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William G. Robbins Papers, 1886-2014

By Finding aid prepared by Jodi Allison-Bunnell.

Collection Overview

Title: William G. Robbins Papers, 1886-2014

Predominant Dates: 1966-1999

ID: MSS Robbins

Primary Creator: Robbins, William G. (1935-)

Extent: 28.9 cubic feet. More info below.

Languages of Materials: English [eng]


The William G. Robbins Papers document his teaching, research and publishing activities and include correspondence, course syllabi and lecture notes, articles and book reviews, and extensive research and reference materials created and assembled by Robbins. A scholar of the environmental history of North America and a noted author, Robbins was a faculty member in the Oregon State University History Department from 1971 until his retirement in 1999.

Items from this collection have been digitized and are available in Oregon Digital.

Scope and Content Notes

The William G. Robbins Papers consist of materials generated and assembled by Robbins for teaching, research, and writing. The papers consist of correspondence (arranged choronologically), annual activity summary files, article and book reviews written by Robbins, conference papers and speeches, teaching materials, class notes and papers from his graduate education, and extensive research and reference materials. The papers also include newspaper clippings; publications and reports; and a few photographs.

The correspondence pertains to the publication of his research, search for employment as a university instructor, and Robbins' teaching post in the Oregon State University History Department and document Robbins' interaction with colleagues, journal editors, and university administrators. The teaching materials includes course syllabi, lecture and research notes, graduate student files, and reference materials assembled for a series of courses on Native American historical topics. The graduate student files reflect Robbins' role as an advisor and contain correspondence, meeting notices, essays, and thesis proposals.

The research and reference materials were assembled by Robbins in the course of his research and writing and include photocopies from a variety of archives and primary source repositories.

An addition to the Robbins Papers (Accession 2007:067) consists of correspondence, essays, grant proposals, lecture notes, newspaper clippings, publications, reference materials, research notes, sound recordings, and videotapes. Primarily documenting book and doctoral dissertation research, this transfer also contains reviews of Robbins' books, correspondence with publishers, a proposal for the formation of a regional history center, records from conferences organized by Robbins, and materials relating to the development of a distance education history course. Many of the notes are on index cards and reflect research Robbins gleaned from 19th century Roseburg-area (Oregon) census data for his dissertation. The 18 VHS videotapes contain recordings of lectures given by Robbins for the following classes: "Ecology and History: Landscapes of the Columbia Basin" (HIST 470/570) and "History of the American West" (HIST 468), and "History of the American Indian" (HIST 367). Made up of 7 cassette tapes, the sound recordings document the "Nature and Culture in the Northern West" symposium, where Robbins gave a presentation.

A second addition to the Robbins Papers (Accession 2013:041) is made up of materials collected and generated by History Professor Robbins that include article reprints, books, cds, correspondence, course outlines/syllabi, manuscript drafts, newspaper clippings, notes, photographs, speeches, student papers, and a thesis. Primarily amassed by Robbins in the course of research for books, articles, and presentations, these materials also document Robbins' instruction of classes, review of books, and delivery of talks/speeches to a variety of different audiences. Among the books resulting from the research represented in these files include: "Nature’s Northwest: The Pacific Slope in the 20th Century," "Oregon: This Storied Land," and "Landscapes of Promise: The Oregon Story." The thesis reflects Robbins' doctoral work at the University of Oregon. Four of the five books found in this transfer are inscribed to Robbins by the authors. Numbering 118 photographic slides in total, the images primarily depict artists' representations of the 19th century American landscape and the interaction between Native Americans and settlers. Other slides include historic views of the Columbia River and pre-mechanized agriculture.

A third addition to the Robbins Papers (Accession 2013:066) consists of materials collected by Robbins during his research for a book project envisioned as a follow-up to "Colony and Empire." Robbins planned for this book, "The Insurgent West," to be an examination of the "cultures of resistance" that shaped the American West rather than a study of the impact of capitalist values that he explored in "Colony and Empire." Made up of article reprints, book chapters, correspondence, magazines, newspaper clippings, notes, project proposals, and talks delivered by Robbins, these files reflect the research planning process which include applications for travel funding to various archives in Oregon and outside the state. In addition to documenting historical labor movements throughout the western U.S. and Canada, the sources in this transfer also reflect Mexican-American communities, radical farmer movements, railroads, utopian communities, and Mormon settlements. "The Insurgent West" was never published.

A fourth addition to the Robbins Papers (Accession 2014:115) consists of materials collected and generated by Robbins in the course of researching and writing the book "A Man for All Seasons: Monroe Sweetland and the Liberal Paradox." Primarily made up of reference materials accumulated during the process of research, this transfer includes articles, correspondence, a DVD, meeting minutes, newspaper clippings, speeches, theses, and transcripts of interviews. The files are grouped together by the source of their origin (mostly the Oregon Historical Society, the University of Oregon Library, and the Sweetland family). This accession also contains an edited draft copy of the book manuscript as well as public presentations by Robbins about Sweetland's life and legacy.

Items from this collection have been digitized and are available in Oregon Digital.

Biographical / Historical Notes

William Robbins served as a faculty member in the Oregon State University History Department from 1971 until his retirement in 1999 as Emeritus Distinguished Professor of History. Robbins earned his B.S. from Western Connecticut State College and his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Oregon. Robbins was named a Distinguished Professor at OSU in 1997.

Specializing in the history of the western United States from an economic and environmental perspective, Robbins has written extensively on the history of Oregon and the Pacific Northwest. His books include: Landscapes of Promise: The Oregon Story, 1800-1940 (1997); Landscapes of Conflict: The Oregon Story, 1940-2000 (2004); Hard Times in Paradise: Coos Bay, Oregon, 1850-1896 (1988); Colony and Empire: The Capitalist Transformation of the American West (1994); and The Great Northwest: The Search for Regional Identity (2001). His 2005 book, Oregon: This Storied Land was a finalist for the 2006 Oregon Book Award in general non-fiction.

Administrative Information

More Extent Information: 26 archives boxes

Statement on Access: Collection is open for research.

Related Materials:

The Oregon Multicultural Archives includes other collections pertaining to Native Americans. The Special Collections and Archives Research Center collections include many collections documenting the history of forestry and the forest products in the Northwest including the College of Forestry Records (RG 139), Spotted Owl Management, Policy, and Research Collection (MSS SpottedOwl), and the Mater Engineering Tribal Consultation Files (MSS MaterEngineering).

An oral history interview conducted with Bill Robbins recounting his memories of William Appleman Williams is held in the History of Oregon State University Oral Histories and Sound Recordings (OH 003). The Center also holds the William Appleman Williams Papers (MSS Williams).

Preferred Citation: William G. Robbins Papers (MSS Robbins), Oregon State University Special Collections and Archives Research Center, Corvallis, Oregon.

Processing Information: This collection is not fully processed; this guide is preliminary.

Other URL: A preliminary container list was created for this collection on or before November 14, 2014.


Robbins, William G. (1935-)

People, Places, and Topics

Forest policy--United States--History.
Forests and forestry--Minnesota.
Forests and forestry--Northwest, Pacific.
History--Study and teaching (Higher)--Oregon--Corvallis.
Indians of North America--Study and teaching (Higher)--Oregon--Corvallis.
KKK (Ku Klux Klan (1915- ))
Northwest, Pacific--History--Sources.
Oregon--Environmental conditions--History.
Oregon Multicultural Archives
Robbins, William G., 1935-
United States. Forest Service--History.
University History

Forms of Material

Photographic prints.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.