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Harry Elmer Barnes Papers

An inventory of his papers at the Syracuse University Archives

Finding aid created by: Emily Banach
Date: 2021


Harry Elmer Barnes (1889-1968) was an American historian and sociologist known for his wide breadth of study and his passion for historical revisionism. Barnes was from Port Byron, New York and received his bachelor's degree from Syracuse University in 1913. While on campus, Barnes was a member of Beta Epsilon, a sociology honorary society, the Prohibition Club, Sociology Club, and the Historical Association. Barnes stayed at Syracuse University as an instructor in historical sociology for two years and received his master's degree at that time as well. He then became a lecturer in history at Columbia University and received his PhD there in 1918. Barnes spent the next few years teaching at different universities, such as Clark University, the University of Montana, and the University of Oregon.

At the beginning of his professional career, Barnes was well respected for his knowledge and expertise in both sociology and history. He wrote extensively on penology, political theory, world history, and social reform. Barnes entered the realm of historical revisionism after World War I, when he published articles and booklets claiming that Germany should not have accepted the blame for starting the war. These writings caused Barnes to be disparaged by some American and Western European historians but gained him much popularity with German sympathizers. Barnes disagreed with the American involvement in World War II and further destroyed his reputation by claiming that the Holocaust was exaggerated by the Israeli government to receive more money in reparations from Germany. Barnes then began to associate with other known Holocaust deniers like Paul Rassinier and David Hoggan.

By the end of his life, Barnes' reputation was such that he "[could]not publish books or articles in any effective way" and that no publishing houses would "reprint [his] good books now out of print."

Scope and Content Note

The Harry Elmer Barnes Papers is largely composed of writings by Barnes and correspondence sent to him by others. The collection is divided into the following series:

Biographical materials contains papers and other printed materials related to Harry Elmer Barnes' life and career. For example, this series contains the 1913 Commencement program from when he graduated from Syracuse University and a record of his employment history and academic honors.

Correspondence consists of letters written to Barnes by other academics or universities. The bulk of these letters are related to Barnes' guest lecturing appearances, his publications, and a volume of essays by other Syracuse University alumni he compiled in honor of William H. Mace, a Syracuse University history professor.

Writings contains manuscripts, syllabi, and other works written by Barnes. For instance, this series includes manuscripts of an unpublished history textbook Barnes was composing with Harriet Shoen, and drafts of a biography of Philippe Petain, the Prime Minister of France during its surrender to Germany in World War II.


Access Restrictions:

Please note that the collection is housed off-site, and advance notice is required to allow time to have the materials brought to the Reading Room on campus.

Use Restrictions:

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

Related Material

The University Archives also holds a clippings file on Harry Elmer Barnes.

Selected Search Terms


Barnes, Harry Elmer, 1889-1968.
Mace, William H. (William Harrison), 1852-1938.
Petain, Philippe, 1856-1951.
Syracuse University -- History.
Syracuse University.


Historical sociology.
History -- Study and teaching.
World War, 1939-1945 -- France.
United States -- History.
College teachers.
Higher education.

Types of Material

Manuscripts for publication.
Programs (documents)

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Harry Elmer Barnes Papers,
University Archives,
Special Collections Research Center
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Gift of Harry Elmer Barnes in 1965 and 1966 and Lisa Stewart in 1990.

Processing Information

Materials were placed in acid-free folders and an acid-free box.


The collection is arranged alphabetically.

Table of Contents

Biographical materials