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Donald Pierson Papers

Identifier: MS Group 075b

Scope and Content

The Pierson Papers contain manuscript notes and drafts and many of his lectures. Included are manuscripts and research notes related to his earlier studies on race relations in Brazil and a manuscript to Cruz das Almas. Of special interest are completed questionnaires from several comparative studies done in the 1960s on social behavior and criteria for social ranking in Portugal, Spain, and Brazil. One, entitled "A Study of the More Subtle Forms of Behavior in Portugal and Spain", included an inquiry into the forms and expressions of social etiquette. In conjunction with this study, another inquiry was conducted into perceptions of national self-image in each country. Participants were also queried on their perceptions of North Americans, British, the French, and Italians and about their attitudes towards foreigners traveling in their countries.

Also included in the collection are research notes related to racial and ethnic groups in Brazil compiled by students of Pierson. Under Pierson's supervision, students were trained to do local research and to study the various aspects of their own people and culture. This research produced a number of books and journal articles on Brazilian culture including the three volume study O Homem no Vale do São Francisco. Among the publication manuscripts in this collection is the English manuscript to that work entitled here as "Life in a Brazilian Valley."

O Homem no Vale do São Francisco was to have been published in English by the Institute of Social Anthropology at the Smithsonian. However, the legislative appropriation for the Institute's Latin American section was cut just as the research was beginning. The Portuguese version was published by the Brazilian federal government in 1972. Pierson prepared the original manuscript in English from notes taken primarily in Portuguese and sent the English manuscripts to Brazil for translation. However, many of the Portuguese words and phrases in the notes were difficult to translate into English and were left untranslated. In 1991, Pierson finished the task of translating those words and phrases, prepared a glossary of the Portuguese words and phrases remaining in the text, and completed final editing of the manuscripts. As in most of his projects, Helen Pierson assisted as his secretary in the preparation of the manuscripts.


  • Creation: 1938-1965


Language of Materials

Pierson prepared the original manuscript in English from notes taken primarily in Portuguese and sent the English manuscripts to Brazil for translation. Due to difficulty in translation, some words in the English manuscript were left in Portuguese.


The collection is open for research.

Biographical/Historical Note

Sociologist, social anthropologist. Born September 8, 1900, in Indianapolis, Indiana. A.B., College of Emporia (Kansas), 1927; M. A. (1933) and Ph. D. (1939), University of Chicago. Married Helen Joy Batchelor, June 12, 1929. Died in 1995 in Leesburg, Florida.

Donald Pierson was Professor "Catedratico" of Sociology and Social Anthropology at the Escola de Sociologia e Política in São Paulo, Brazil, 1939-1959. He organized and directed the Dept. of Sociology and Anthropology there in the 1940s and also organized and served as Dean of the Graduate Division from 1943 to 1957. From 1945 to 1952, he directed, in collaboration with the Escola, the Brazilian section of the Institute of Social Anthropology of the Smithsonian. Through book donations from the American Library Association, the American Council of Learned Societies, and other institutions, Pierson helped arrange reading materials at the Escola that could support training in the social sciences until texts could be written or translated into Portuguese. At the request of the Director of the Escola, Helen Pierson taught English to the Escola's students for the first six years so that the library could be better utilized.

In the years following his tenure at the Escola de Sociologia e Político he worked briefly with the Pan American Union's Inter-American Post-Graduate Program in Applied Social Science in Mexico City. He traveled to Spain and Portugal to do research as a Guggenheim Fellow in 1963-1964. He returned to Portugal in 1966 to serve one semester as a Fulbright Lecturer at the Instituto Superior de Ciências Sociais e Política Ultramarina. Among his principal works are Negroes in Brazil: A Study of Race Contact at Bahia (1942), Cruz das Almas: A Brazilian Village (1951), and O Homem no Vale do São Francisco (1971). He co-edited the journal Sociologia, 1950-1957, and organized and edited in São Paulo for several years a book series of translations in the social sciences entitled Biblioteca de Ciências Sociais.


4 Linear feet (10 boxes)


Manuscript lecture and research notes of social anthropologist, mostly relating to Brazil.

Physical Location

University of Florida Smathers Library Building

Related Material

Dr. Pierson's professional papers and correspondence were deposited, at the request of local professors, in the Arquivo Edgard Leuenroth at the State University in Campinas, State of São Paulo, Brazil. The research notes to "Life in a Brazilian Valley", which were prepared by Pierson and twenty-two researchers working under his supervision, are in the Fundação João Pinheiro in Belo Horizonte.

A Guide to the Donald Pierson Papers
Finding aid prepared by Dept. Staff
March 2005
Description rules
Finding Aid Prepared Using Dacs
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Special and Area Studies Collections, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida Repository

George A. Smathers Libraries
PO Box 117005
Gainesville Florida 32611-7005 United States of America