


Harvard University

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: HUGFP 15.xx and HUGFP 42.xx
Repository: Harvard University Archives
Creator: Parsons, Talcott, 1902-1979
Title: Papers of Talcott Parsons,
Date(s): 1921-1979
Quantity: 66 cubic feet (198 boxes and 10 folders of mss.)
Abstract: Parsons taught sociology at Harvard and was Chairman of the Department of Social Relations from 1946 to 1956. Papers reflect Parsons' involvement in professional societies, Harvard committees, and his writing, teaching, lecturing, and publishing activities.


  • 7352 June 10, 1974 T. Parsons
  • 7517 Jan. 15, 1975 T. Parsons
  • 7605 July 21, 1975 T. Parsons
  • 8751 Aug. 31, 1979 Mrs. T. Parsons
  • 8931 6-20-1980 Mrs. T. Parsons
  • 9211 6-16-1981 Mrs. T. Parsons
  • 9533 8-13-1982 Victor Lidz
  • 9723 May 9, 1983 Mrs. T. Parsons
  • 10044 4-30-1984 Charles D. Parsons
  • 11462 7-12-1988 Charles D. Parsons
  • 11842 9-26-1989 Prof. Renee C. Fox
  • 12004 7-23-1990 Mrs. T. Parsons
  • 12140 2-22-1991 via Lois Lord
  • Restrictions on Access:

    Access is restricted. Consult reference staff of the Harvard University Archives for details.


    Talcott Parsons (1902-1979) was an educator and scholar of sociology. He contributed to the field of sociological theory, particularly through his development of a "general theory of action." Parsons spent most of his professional career at Harvard University, where he was affiliated with the various incarnations of the sociology department for thirty-two years.
    Parsons graduated from Amherst College in 1924, having majored in philosophy and biology. In 1925 he redirected his intellectual focus and entered the London School of Economics, studying with Bronislaw Malinowski, L.T. Hobhouse and Morris Ginsberg. The following year he received a fellowship at the University of Heidelberg, where he first encountered the work of Weber. Parsons completed his doctoral dissertation, on the concept of capitalism in recent German scholarship, in 1927 while teaching economics at Amherst. The following year he joined the Harvard faculty as an instructor in economics. He continued to teach at the University until his retirement in 1973.
    Parsons' career is entwined with the development of sociology as an academic discipline at Harvard. In 1931 he joined Carle Zimmerman and Pitirim Sorokin as inaugural faculty in the Department of Sociology. Gordon Allport and Henry Murray, of the Psychology Department, and Clyde Kluckhohn, of the Anthropology Department, joined with Parsons in 1945 to establish the Department of Social Relations. This department became a landmark of interdisciplinary collaboration in the behavioral sciences and served as a model for similar departments at other institutions. Parsons served as chairman for the first ten years and continued to work enthusiastically in the Department until its dissolution in 1972.
    Parsons' scholarship is unified by his effort to draft a set of concepts of the determinants of human behavior. He began to develop his "general theory of action" in Structure of Social Action (1937). He refined this theory in Social System and Towards a General Theory of Action (both published in 1951). Parsons spent the later years of his career further modifying his theory and eventually applying it to discrete social situations.

    List of Series in the Collection

    Scope and Content of the Collection

    Papers reflect Parsons' involvement in professional societies, Harvard committees, and his writing, teaching, lecturing, and publishing activities.

    Inventory update

    This document last updated 2016 February 9.

    Container List