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Romain Rolland Collected Papers


Held at: Swarthmore College Peace Collection [Contact Us]500 College Avenue, Swarthmore 19081-1399

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Swarthmore College Peace Collection. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

Romain Rolland was born on January 29, 1866, in Clamecy, France. He studied literature, music and philosophy, earning his doctorate from the University of Paris in 1895. He was a university professor of art history at the Sorbonne in Paris (1903-1910), and a musicologist. He wrote books about Francois Millet (1902), Beethoven (1903), Michelangelo (1905-1906), Handel (1910), and Tolstoy (1911), as well as articles and reviews. He was the key personality in the French popular theatre in 1895-1904, writing its seminal plays, theories and criticism. From 1904-1912, Rolland published his most famous novel Jean-Christophe, composed of a series of independent narratives, for which he won the 1915 Nobel Prize for Literature (awarded in 1916).

Rolland was in Switzerland when the world war broke out in 1914; he stayed until 1938. From September 1914 until the signing of the Peace Treaty in June 1919, Rolland took a public antiwar stance that attacked blind nationalism, the oligarchies of industry and finance that were reaping huge profits from the war, and the validity of just wars. He called on intellectuals to be autonomous, publishing his beliefs in such controversial writings as "Above the Battle" and "The Declaration of Independence of the Mind." These and other war and post-war works helped make pacifism a respectable literary subject in Europe.

Rolland utilized his international prestige from 1923-1932 to popularize the philosophy of Gandhi, linking Gandhism to anti-imperialism and anti-Eurocentricism and to a hope for an era of global unity and collaboration. He wrote a biography of Gandhi in 1924 that was immediately translated into several languages. His interest in Gandhism and revolutionary pacifism led him to a positive view of the Soviet Union. He argued that the goals of pacifism and communism were largely the same even if their methods differed. In the 1930s he wrote eloquently against all forms of international fascism, especially the National Socialism of Hitler, which he abhored. In fact, this became the key factor that changed him from a pacifist to one who believed that the only way to resist the evils of fascism and Nazism was through armed struggle by a coalition of the democratic states of western Europe and the Soviet Union.

Rolland reportedly wed a daughter of the eminent philologist, Michel Breal, in 1893, but it was a brief and unhappy marriage. Rolland died in in his home in Vezelay, France on December 30, 1944.

This collection includes biographical information, correspondence (1922-1933) including five letters to Reginald Reynolds (1930-1933), a manuscript speech (1924), pamphlets and other writings by Rolland.

The Swarthmore College Peace Collection is not the official repository for these papers/records.

Gift of Reginald Reynolds and Amy Winslow, 1953-1954.

For the catalog record for this collection, and to find materials on similar topics, search the library's online catalog

Processed by SCPC staff; checklist created by Anne M. Yoder, Archivist, May 1998

Swarthmore College Peace Collection
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Copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendents, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
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Collection Inventory

Biographical information; writings about Rolland.
Box 1
Correspondence, 1922-1933.
Box 1
Writings and speech by Rolland, 1918-1937.
Box 1

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