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Thomas Szasz Papers

An inventory of his papers at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: [Summit record]
Date: 1 Jan 2001

Biographical History

Thomas Stephen Szasz (1920-2012) was an American psychiatrist and scholar, best known for his criticisms of psychiatry and of the influence of modern medicine on society.

Born in Budapest, Hungary, April 15 1920, Thomas S. Szasz emigrated to the United States in 1938. He received his medical education at the University of Cincinnati and his psychiatric training at the University of Chicago Clinics. In 1956 he became Professor of Psychiatry at the State University of New York, Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse, New York, a post he held until 1990 when he became Professor Emeritus. He was a well-known social critic of the moral and scientific foundations of psychiatry, and of the social control aims of medicine in modern society, as well as of scientism. A prolific author with strong opinions on the relationship between modern psychiatry and the state, his writings often evoked lively debate and conversations. His books include The Myth of Mental Illness (1960) and The Manufacture of Madness: A Comparative Study of the Inquisition and the Mental Health Movement (1970).

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Thomas Szasz Papers consist of correspondence, legal papers, writings and miscellany.

Correspondence includes letters between fellow psychiatrists, friends, enemies, classmates, students, patients, "fans", legal cases (involving Szasz himself and others where he was an expert witness), a lover, arrangements for paid appearances, publishing commitments and more, highlighting Szasz’s no-nonsense, succinct letter writing style. Also features groups and organizations he was involved with, including libertarian organizations and causes, free thinkers, Scientology, and awards he received. There is also correspondence between Dr. Szasz and several publishers concerning routine matters involved in the publication of his writings. Also of interest are reader responses to articles by Szasz published in various journals and magazines.

The Legal papers, 1959-1962, are comprised of a copy of a decision in a case before the U.S. Court of Appeals, Columbia Circuit, and the stenographer's minutes of Brafman v. McNeill, in which Dr. Szasz gave testimony.

The Writings, 1949-1969, consist of miscellaneous writings, articles, book reviews, books, interviews, introductions and speeches. All items within these groupings are arranged alphabetically by title. There are often numerous drafts of each item that are revised typescripts, typescript carbons or reproductions, the three of which may be contained in a single draft. The draft stages of the writing have been labeled arbitrarily. In the case of books, drafts which were identified as part of a distinct unit are arranged under the heading "Complete draft," while those not belonging to a larger unit are found under the appropriate chapter number. Some of these materials were reworked and appear as different types of writings. Thus, the article "Bootlegging Humanistic Values Through Psychiatry," became chapter 7 in the book Ideology and Insanity, and a speech entitled "Bootleg Mercy.", miscellaneous writings are materials which cannot be assigned to a particular type of writing, as with unidentified fragments or the preface to a published interview.

Miscellany, 1966-1970, contains the manuscripts of books by other people. In this section there is a revised draft of The Ordeal of Stephen Dennison by Lucy Freeman and Lisa Hoffman which is of special interest and several items of lesser import.

Arrangement of the Collection

Correspondence is arranged chronologically. Other material is arranged alphabetically by type or title.


Access Restrictions:

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.


Use Restrictions:

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Regarding legal files and case studies: No personal names are to be published without the written permission of both Dr. Szasz and the named individual(s).

Related Material

A number of books that were donated as part of the collection have been transferred to Rare Books for cataloging. Please refer to the Classic Catalog and search for "Gift of Thomas Szasz" to locate these items.

Subject Headings


Szasz, Thomas Stephen, 1920-2012.


Criminal liability -- United States.
Hungarian Americans.
Insanity (Law) -- United States.
Involuntary treatment -- Moral and ethical aspects.
Mental illness.
Psychiatric ethics.
Psychiatric hospitals.
Psychiatrists -- United States.

Genres and Forms

Drafts (documents)
Galley proofs.
Manuscripts for publication.



Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Thomas S. Szasz Papers,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Gift of Thomas S. Szasz, 1969-2009.

Table of Contents


Legal papers