Archive Fever! Cataloguing the Freud Family Papers

As part of her Masters in Archives and Records Management course at the University of Liverpool, Louise Piffero has spent the first weeks of 2013 on an internship at The John Rylands Library. During her placement Louise has catalogued a collection of correspondence and photographs relating to Sigmund Freud and his family. Louise, shown here, writes, ‘this fascinating archive provides evidence of Freud’s links with Manchester. The majority of the letters were between Sigmund Freud and his half-nephew, Samuel Freud, a merchant from the city.


The correspondence mainly covers the period between the First and Second World Wars, a time of great economic instability for both England and Austria (Sigmund Freud lived in Vienna during this time). Both men wrote of the uncertainty they faced; Sigmund Freud and his family were desperate for help with food supplies in the early 1920s, something Sam Freud was able to contribute towards by sending many parcels of food to Vienna. Sam also described to his uncle the great losses his business had suffered and the mass unemployment experienced in Manchester.


The letters from Sigmund Freud also comment on the political situation in Austria during the 1930s; he eventually had to flee Vienna for London in June 1938 to escape from the threat of Nazi persecution. It is interesting to read a letter from July 1933 where Freud informs Sam that the family are determined to stay in Vienna as long as possible, even through the uncertainty that faced them.’

Louise was also struck by ‘Sigmund Freud’s comments on his own popularity; he inquires from Sam whether news of his work had reached them in Manchester. It also appears to be something he was troubled by to some extent, and he states that popularity “[…] must at the best be considered a danger for more serious achievement”.

What is very apparent from the whole correspondence is how close the family were; they were always wishing to hear news from each other and reported on any family events. They suffered from a number of significant deaths in the family during this period, and Freud himself was suffering from cancer of the jaw during this time, having to undergo a number of operations which affected him greatly.’

For Louise, ‘cataloguing this collection has been a fantastic opportunity, and it has also been wonderful to spend time in this remarkable building, The John Rylands Library.’ Her catalogue of the Freud Family Papers will soon be available on Elgar at: Watch this space and we’ll keep you posted!


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