The papers of Paul Ramsey span the years 1934 to 1984. Included are correspondence, memoranda, book reviews, typescripts, reprints, drafts of books and articles, clippings, lecture notes and outlines, course outlines, examinations and handouts, writings of Ramsey and others, news releases, theses and dissertations, and cassette tapes. The principal focus of the collection reflects the direction of the teaching and writing career of Ramsey, principally while a professor in the Department of Religion at Princeton University. These primarily professional papers relate to his major fields of interest: theology, philosophy, and the humanities. In particular, Ramsey's chief specialty as a teacher and scholar has been Christian ethics, beginning with the publication of his classic, Basic Christian Ethics in 1950. There followed writings in ethical methodology, "situation ethics," marriage, and sexual ethics. In the 1960s he expanded the scope of his research and writing to include the ethics of warfare and nuclear deterrence, and in the 1970s turned to medical ethics topics, such as fetal research, abortion, and in vitro fertilization.
The Correspondence Series, which comprises about one-half of the collection, and the Writings and Speeches Series form the bulk of the Ramsey Papers. The Correspondence Series consists chiefly of office correspondence including letters from theologians and professors, institutions and organizations, and journals, such as the Journal of Religious Ethics, for which Ramsey served as chairman of the editorial board. Among the correspondents are the American Medical Association, Roland Herbert Bainton, Emil Brunner, Daniel Callahan, James M. Gustafson, Van Austin Harvey, Orrin Hatch, the Institute of Society, Ethics, and the Life Sciences, Henry M. Jackson, Journal of Religious Ethics, Ernest W. Lefever, Richard A. McCormick, Rollo May, Abraham John Muste, the National Council of the Churches of Christ, the National Council on Religion in Higher Education, The New England Journal of Medicine, H. Richard Niebuhr, Reinhold Niebuhr, Richard M. Nixon, Liston Pope, Quentin L. Quade, Warren T. Reich, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Sargent Shriver, John Edwin Smith, Elton Trueblood, Richard Preston Unsworth, Henry Pitney Van Dusen, and Worldview.
Both the Writings and Speeches Series and the Courses Series reflect the various areas of Christian ethics about which Ramsey wrote and taught. The papers in the Courses Series relate specifically to the three chief areas in which Ramsey taught: religion, philosophy, and the humanities. Of particular interest is the information relating to Karl Barth, especially the seminar on Karl Barth's church dogmatics.
The relatively small Academic and Professional Series relates chiefly to Princeton academic affairs, such as the graduate program in religion and committee work, and The Wesley Foundation. There also is material concerning conferences and programs, such as the Aspen Institute Seminar, the Conference on Life Sciences and Mankind, and Week of Work.