Biography and History

The Department of Politics at Princeton University is one of Princeton University's largest academic departments, offering undergraduate and graduate courses in the fields of American politics, comparative politics, international relations, political theory, and nearly every other aspect of the discipline.

The study of politics at Princeton can be traced to the late 19th century, when a broad curriculum of courses dedicated to topics such as public law and political science were offered under the tutelage of professors such as Lyman H. Atwater, William Sloane, and Woodrow Wilson. Upon his elevation to the office of university president in 1902 one of Wilson's first initiatives was the institution of the departmental system, resulting in the newly created Department of History, Politics, and Economics. The politics curriculum and faculty was sufficiently developed by 1924 that it broke away from history and became its own department under the leadership of its first chairman Edward S. Corwin.

While early politics courses had been largely focused on theory and research, the establishment of the School of Public and International Affairs in 1930 added a new service-driven component to the department's offerings. At the same time, the department's faculty continued to grow in size and acclaim. Among the distinguished professors to join the department between 1930 and 1950 were Harwood L. Childs, founder of Public Opinion Quarterly, Harold Sprout, author of The Rise of American Naval Power, George A. Graham, and Alpheus Thomas Mason.

In more recent years, the Department of Politics has broadened its course offerings, drawing in faculty with increased specialization in areas beyond those covered by the traditional core curriculum. While the basic framework of the program has remained generally the same, elective course offerings have changed frequently in response to new developments in the field of political science and the world at large. In addition to classroom instruction, the Department of Politics has frequently supplemented its course offerings and lectures with guest speakers, conferences, research projects, undergraduate forums, and opportunities for field work.

The original campus location of the Department of Politics was Dickinson Hall; however in 1965, the department moved into Wilson Hall, former home of the School of Public and International Affairs. In recognition of its new occupants, this building was renamed Corwin Hall, and continues to house the offices of the Department of Politics.

Source: From the finding aid for AC166

  • Department of Politics Records. 1921-2017 (inclusive), 1921-1978 (bulk).

    Call Number: AC166

    The Department of Politics at Princeton University is one of the University's largest academic departments, offering undergraduate and graduate courses touching on nearly every aspect of the discipline of political science. The Department of Politics records document the activities of the Department of Politics and its faculty from the time of its founding in 1924 until the mid-1960s, and contain correspondence, course syllabi and notes, examinations, and subject files.

  • Edward S. Corwin Papers. circa 1860-1961 (inclusive), 1920-1958 (bulk).

    Call Number: MC012

    This collection contains correspondence, speeches, lecture notes, writings, and photographs of Edward S. Corwin, a noted constitutional scholar who taught at Princeton University for much of his academic career. Nationally-known and widely published, Corwin consulted with many other academics as well as politicians involved with constitutional issues, most notably when he publicly supported Franklin D. Roosevelt's Supreme Court reorganization ("court packing") plan.

  • Alpheus Thomas Mason Papers. circa 1925-1979 (inclusive).

    Call Number: MC177

    Alpheus T. Mason taught in the Dept. of Politics at Princeton University beginning in 1925 and authored a number of legal works as well as biographies of Supreme Court justices Harlan Fiske Stone and Louis D. Brandeis. This collection consists of papers of Mason, including material relating Stone, Brandeis and Woodrow Wilson.