Collection ID: MS 2034

Collection context

Summary

Creator:
Gay, Peter, 1923-2015
Date:
1845-2015
Abstract:
The papers document the research, writings, teaching, and personal life of cultural historian Peter J. Gay. The papers consist of research and teaching files, writings, correspondence, photographs and slides, and personal papers. An extensive part of his research files is the work he completed on Sigmund Freud while writing Sigmund Freud: A Life for Our Time (1998). Gay's writing files contain more of his later articles, book manuscripts, and lectures than his earlier works and include drafts of three of his books: My German Question (1998), Modernism: The Lure of Heresy (2007), and Why the Romantics Matter (2015). Correspondence is both personal and professional in nature, with correspondents including his family, academic colleagues, and library and archives staff. Most of the photographs in the papers are personal in nature and subjects include Gay's family and monuments and buildings. Personal papers include a mixture of professional records not related to teaching, research, or writings, as well as personal records, such as financial documents and journals. Newspaper clippings and print outs of interviews with Gay and reviews of his works comprise a significant amount of the personal papers. Materials date from 1865 to 2015.
Extent:
15.5 Linear Feet
Language:
The materials are in English, German, French, Portuguese, Czech, and Croatian.

Background

Acquisition information:
Gift of Estate of Peter J. Gay, 2015.
Rules or conventions:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Scope and Content:

The papers document the research, writing, teaching, and personal life of cultural historian Peter J. Gay. The papers consist of research and teaching files, writings, correspondence, photographs and slides, and personal papers. An extensive part of his research files is the work he completed on Sigmund Freud while writing Sigmund Freud: A Life for Our Time (1998). His teaching files are mainly lecture drafts and also include outlines and notes. His research files are organized both by topic area or writing project; his teaching files are exclusively by topic area.

Gay's writing files contain more of his later articles, book manuscripts, and lectures than his earlier works. Of the books he wrote, only three of them are documented in detail in the papers: My German Question (1998), Modernism: The Lure of Heresy (2007), and Why the Romantics Matter (2015). Writings on Freud in the papers are limited to a handful of articles and lectures and include drafts of an unpublished Encyclopedia Britannica article.

Correspondence is both personal and professional in nature. Correspondents include members of Gay's family, friends, researchers and academics, archivists and librarians at institutions Gay was planning on visiting, publishers, and university and/or conference staff extending invitations to Gay to speak. Most of the photographs in the papers are personal in nature, with subjects being Gay's family or monuments and buildings from vacations. Some photographs from professional event are also present.

Personal papers include a mixture of professional records not related to teaching, research, or writing, and include minutes from professional association meetings and business directories, as well as personal records, such as financial documents and notebooks used as journals. A significant amount of the personal papers also includes newspaper clippings and print outs of interviews with Gay and reviews of his works. Materials date from 1865 to 2015.

Biographical / Historical:

Peter Gay was born Peter Joachim Fröhlich on June 20, 1923 in Berlin, Germany. His father, Moritz, owned a glassware business. The Fröhlich family was of Jewish ancestry and lived in Germany during the early years of the Nazi regime. By 1938, Moritz lost the glassware business and Peter was no longer allowed to attend school. In 1939, the family received visas to emigrate to Cuba and they were on the last ship from Nazi Germany allowed into Havana. They moved to the United States in 1941 and changed their last name to Gay, an English translation of Fröhlich, for ease of pronunciation by Americans. Gay attended the University of Denver and graduated in 1946. He earned his master's degree in history in 1947 and a doctorate in political science in 1951, both from Columbia University. Gay taught political science at Columbia from 1947 until 1956, when he switched to the history department. He joined the Yale University history faculty in 1969 and remained at Yale until his retirement in 1993.

While his original academic work focused on labor history and socialist history in political science, Gay transitioned into cultural history scholarship and became renowned for his work on the Enlightenment and 20th century European thought. His texts on Enlightenment figures include Voltaire's Politics (1959) and the two volume The Enlightenment: An Interpretation (1966, 1969). The first volume, subtitled The Rise of Modern Paganism won the National Book Award for History and Biography in 1967. Gay subsequently studied Freud and psychoanalysis, including undergoing psychoanalysis and training as a psychoanalyst at the Western New England Institute for Psychoanalysis. This produced several works including the biography Sigmund Freud: A Life for Our Time (1988). After his retirement, he continued to research and write books, including Modernism: The Lure of Heresy (2007) and Why the Romantics Matter (2015). Other works include his memoir My German Question: Growing Up in Nazi Berlin (1998).

Gay married sociologist Ruth Slotkin in 1959. They raised three daughters from his wife's previous marriage and Gay had seven step-grandchildren. Peter Gay died on May 12, 2015 in New York, New York.

Biographical information is drawn from Richard J. Evans, "Peter Gay Obituary," The Guardian, May 24, 2015, https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/may/24/peter-gay and William Grimes, "Peter Gay, Historian Who Explored Social History of Ideas, Dies at 91," New York Times, May 12, 2015, https://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/13/arts/peter-gay-historian-who-explored-social-history-of-ideas-dies-at-91.html?_r=0

Processing information:

Processing staff attempted to preserve the original order of the papers and to reuse folder titles Gay assigned to his files. However, much of the book manuscript materials were in no discernible order and intermixed with other manuscripts. As a result, the archivist arranged and housed the manuscripts by book and then book chapter or section when possible; if not possible, manuscripts were arranged chronologically.

Arrangement:

The papers are arranged in five series: I. Research and teaching files, 1865-2015. II. Writings, 1938-2015. III. Correspondence, 1960-2015. IV. Photographs and slides, 1891-2015. V. Personal papers, 1950-2008.

Access

LOCATION OF THIS COLLECTION:
Sterling Memorial Library
Yale Campus
New Haven, CT, USA
CONTACT:
(203) 432-1735
mssa.assist@yale.edu