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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 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, as well as the intersection of law and psychiatry.

Born in Budapest, Hungary, April 15 1920, Thomas Stephen 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 libertarian, Szasz advocated for the legalization of all drugs, the abolition of involuntary incarceration, and "the right to be mentally ill." Szasz was a prolific author with strong opinions on the relationship between modern psychiatry and the state, and 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 biographical material, correspondence, financial material, memorabilia, subject files, writings by Szasz and by others, and media.

Biographical material contains biographical and autobiographical sketches, both published (e.g., in Who's Who in America) and unpublished.

Correspondence-subject files contains both incoming and (because Szasz regularly retained carbons of his letters) outgoing correspondence. A small amount of family correspondence is filed first, including his parents, brother George, and daughters Margot and Suzy. The vast majority of the correspondence is with readers, editors, publishers, medical colleagues (physicians, psychiatrists, psychologists), lawyers, medical journals, and others with whom he interacted professionally. Individuals and organizations of note include Melvin Belli, Burton Blatt, William F. Buckley, the Church of Scientology (in both the United States and other countries), Timothy Leary, the New York Times, and Karl Popper. Many of the correspondents also appear in the Subject files and in the Writings by others series; the researcher is encouraged to review the full finding aid thoroughly to ensure locating all relevant material.

Financial material consists almost entirely of royalty statements from American and foreign publishers. There are a few folders of bills and financial settlements.

Memorabilia contains awards, personal documentation relating to military service and naturalization as a US citizen, photographs, printed material about Szasz (clippings, reprints, journal articles), scrapbooks, and travel receipts and souvenirs.

Recordings contains audio and video recordings, some commercial but most home-made. Included here are recordings of Szasz speaking at conferences, appearing on radio or television programs, being interviewed, delivering lectures, and so on. Others who appear include Elie Wiesel, Jacqui Rutten, Ralph Slovenko, and more. There are also a few transcribed telephone calls and some commercially-produced and sold items.

As part of his approach to research and writing, Szasz maintained extensive Subject files on people, events, ideas, and topics pertinent to his work. Folder titles in this series are, wherever possible, Szasz's own titles taken either from the folder itself or from his handwritten annotation on items within a folder. Topics range from AIDS, cartoons, and faith healing to John Hinckley Jr., the Tylenol cyanide tampering scare, and witchcraft.

Writings by Szasz are subdivided into articles, books, book chapters, interviews, introductions, letters to the editor, reviews, speeches, and miscellaneous items. In many cases -- with the books in particular -- there are numerous drafts with major or minor edits.

Writings by others includes drafts, typescripts, advance reading copies, and bound (but not published) articles, essays, papers, books, book chapters, and so on. In many cases the authors were requesting Szasz's thoughts or input on their work, or were expressing their gratitude for his influence on their thinking. One unusual item is the three folders of humorous skits written (and presumably performed) by Szasz's interns and residents which parody or make fun of Szasz and other notable psychiatrists. Also in this series are the drafts of Living With It, an autobiography/memoir by Szasz's daughter Suzy.

Arrangement of the Collection

Correspondence is arranged alphabetically by name of correspondent; a small amount of family correspondence is filed first. All other series are arranged alphabetically by type of material and/or by title of item. Within Memorabilia, clippings about Szasz and travel receipts are arranged chronologically.


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.

Access to recordings requires advance notice to produce a use copy.

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.

Approximately 9 linear feet of material has been removed from the collection due to issues of medical and legal privacy.

Subject Headings


Alexander, George J.
Bazelon, David L. (David Lionel), 1909-1993.
Belli, Melvin M., 1907-1996.
Berrigan, Daniel.
Bettelheim, Bruno.
Blatt, Burton, 1927-1985.
Breggin, Peter Roger, 1936-
Buckley, William F. Jr.
Cobbett, William, 1763-1835.
Frank, Leonard Roy.
Freud, Anna, 1895-1982.
Freud, Sophie, 1924-
Goffman, Erving.
Grenander, M. E. (Mary Elizabeth), 1918-
Halpern, Abraham M. (Abraham Meyer), 1914-1985.
Hayakawa, S. I. (Samuel Ichiyé), 1906-1992.
Horowitz, Irving Louis.
Kazan, Elia.
Kubie, Lawrence S. (Lawrence Schlesinger), 1896-1973.
Leifer, Ron, 1932-
Lipton, Samuel D., 1916-1984.
Loria, Donald W.
Marmor, Judd.
May, Rollo.
Menninger, Karl A. (Karl Augustus), 1893-1990.
Metesky, George P., 1903-1994.
Popper, Karl R. (Karl Raimund), 1902-1994.
Pound, Ezra, 1885-1972.
Raico, Ralph.
Richman, Sheldon L.
Roazen, Paul
Robitscher, Jonas B.
Rush, Benjamin, 1746-1813.
Russell, Bertrand, 1872-1970.
Scott, W. Clifford M.
Slovenko, Ralph.
Strupp, Hans Herrman.
Szasz, Suzy.
Szasz, Thomas Stephen, 1920-2012.
Tanay, Emanuel.
Torrey, E. Fuller (Edwin Fuller), 1937-
Vice, Janet, 1951-
Wain, Louis, 1860-1939.
Wootton, Barbara, 1897-1988.

Corporate Bodies

United States. Public Health Service.
American Association for the Abolition of Involuntary Mental Hospitalization.
American Civil Liberties Union.
Asclepius at Syracuse.
British Broadcasting Corporation.
Church of Scientology of California.
Citizens Commission on Human Rights International.
Committee on Institutional Psychiatry.
Doubleday & Company, Inc.
Drug Policy Foundation.
Evolution of Psychotherapy conference.
Harper & Row, Publishers.
International Forum on Antiprohibition of Drugs.
John Wiley & Sons.
Libertarian Party.
Louisiana State University (Baton Rouge, La.) -- Press.
Macmillan Company
National Institute of Mental Health (U.S.)
Syracuse Psychiatric Hospital
Syracuse University Press.
Upstate Medical University (N.Y.)

Associated Titles

Journal of Humanistic Psychology.
National review (New York)
New England journal of medicine.
New York times.
New republic (Washington, D.C.)
Playboy (Chicago, Ill.)
The Humanist (Washington, D.C.)
The Lancet (London)


Drug control.
Drug legalization.
Drugs -- Law and legislation.
Hungarian Americans.
Insanity (Law)
Insanity defense.
Involuntary treatment -- Law and legislation.
Involuntary treatment -- Moral and ethical aspects.
Law -- Philosophy.
Mental illness.
Pain -- Psychological aspects.
Psychiatric ethics.
Psychiatric hospitals.
Psychiatrists -- United States.
Psychiatry -- Congresses.
Psychiatry -- Germany.
Psychiatry -- Philosophy.
Psychiatry -- South Africa.
Psychiatry -- United States.
Psychoanalysis -- Moral and ethical aspects.
Psychoanalysis and homosexuality.
Public policy -- United States.
Radicalism -- History -- 20th century.
Social psychiatry.
Sociological jurisprudence.
Suicide -- Moral and ethical aspects.
War on drugs.

Genres and Forms

16mm (photographic film size)
Book reviews.
Briefs (legal documents)
Clippings (information artifacts)
Conference proceedings.
Drafts (documents)
Galley proofs.
Manuscripts for publication.
Negatives (photographs)
Plaques (flat objects)
Proofs (printed matter)
Research notes.
Royalty statements.
Slides (photographs)
Sound recordings.
Speeches (documents)
Video recordings.



Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

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

Acquisition Information

Gift of Thomas S. Szasz, 1969-2009.

Table of Contents

Biographical material

Correspondence-subject files




Subject files

Writings by Szasz

Writings by others