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Sidney W. Mintz papers

Identifier: MS-0581

  • Staff Only
  • No requestable containers

Scope and Contents

The collection spans the years 1950 to 2005, and consists of correspondence, lecture notes, course files, administrative records, talks, manuscript edits, and research files. Of particular interest are the files devoted to Taso, Mintz’s primary interlocutor during the early stage of his career, and whose life Worker in the Cane explores, and the records of the visits of French anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss (1977), and several major figures for the 10th Anniversary of the Department of Anthropology at Hopkins (1985), including linguistic anthropologist Dell Hymes, Mintz’s long time collaborator and friend, Eric Wolf, and Sir Edmund Leach. Also of potential interest are copious early notes on the work of canonical figures, including A.L. Kroeber, Franz Boas, and Emile Durkheim dating from the 1950s.


  • Creation: 1950-2006


Language of Materials

English, Spanish, and French

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is housed off-site and requires 48-hours' notice for retrieval. Please contact Special Collections for more information.

Personal papers are unrestricted.

University records are closed for 25 years from the point of creation. These files contain student records, which are further subject to FERPA restrictions.

Please see individual series and subseries for further access details.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. Researchers are responsible for determining any copyright questions. It is not necessary to seek our permission as the owner of the physical work to publish or otherwise use public domain materials that we have made available for use, unless Johns Hopkins University holds the copyright.

Biographical / Historical

Sidney Wilfred Mintz was born on November 16, 1922, in Dover, New Jersey. In 1943, Mintz completed his B.A. at Brooklyn College, continuing his training at Columbia University in anthropology during the surge in graduate students following the war, under the auspices of The Servicemen’s Readjustment Act. At Columbia, Mintz was a founding member of the Mundial Upheaval Society, a graduate student group that included several future well-known scholars, notably Eric Wolf, Stanley Diamond, Elman Service and Morton Fried. His first fieldwork was conducted in Puerto Rico in 1948, as part of a large-scale team project directed by Julian Steward. As a student, he and Eric Wolf also came under the influence of Ruth Benedict, and the classmates (and later, co-authors) would share a deep and fruitful intellectual friendship until Wolf’s death in 1999.

Owing to a promising career at Columbia, Mintz was invited to join the faculty at Yale University in 1951 where he remained until 1974. During this period, he wrote on the rural proletariat, the now famous life history of a sugar-cane worker (Worker in the Cane), and several major manuscripts on Caribbean peasantry and the relevant historical processes of European colonial expansion, culminating in the 1974 Caribbean Transformations.

In 1975, Mintz joined the American historian Richard Price in founding the new Department of Anthropology at Johns Hopkins, thanks to the initiative of Dean George Owen. In 1973, the Rockefeller Foundation had financed two positions in history and two in anthropology as part of the newly created Atlantic Program in History, Culture and Society. The pair brought on Emily Martin (then Ahern) and co-authored the 1976 The Birth of African American Culture, establishing the department as one of very few in the United States founded (and developed organically) to specialize in socio-cultural anthropology. In 1985, Mintz shifted the focus of his work (while staying true to the method he had developed, namely an anthropology of the present inflected by a Marxist historical materialism) toward the cultural, economic and social history of food, inaugurated by the publication of Sweetness and Power – a text which remains one of the best selling in the history of the discipline. This was followed by his study of American food habits, the 1996 Tasing Food, Tasting Freedom.

Over his sixty-year career, Mintz published several hundred scholarly works on a range of topics, and influencing a variety of fields, including political economics, social history, economic anthropology, and area studies. He conducted field research in Puerto Rico, (1948-49, 1953, 1954, 1974, 1976); Jamaica, (1952, 1954); Haiti, (1958-59, 1961); Iran, (1966-67); Hong Kong, (1996, 1999). During that time he also taught as a visiting professor at MIT, Princeton, Berkeley, Le Collège de France, NYU and in Germany, Australia, China, and New Zealand and served as the Directeur d’Etudes at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes in Paris, 1970-1971. A member of the American Ethnological Society, he was president from 1968 to 1969, and is a fellow of the American Anthropological Association and the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain. He is also the recipient of several major national and international awards including a Guggenheim Fellowship, a William Clyde DeVane Medal, a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, Social Science Research Council Faculty Research Fellowship, the Huxley Medal, the Caribbean Review Medal, the Phi Beta Kappa Medal for Teaching and a Fulbright Senior Researcher award, and has given several of the most important annual lectures in anthropology, including the Lewis Henry Morgan Lectures at Rochester, the Christian Gauss Lectures at Princeton, the W.E.B. Dubois Lectures at Harvard, and the McCay Memorial Lecture at Cornell. He is the recipient of three honorary doctorates (Litt. D.,Trinity College,1994; L.L.D., University of Puerto Rico, 1996; and L.L.D., University of the West Indies, 2006). Mintz retired from full-time teaching in 1997, taking on the title of Research Professor at the age of 75. In 1992, he was honored with the establishment of the annual Sidney W. Mintz Lectures at Johns Hopkins.


77.24 Cubic Feet (63 containers)


Sidney Wilfred Mintz (1922-2015) was an anthropologist best known for his studies of the Caribbean, creolization, and the anthropology of food. The collection spans the years 1950 to 2005, and consists of correspondence, lecture notes, course files, administrative records, talks, manuscript edits, and research files.


The collection is divided into seven series, three of which have been further arranged in subseries. Wherever possibe, original order of the collection (exempting ordering to reflect chronology for ease of use) and labels, has been maintained.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

This collection was gifted to the University by Sidney W. Mintz in September 1997.

Processing Information

Processed by Andrew Brandel. Finding aid written by Andrew Brandel, Kelly Spring, and Carla Ruas. During initial processing the folders were not numbered. Since the collection is housed off-site, as researchers request material we are going through the selected boxes and adding folder numbers.


Sidney W. Mintz papers
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Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

The Sheridan Libraries
Special Collections
3400 N Charles St
Baltimore MD 21218 USA