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Guide to the David Goodman Mandelbaum Papers, 1899-1991, 1933-1986
BANC MSS 89/129 cz  
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Collection Details
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  • Collection Summary
  • Information for Researchers
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content

  • Collection Summary

    Collection Title: David Goodman Mandelbaum Papers,
    Date (inclusive): 1899-1991,
    Date (bulk): 1933-1986
    Collection Number: BANC MSS 89/129 cz
    Origination: Mandelbaum, David Goodman, 1911-
    Extent: Number of containers: 15 cartons, 3 boxes, 1 OS folder Linear feet: Approximately 20.25
    Repository: The Bancroft Library.
    Berkeley, California 94720-6000
    Physical Location: For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.
    Abstract: Field notes made during Mandelbaum's research trips to the Kota and Toda tribes in the Nilgiri Hills of Southern India, and the Plains Cree and Chippewa Indians; manuscripts of published and unpublished articles, books, reviews and speeches; incoming and outgoing correspondence; and research and course materials.
    Languages Represented: English

    Information for Researchers


    Collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright has not been assigned to The Bancroft Library. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Head of Public Services. Permission for publication is given on behalf of The Bancroft Library as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], David Goodman Mandelbaum papers, BANC MSS 89/129 cz, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.


    David Goodman Mandelbaum was born in Chicago on August 22, 1911. He majored in anthropology at Northwestern University, studying with Melville J. Herskovits, and received his B.A. degree in 1932. He spent the summer of 1933 studying the San Carlos Apache in Arizona, with the support of a fellowship from the Laboratory of Anthropology in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He continued his ethnographic studies with the Plains Cree in Saskatchewan, while working as a research assistant at the American Museum of Natural History. He studied with Edward Sapir, Leslie Spier, and Clark Wissler at Yale University, and completed his doctoral degree in 1936. While at Yale, he studied the Jewish community in Ansonia, Connecticut.
    At a time when most young American anthropologists were concentrating their attention on Native American peoples, Mandelbaum turned to India, which held a life-long fascination for him. While the recipient of a National Research Council Fellowship, from January, 1937 to May, 1938, he collected data on the Kota tribe in the Nilgiri Hills of Southern India, as well as the small Jewish colony in Cochin.
    He returned to the United States to teach at the University of Minnesota. His doctoral dissertation, Changes in an Aboriginal Culture Following a Change in Environment, as Exemplified by the Plains Cree, was published in condensed form under the title The Plains Cree by the American Museum of Natural History in 1940. For six months, in 1941-1942, he had an Interdisciplinary Fellowship from the Carnegie Corporation to study psychology and anthropology at Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley.
    During World War II, while he was on leave from the University of Minnesota, Mandelbaum went to Washington, D.C., to work as a civilian and later as a U.S. Army officer in the Division of Research and Analysis of the Office of Strategic Services. Later he served for a year each in Burma and India as an intelligence officer. He left the Army with the rank of major. After the war, he worked briefly for the Office of Intelligence and Research of the U.S. Department of State, researching social and economic problems of India and Southeast Asia.
    Mandelbaum joined the anthropology faculty at U.C. Berkeley in 1946, where he taught until he retired in 1978. He served as chair of the department from 1955 to 1957. He was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to Cambridge University in 1952-1953, and was a fellow at the Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University in 1957-1958. He was a prime mover in the creation of the Center for South and Southeast Asia Studies, and he served as its chair from 1965 to 1968. He returned repeatedly to Southern India to continue his fieldwork with the Kota and Toda tribes.
    In addition to his many writings which explored various facets of Indian social and cultural anthropology, including the two-volume Society in India, he published works on racial segregation in the military, anthropological theory, ethnology, the study of personality and life histories, gender roles, applied anthropology, and the teaching of anthropology.
    David G. Mandelbaum died on April 19, 1987.

    Scope and Content

    The David G. Mandelbaum Papers provide a concise overview of the 50-year career of a distinguished American anthropologist and member of the University of California, Berkeley faculty. His main research interests throughout his life were the the Kota and Toda tribes of the Nilgiri Hills, in Southern India, and the Plains Cree of Canada.
    The collection contains comparatively small amounts of personal correspondence (Series 1), and biographical information (Series 2). Mandelbaum's letters home from his first research trip to India, in 1937-1938, are filled with humor, enthusiasm, and fascinating details. The General Correspondence series also contains letters to and from Mandelbaum's mentors, Melville J. Herskovits, Alfred L. Kroeber, Edward Sapir, and Leslie Spier, and Yale University graduate school colleague Edgar E. Siskin. There are detailed letters to and from Alan R. Beals, who undertook fieldwork in India in the early 1950's. (The remainder of the correspondence can be found filed by subject in Series 3, 4, 5 and 6.) Series 2 includes several folders of notes taken by Mandelbaum in Sapir's classes at Yale University.
    The following three series are also brief, but they do serve to demonstrate the range of Mandelbaum's professional, scholarly, and departmental commitments at U.C. Berkeley. He was active in the American Anthropological Association and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, among other groups (Series 3). He served as chair of Berkeley's Anthropology Department (Series 4), and later of the Center for South and Southeast Asia Studies (Series 5). The papers in these latter two series show his interest in anthropology curriculum development.
    The most extensive series are the three which contain Mandelbaum's writings (Series 6), course materials for the University of Minnesota and U.C. Berkeley (Series 7), and his research materials (Series 8). The Writings series includes research notes, outlines, drafts, editorial correspondence, and reviews of his published books and articles. Also included are reviews written by Mandelbaum, and notes and transcripts of talks and speeches given by him. Series 6 demonstrates the breadth of Mandelbaum's academic interests, ranging from general anthropological theory, psychological anthropology, and ethnology, through social organization, gender roles, and applied anthropology. The seventh series shows the care with which he prepared for his teaching assignments. There are course outlines, reading lists, examination questions, and background research and lecture notes.
    The last series sheds light on Mandelbaum's fieldwork methods, diligent work habits, and meticulous attention to detail. Of particular interest are his field journals, notes, and notebooks, written during his periods of residence among the Plains Cree in Canada, and the Kota and Toda in India. They reflect continuity and change among these tribal groups, and are especially valuable because he returned regularly over a long period of time to the Nilgiri Hills. He made a return visit to Canada in 1976, to attend a Sun Dance Ceremony, more than 40 years after researching his doctoral dissertation among the Plains Cree.
    The David G. Mandelbaum Papers support research on a variety of anthropological topics. They provide a snapshot of the theory and practice of the profession in the United States during the middle decades of the 20th Century.