The Collected Papers of Bertrand Russell

The McMaster University Edition

+ Volumes of the Collected Papers
+ Sample Texts from the Collected Papers
+ The People Involved in the Collected Papers

A focal point of the office of The Bertrand Russell Research Centre is a set of blue, hard-bound volumes lined up atop a cabinet in the office on the first floor of Mills Library on McMaster’s campus. These seventeen volumes and eight others at various stages of completion, reflect many years of researchers’ time and sweat, about $3 million worth of research funds—and about one-half of the planned set of volumes that will eventually make up The Collected Papers of Bertrand Russell.

Russell’s major, book-length works, both inside and outside the sphere of technical philosophy, remain in print and are an essential introduction to the man and his thought. But many of his more important or intriguing ideas were published as essays or journalism, or remained unpublished in manuscript form. There is a voluminous body of material in these categories in the Bertrand Russell Archives, which contain Russell’s complete papers and are one of McMaster University’s greatest treasures. Since Russell was such a provocative thinker on so broad a range of philosophical, social and political questions, and a writer who excelled with the essay form, it is vital that these shorter writings be made accessible in a single, definitive edition that elaborates on his ideas and concerns and illustrates the paths by which he arrived at his conclusions. The Bertrand Russell Editorial Project at McMaster University was conceived in order to meet this need.

The project began in 1969 under the auspices of the University librarian, William Ready. After much planning, but also realizing that a larger editorial team was needed, the original editors, Dr. Kenneth Blackwell and Dr. John G. Slater, professor of philosophy at the University of Toronto, invited Dr. Nicholas Griffin, a McMaster logician and professor of philosophy, to join them.

The scope of Russell’s work still required a wider range of academics to edit his humanistic writings. In 1978, ten years after McMaster acquired the Russell Archives, Professor Alwyn Berland, Dean of Humanities and Chair of the project’s Board of Management, expanded the team to begin publication of the papers. The additional editors were Dr. Richard Rempel of History and Dr. Andrew Brink of English.

Since Russell’s books were in print and his letters still in the process of collection, the goal was to publish a complete, reliable, critical, annotated edition of Russell’s shorter writings and unpublished book manuscripts between 1888 and his death in 1970.

The collection would actually comprise two series. Roughly one-third of the volumes would include Russell’s earlier, so-called technical writings on philosophy, logic, science and mathematics. The others would reflect Russell’s interests in a large variety of other topics—political and social theory, war and peace, religion, education, women’s rights and morality. Included among the planned twenty-nine volumes would be Blackwell’s own bibliography of all of Russell’s published texts, on which he had been engaged with Harry Ruja since 1964.

The group thus came to include researchers from McMaster’s History, Philosophy, Mathematics and English departments and Library, and two philosophy professors from the University of Toronto. Its main thrust has been to complete the technical writings (Volumes 2 to 11) while beginning the non-technical writings (now Volumes 12 to 31). Two of the original group are still involved as editors.

Armed with a five-year grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) in 1980, the group continued working on Volume 1, which spanned the non-technical and technical. It published this volume, Cambridge Essays, 1888–99 in 1983. In each of the subsequent three years, another book came off the presses, including Volume 7, Theory of Knowledge: The 1913 Manuscript; Volume 12, Contemplation and Action, 1902–14; and Volume 8, The Philosophy of Logical Atomism and Other Essays, 1914–19. Followed by Volume 13, Prophecy and Dissent, 1914–16 and Volume 14, Pacifism and Revolution, 1916–18 on Russell’s World War I activism to end the conflict by a negotiated peace. By the end of 1995, seven more volumes plus the Bibliography had joined the earlier four. Volumes 10, A Fresh Look at Empiricism, 1927– 43 and 11, Last Philosophical Testament, 1943–68 followed in 1996 and 1997; Volume 15, Uncertain Paths to Freedom: Russia and China, 1919–22, was published in 2000. Volume 28, Man’s Peril, 1954–55, and Volume 29, Détente or Destruction, 1955–57—both of which illuminate the genesis of Russell’s anti-nuclear protests of the late 1950s and early 1960s—appeared in 2003 and 2005, respectively. Volume 21, How to Keep the Peace: The Pacifist Dilemma, 1935–38, appeared in 2008. These writings trace the development of Russell’s pacifist thinking in the tumultuous years before the Second World War, as well as the divisions that appeared in the peace movement over how best to respond to fascist aggression. The philosophical series of the Collected Papers was completed in January 2014 with the publication of Volume 5, Toward “Principia Mathematica”, 1906–08, edited by Gregory Moore.

Research for seven of the remaining volumes is ongoing. The editorial work for Volume 16, Labour and Internationalism, 1922–24, is being done by Nicholas Griffin with the assistance of Andrew Bone and Michael D. Stevenson. Griffin and Stevenson are also editors of Volume 17, Authority versus Enlightenment, 1925–27, while Bone is working on Volume 26, Cold War Fears and Hopes, 1950–52, and Volume 27, Culture and the Cold War, 1952–53. Stephen Heathorn is editing Volume 18, Behaviourism and Education, 1927–31, with William Bruneau, who is also editing educational writings to be included in Volumes 18–20. Honorary Russell Archivist, Kenneth Blackwell is working on Civilization and the Bomb, 1944–47, which addresses Russell’s apprehensions in the immediate post-Second World War era about the advent of nuclear weapons technology and the emergence of the Soviet Union as a superpower. David Blitz of Central Connecticut State University and Carl Spadoni, former Director of the William Ready Division of Archives and Research Collections at McMaster, are the editors of Volume 30, The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, 1957–59.

Before the Editorial Project was set up in 1980, about 90 per cent of Russell’s 2,500 or so shorter public writings had never before been collected. About half the volumes in the Collected Papers have been published thus far. The edition has received widespread critical acclaim, proven invaluable as a research tool and stimulated Russell scholarship in a host of areas.

* BRRC Main Page * Faculty of Humanities * Russell Archives * McMaster University

The text for this page was prepared at McMaster University.
Page maintained by Arlene Duncan. Last updated 31 October 2018.