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This collection is predominantly composed of Ernest van den Haag's publications from 1950-2000, including articles in published form, drafts, and related correspondence.
11.45 cubic ft.
English .
Preferred citation:

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Identification of specific item, series, box, folder, Ernest Van Den Haag Papers 1935-2000 (APAP-135). M. E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University at Albany, State University of New York (hereafter referred to as the Van Den Haag Papers).


Scope and Content:

The papers of Ernest van den Haag cover the years 1935-2000. His publications from 1950-2000 comprise the bulk of the collection. Comparing this collection of publications to his curriculum vitae, it appears that most of his published and unpublished materials are contained in the collection. Van den Haag took special care to organize his writings by assigning them a number, probably in order of creation, placing each publication, along with rough drafts and related correspondence, into individual folders. He often followed up on references to his work, adding them to the appropriate folder. The publications in this collection include articles in published form, drafts, and related correspondence. Types of publications include transcripts from appearances on television shows in the 1970s and 1980s, files on the books which he authored, rough drafts for chapters, and hundreds of articles written for various journals, magazines, and newspapers from 1950-2000. A few articles include printed versions in at least five other languages.

The collection's publications cover a wide array of social science issues of the mid to late 20th century from an intellectual conservative's view. Topics include American culture, criminal justice, education, conservatism versus liberalism, and American politics. Van den Haag had a special political interest in U.S. foreign policy and commented on the Vietnam War, foreign wars, and the issues of the Cold War. His writing had an impact on people and events of his day. President Nixon once wrote van den Haag to thank him for the balanced views concerning the U.S. soldiers and war crimes during Vietnam when he offered during his appearance on the Dick Cavett Show. Congressman Charles Rangel wrote to express his opposing views to van den Haag on the legalization of drugs. Sometimes van den Haag's articles would spark a debate between himself and other authors that would continue over the course of several issues of a periodical.

The collection contains some court testimony from van den Haag as an expert witness in cases including the U.S. House and Senate hearings and U.S. Supreme Court cases concerning desegregation in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Also represented are pornography cases between towns and theaters both at the local and U.S. Supreme Court levels.

The collection contains many articles, debate notes, and drafts of speeches from conferences and meetings discussing capital punishment. Most of these cover the period from the mid-1980s to the early 1990s.

Biographical / Historical:

Ernest van den Haag (1914-2002) was a conservative commentator of social issues, especially crime, and one of America's foremost proponents of the death penalty [Pace, Eric. "Ernest van den Haag, Educator and Backer of the Death Penalty". New York Times, 27 March 2002, sec. A:21].

He said he was born an intellectual and called himself a strong political conservative, but almost a libertarian. He authored several books and book chapters and contributed hundreds of articles to journals, magazines, and newspapers from 1950-2000.

Ernest van den Haag was born in The Hague in 1914 and was raised in Italy where he began his early political life as a left-wing activist and communist. In 1937 he was nearly killed by a political assassin from Mussolini's fascist regime. Van den Haag suffered five bullet wounds and spent nearly three years in Italian prisons, including 18 months in solitary confinement in Naples before the start of World War II. After being released and fearing re-imprisonment, he fled to Switzerland and then to France where he studied psychiatry at the Sorbonne in Paris. Soon, he was arrested as an enemy alien Italian and an agitator against the government. He managed to escape to Spain and then to Portugal prior to Hitler's invasion. From Portugal he was able to make his way to the United States in 1940 where he arrived not knowing English. In New York he sold vegetables and worked as a bus boy. He was able to secure admission to the University of Iowa where a group of faculty recognized his intellectual gifts and agreed to pay his tuition.

After receiving his M.A. in economics in 1942 as the U.S. entered World War II, van den Haag went to work for the Office of War Information as a propaganda analyst. That same year he met Sidney Hook, a famous social philosopher, who was a catalyst in van den Haag's thinking. Of his friendship with Sydney Hook, van den Haag said, "Sydney converted me and I not only stopped being a communist but I became an anti-communist although it no longer means much" [Machan, Tibor. The Intellectual Portrait Series: A Conversation with Ernest van den Haag. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2000]. He began a part-time teaching career as an instructor at Hofstra College of New York lecturing in Psychology and Sociology. He received his Ph.D. in Economics from New York University in 1952. As early as 1953, van den Haag was contributing essays to magazines arguing against communism. In 1956, van den Haag authored his first book, Education as an Industry and co-authored a sociology textbook, The Fabric of Society, in 1957.

Ernest van den Haag's writings garnered the attention of William F. Buckley, Jr. when, in 1957, Buckley asked him to contribute articles to the National Review. From 1957 to 1994, van den Haag wrote close to 200 articles for the National Review and remained a friend and consultant for 45 years. Buckley's obituary of van den Haag stated: "His special skill was the crisp essay in which he distilled his thought and analysis with precisionist care" [Buckley, Jr., William F. Ernest van den Haag, R.I.P. (Obituary). National Review, 22 April 2002].

Van den Haag's book, Punishing Criminals: Concerning a Very Old and Painful Question (Basic Books, 1975), had a long popularity and launched his status as an expert and fearless debater in issues of criminal justice and the death penalty. In addition to his writing career, van den Haag was an expert witness for many court cases in local, state, federal, and international jurisdictions. He testified as an expert in areas including desegregation, criminal justice, and pornography. He was comfortable taking controversial stands on tough issues such as his criticism over Brown v. Board of Education. He was also a fierce debater of many issues. "He has said he would debate anyone on anything. He has read and thought lucidly about everything", said Edward Banfield, professor of Government at Harvard University [Feulner, Jr., Edwin J. "A Note on Ernest van den Haag". In Smashing Liberal Icons: A Collection of Debates. Washington, D.C.: Heritage Foundation, 1984]. Van den Haag was especially active in debating the issue of the death penalty. He spent most of his life defending the issue based on the argument of deterrence, but later evolved the basis of his argument on the need for the death penalty as just punishment for severe criminals.

Ernest van den Haag accomplished much in his lifetime. Among the many positions he held were: Lecturer in Psychology and Sociology, The New School for Social Research, 1953-1980; Adjunct Professor, New York University; Psychoanalyst in private practice, 1955-1982; Fellow of the American Sociological Association beginning in 1959; 1966 Guggenheim Fellow; 1972 Senior Fellow for the National Endowment for the Humanities; Visiting Professor, CUNY; Lecturer at dozens of universities and colleges including Harvard, Yale, Cornell, and Berkeley; Visiting Professor of Criminology, School of Criminal Justice, State University of New York at Albany, 1978-1983; John M. Olin Professor of Jurisprudence and Public Policy, Fordham University, 1982-1988; Distinguished Scholar, The Heritage Foundation; Member, Council on Foreign Relations; Philadelphia Society (Former President 1978-1979).

Ernest van den Haag spoke at conferences as recently as 1999 and published articles through 2000. Van den Haag died after a brief illness at age 88 on March 21, 2002, in Mendham, NJ.

Acquisition information:
All items in this manuscript group were donated to the University Libraries, M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives, by Mary Beth O'Connor, executor of the estate of Ernest van den Haag, in May 2002.
Processing information:

Processed in 2005 by Rob Taglianetti.

Box and folder list and revisions by Sarah Kim, Mindy Groseclose, Lakeisha Swaby.


The collection is organized ainto seven series.

Physical location:
The materials are located onsite in the department.



Using These Materials

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Access to this record group is unrestricted.


The researcher assumes full responsibility for conforming with the laws of copyright. Whenever possible, the M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives will provide information about copyright owners and other restrictions, but the legal determination ultimately rests with the researcher. Requests for permission to publish material from this collection should be discussed with the Head of Special Collections and Archives.


Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Identification of specific item, series, box, folder, Ernest Van Den Haag Papers 1935-2000 (APAP-135). M. E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University at Albany, State University of New York (hereafter referred to as the Van Den Haag Papers).

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