Bowlby, (Edward) John (Mostyn) (1907-1990)

  • Bowlby, John
  • Archives and manuscripts

About this work


Correspondence, notes and drafts relating to his writings and career; a small amount of clinical and research notes relating to work with the British Psycho-analytical Society.

The material forms a relatively complete guide to the development of Bowlby's thought, the vast bulk consisting of notes, texts of lectures, drafts, correspondence with colleagues and unpublished papers. There are also small, but interesting, amounts of clinical records, research notes, papers relevant to Bowlby's involvement with the British Psycho-analytical Society, his wartime work with the War Office Selection Boards, and personal and professional correspondence.

Most of the papers were kept in labelled files. Around half of those stored at his home were in a series of well organised filing cabinets, although further material from an oak chest, a wall cupboard and other locations presented a less coherent picture. As far as possible, the original order of the filed papers has been maintained. Original file titles are indicated (by single inverted commas) throughout the list. The main categories in the list have also been derived from runs of material from the filing cabinets (notes; colleagues and other authors; texts of lectures; overseas lecture tours; drafts; reprints) kept, as far as possible, in their original sequence, with additional material amalgamated where appropriate. Further groups of material (biographical; correspondence; clinical practice; research; teaching) are, to a greater extent, the result of an imposed order, being the combination of material from various locations, sorted mainly according to phases of Bowlby's career.

Following the completion of the 1995 catalogue, a substantial amount of additional material (amounting to about one-third as much again) was received in several accessions from family members. As a result the earlier stages of Bowlby's life, education and career, in particular, are now much more fully documented. The papers of his wife, Ursula, provide valuable background on his family life and marriage as well as aspects of his career (for example, her "Travel files" document several of his professional visits abroad), and there is also material relating to her own writings on childrearing, including drafts commented on by Bowlby, of her manuscript on the subject and contributions by her to Nursery World. There are some papers, including her journals, and correspondence with her husband Sir Anthony Bowlby, of Bowlby's mother (Maria Bridget, "May") Lady Bowlby, nee Mostyn, and of his elder sisters, Winifred and Marion, who had careers as professional musicians and also served in the Women's Land Army in World War II.

In most cases this material has been incorporated into the existing list either as new files or with the creation of new sections and subsections. A few stray items, however, have been added to existing files, e.g. a number of single letters and other personalia were added to PP/BOW/A.6/1 Evan Durbin. With the receipt of significant quantities of Ursula's letters to Bowlby from the period of their courtship and throughout their marriage, a new subsection of correspondence has been created and the existing small groups of her letters formerly in B.2/3 and B.2/5 incorporated into this much fuller sequence.

Some additional Sir Anthony Bowlby material received with these accessions has been incorporated into GC/181.



Physical description

144 boxes, 1 o/s Uncatalogued: 6 boxes



A. Personal and Biographical

- 1 Biographical - 1936-1994

- 2 Honours and Awards c.1945-1990

- 3 80th Birthday Celebrations 1987

- 4 Presscuttings 1952-1988

- 5 Interviews with, and Articles about, Bowlby 1976-1990

- 6 Colleagues: Biographical c.1948-1989

- 7 Financial and legal files, 1967-1992

- 8 Skye

B. Correspondence

- 1 Personal Letters to ULB 1939-1980

- 2 Mainly Personal Correspondence 1957-1987

- 3 Professional Correspondence 1935-1990

- 4 Letters from ULB, 1937-1980

C. Clinical Practice

- 1 University College Hospital 1934-1937

- 2 Institute for the Scientific Treatment of Delinquency 1934-1938

- 3 London Child Guidance Clinic c.1936-1987

- 4 Unidentified Patient Records 1934-1951

- 5 Wartime Activities, 1939-1945

- 6 Tavistock Clinic 1947-1972

D. Research

- 1 PhD 1933-1936

- 2 Early Research Notes/"PPT" c.1933-c.1936

- 3 Tavistock Clinic c.1950-c.1965

- 4 World Health Organisation 1952-1981

- 5 Research Application to Ford Foundation 1955

- 6 Medical Research Council 1960-1967

E. Teaching

- 1 Morley College 1937-1938

- 2 Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences 1954-1958

- 3 Ciba 1959-1965

- 4 London School of Economics c.1963

- 5 Royal College of Psychiatrists 1972-1981

- 6 School of Family Psychiatry and Community Mental Health 1962-1971

- 7 University College London 1978-1981

- 8 Institute of Family Therapy 1984

- 9 Other 1949-1978

F. Lectures

- 1 Overseas Lecture Tours and Visits 1959-1989

- 2 Travel Diaries Kept by ULB 1981-1986

- 3 Lecture Notes and Drafts 1945-1988

- 4 Charts and Diagrams c.1960s-c.1980s

- 5 Radio and Television 1960-1987

G. Societies and Associations

- 1 British Psycho-analytical Society 1934-1988

- 2 International Association for Child Psychiatry and Allied Professions 1961-1966

- 3 Other c.1937

H. Notes

J. Colleagues/Other Authors

- 1 Mary Ainsworth

- 2 Christoph Heinicke

- 3 Robert Hinde

- 4 Mary Main

- 5 Colin Murray Parkes

- 6 James and Joyce Robertson

- 7 Niko Tinbergen

- 8 California School of Professional Psychology

- 9 Main Alphabetical Sequence

K. Writing and Publication

- 1 Personal Aggressiveness and War (1939)

- 2 Maternal Care and Mental Health (1950)

- 3 Childcare and the Growth of Love (1953)

- 4 Attachment (1969)

- 5 Separation, Anxiety and Fear (1973)

- 6 The Making and Breaking of Affectional Bonds (1980)

- 7 Sadness and Depression (1980)

- 8 A Secure Base (1988)

- 9 Letters to the Press 1939-1975

- 10 Drafts of Articles and Papers c.1950-1990

- 11 Reprints 1938-1986

- 12 Translations 1952-1986

L. Photographs c.1910-c.1989

M. "Ursula Longstaff Bowlby Book" c.1948-1952

N. Recorded Interviews by Sophia Bowlby 1991

P. Papers of Ursula Longstaff Bowlby, 1926-2000

- 1 Before marriage, 1926-1938

- 2 Travel files, 1938-1989

- 3 Experience of motherhood, 1939-1954

- 4 Autobiographical writings and memoirs, 1941-1994

- 5 Appointment diaries, 1962-2000

- 6 Family newsletters, reports on events and occasions, 1964-1997, n.d.

- 7 Ullanish, Skye, 1956-1998

- 8 "Granny's Boasting Book", 1970-1989

- 9 Dinners 4, 1973-1989

- 10 Mary and Tony's Wedding, 1980

- 11 "Worthwhile writings by ULB (poetry and prose)", 1936-1979

- 12 Commonplace book, n.d.

- 13 Letters from family and friends, 1965-1996, n.d

- 14 Notes, cuttings, etc, re JB and his career , 1970s-1990

- 15 Family history and genealogies n.d.

- 16 ULB's drawings n.d.

- 17 ULB's photographs 1939-1954

Q. Lady Bowlby's papers

- 1 Journals 1887-1953

- 2 Correspondence, 1898-1938, n.d.

- 3 Miscellaneous personal items, 1898-1944

- 4 Watercolours

- 5 "Grampy Mostyn"

R. Winifred and Marion Bowlby (JB's sisters)

- 1 Papers of Winifred Bowlby

- 2 Papers of Marion Bowlby

- 3 Joint material

- 4 Press cuttings about family

- 5 Family photographs

Acquisition note

The first accession of the Bowlby papers, consisting of material both from his home and held at the Tavistock Clinic, was given to the Contemporary Medical Archives Centre by his literary executors in November 1991, and additional material was given in January and February 1992 by his niece Juliet Hopkins and his widow, Ursula Bowlby. In 1994 his niece Sophia Bowlby donated some recorded interviews with his relatives, and in May 1995 Ursula Bowlby transferred additional biographical material. Further material was received from Ursula Bowlby in January and March 1996, January and September 1997, and September 1999, and from Mary Gatling (daughter) in August 2001. Some additional material, primarily autobiographical writings by Ursula Bowlby, was given to the library at Wellcome Collection by Mary Gatling in November 2014, and a collection of index cards of references (acc.2134) was given by Sir Richard Bowlby in the same month. A further box was donated in 2018 relating to Ursula and John Bowlby, and another box in 2022.

Biographical note

John Bowlby was the prime originator of the theory of attachment which he developed through a multidisciplinary approach, drawing concepts from ethology, psychobiology and cybernetics and applying them to the study of human personality development. Much of his work concentrated on the attachment of children to their mothers and the consequences which ensue if these ties are disrupted, and has therefore had important implications for social policy as well as scientific thought.

Biographical outline (biographical material may be found in Section A of the collection):

1907 Born 26 Feb

1915 Goes to Abberley Hall, Worcester

1921-1924 Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, followed by a year at sea on HMS Royal Oak

1925-1928 Reads natural sciences at Trinity College, Cambridge, becomes interested in developmental psychology and in 3rd year reads psychology

1928-1929 Spends some time at Bedales in Petersfield as a teacher; from Christmas 1928 works at Priory Gate, Norfolk, a school for disturbed children

1929 Comes to London to enter University College Hospital Medical School and to start analysis with Joan Riviere, training with Institute of Psycho-analysis

1933 Medical qualifications (UCH)

Registers as a candidate, British Psycho-analytical Society

1933-c.1939 Clinical Assistant, London Clinic of Psycho-analysis

1933-1934 Clinical Assistant at Maudsley Hospital (adult psychiatry) and researches into the types of personality which precede psychotic and psycho-neurotic breakdowns

1934 Appointed Clinical Assistant, Department of Psychological Medicine, University College Hospital

1934-1938 Physician, Institute for the Scientific Treatment of Delinquency

1935 At University College Hospital begins to work with cases of mental defect and abnormality in children

1936-1937 Commonwealth Fellow in Child Psychiatry

1937-1940 Works and trains at London Child Guidance Clinic

1937 Becomes an Associate Member of The British Psycho-analytical Society

1938 Marries Ursula Longstaff

1938 Personal Aggressiveness and War (with EPM Durbin)

1938-1939 Supervised in child therapy by Melanie Klein

1939 First paper to the British Psycho-analytical Society: "The role of early environment in the development of neurosis and neurotic character"

Elected a Full Member, British Psycho-analytical Society

c.1939-1942 Physician, London Clinic of Psycho-analysis

1940-1945 RAMC psychiatrist (Temp Lt Col), mostly deals with problems of officer selection; works with a group including Wilfred Bion, Jock Sutherland and Ben Morris; special responsibility for validation of officer selection procedures using large-scale survey techniques

1943 Research and Training Centre for Officer Selection moves to Hampstead - JB able to participate in British Psycho-analytical Society

1944-1961 British Psycho-analytical Society Member of Council and/or officer

Member of Council, 1944-1948; 1951-1954; 1956-1957; 1958-1961

Training Secretary, 1944-1947: takes part in the construction of the two parallel training schemes

Deputy President 1956-1957; 1958-1961

1946 Forty-four Juvenile Thieves: Their Characters and Home Life

c.1946 Psychiatrist, Child Guidance Training Centre

1946-1972 Consultant Psychiatrist in child and family psychiatry, Tavistock Clinic and Tavistock Institute for Human Relations; divides time between research, clinical practice, including joint family interviews and attending a well-baby clinic, supervising clinical work, chairing case conferences and taking clinical seminars

1946-1968 Director, Department of Children and Adults, Tavistock Clinic

1948 Establishes a research unit at the Tavistock

1950-1972 WHO Consultant in Mental Health: 1950, studies effects of orphanhood and separation of children from their mothers in W Europe and the USA

1951 Results of WHO study published as Maternal Care and Mental Health

1952 Film "A two-year-old goes to hospital", made by James Robertson

1953 Child Care and the Growth of Love

1956-1957 Deputy President of British Psycho-analytical Society 1957-1959 Series of controversial theoretical papers to British Psycho-analytical Society: "The nature of the child's tie to his mother" (1957); "Separation anxiety" (1958); "Grief and mourning in infancy and childhood" (1959)

1957-1958 Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford, California

Gives papers in San Francisco and Los Angeles

1958 Nature of the Child's Tie to his Mother

1958-1963 Consultant, US National Institute of Mental Health

1960-1961 Chairman, Association for Child Psychology and Psychiatry

1962-1966 President, International Association for Child Psychiatry and Allied Professions

1963-1972 Part-time member of External Scientific Staff, Medical Research Council

1968-1972 Tavistock Clinic: Chairman, Staff Committee, School of Family Psychiatry and Community Mental Health

1968 Visiting Professor in Psychiatry, Stanford University, California

1969 Attachment and Loss Volume 1: Attachment

1970-1976 Member of Council, Royal College of Psychiatrists

1973 Attachment and Loss Volume 2: Separation, Anxiety and Fear

1973 HB Williams Travelling Professor, Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists

1979 The Making and Breaking of Affectional Bonds

1980 Attachment and Loss Volume 3: Loss, Sadness and Depression

1980 Visiting Professor of Psychiatry, University of Southern California, Los Angeles

1981 Freud Memorial Visiting Professor of Psycho-analysis at University College London

1988 A Secure Base

1990 Charles Darwin: a New Biography

Dies 2 Sep

Related material

At Wellcome Collection:

At the same time as Bowlby's papers were transferred to the Library, a quantity of Bowlby's books and periodicals were donated to the Library's collections of published material, while much of his large collection of reprints, weeded from his papers during sorting, has since been added to these.

Papers of Sir Anthony Bowlby (1855-1929), John Bowlby's father and an emiment surgeon, are also held by the Wellcome Library (RAMC/365; RAMC/2008/7; GC/181). Notes by Melanie Klein on some of John Bowlby's early papers may also be found in the archive collection at PP/KLE/D.28.

At other repositories:

Others of Bowlby's books were given to the Scottish Institute of Human Relations. In addition, those papers accumulated by Bowlby in the course of preparation of his biography of Charles Darwin, including notes, drafts and supporting material, have been deposited in Cambridge University Library (ADD.8884).

Copyright note

Material in Sections A-E, G-J, and L-R where John Bowlby held copyright are now available under a CC-BY-NC-ND (Non-Commercial Non Derivatives) licence. Please seek permission from The Grandchildren's Trust for material in sections F and K where John Bowlby held copyright. For information on Ursula Bowlby's copyrights please contact

Terms of use

This collection is currently partially uncatalogued. Uncatalogued material cannot be ordered online. Requests to view uncatalogued material are considered on a case by case basis. Please contact for more details.


The catalogue is available on microfiche via the National Inventory of Documentary Sources (NIDS).


A & L Attachment and Loss

ACPP Association for Child Psychology and Psychiatry

AGM Annual General Meeting

APA American Psychological Association

BBC British Broadcasting Corporation

BOAR British Army on the Rhine

BPS British Psychological Society

BRH Betty R. Hinchcliff

CBE Commander of the Order of the British Empire

CDRU Child Development Research Unit

CS1 Current Studies 1 [Protest, Despair and Detachment]

CSPP California School of Professional Psychology

DHSS Department of Health and Social Security

DPH Department of Public Health

HMC Hospital Management Committee

IACP International Association for Child Psychiatry and Allied Professions

IGA Institute for Group Analysis

ILEA Inner London Education Authority

ISTD Institute for the Scientific Treatment of Delinquency

JB John Bowlby

LSE London School of Economics

MGC Marriage Guidance Council

MRC Medical Research Council

NAMHNational Association for Mental Health

P,D&D Protest, Despair and Detachment

PPT [Pre-Psychotic Type]

RAMC Royal Army Medical Corps

RCM Royal College of Medicine

RMPA Royal Medico-Psychological Association

RSM Royal Society of Medicine

SFP School of Family Psychiatry

UCH University College Hospital

UCL University College London

ULB Ursula Longstaff Bowlby

WHO World Health Organisation

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Accession number

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