Fonds P01 - Marion Milner collection

Identity area

Reference code



Marion Milner collection


  • 1898-1998 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

880 items

Context area

Name of creator


Biographical history

Nina Marion Blackett was born in London on 1 February 1900. Her father Arthur Stuart Blackett worked on the London stock exchange and her mother Caroline Maynard was an enthusiastic artist. Her brother was Nobel physicist Patrick Blackett.

She studied psychology and physiology at University College London and graduated in 1924 with a first class degree. After graduation she started work as an industrial psychologist. In 1927 she was invited by Prof. Elton Mayo to study with him in the US and observe the development of his Hawthorne experiment. After 2 years she returned to England and was occupied in industrial psychology until the birth of her son in 1932. From then until 1939 she worked for the Girls Public Day School Trust as a psychologist, researching the emotional problems that could influence girls at school. This led to her book ‘The Human Problem in Schools’ (1938).

At the age of 26, Milner had begun to record her thought streams in a diary in an attempt to discover a ‘central purpose in life’. In 1934, under the pseudonym Joanna Field, Milner published ‘A Life of One's Own’ (1934). This was the first of three books in which she shares the method and discoveries of her diary keeping. The discovery of her unconscious mind through this study was an immense surprise to Milner and it led her eventually to train as a psychoanalyst. In 1943, following analysis with Sylvia Payne, she qualified as an analyst in the British Society.

Also in 1943 she began an analysis of a psychotic patient which would last more than 20 years. Milner produced a uniquely detailed account of this analysis in her book ‘The Hands of the Living God’ (1969). She was also a talented artist and her book ‘On Not Being Able to Paint’ (1950) is an important work on creativity.

She wrote and published many other books and papers during her long career as a psychoanalyst and continued to see patients until her early 90s. She died on 29 May 1998.

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Professional, personal and family material related to Marion Milner. A substantial section of the papers relates to Milner's work with or about other people, mainly psychoanalysts and artists. There is also a long series of illuminating personal diaries and other fascinating series of papers relating to her work, interests and family.


Further accruals are expected.

System of arrangement

The material is arranged into nine series:
P01-A – Writings
P01-B – Lectures
P01-C - Rockefeller Scholarship
P01-D - Colleagues and correspondents
P01-E - Diaries and notes
P01-F - Clinical work
P01-G - Family and personal life
P01-H – Art
P01-J – Interests

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Access to our archive collections in our reading room is by appointment only; please email the archivist to arrange your visit. Please note that access to material that is in poor physical condition may be restricted.

Access to the information in our archive is governed by our access policy and guided by sector ethical codes and relevant legislation.

We charge fees for access, reprographics and guided research; please see our current price list.

Conditions governing reproduction

Copies of material from our archive collections may be supplied for research and private study in accordance with the UK Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

Written permission must be obtained from the chair of the archive committee and the archivist to reproduce or publish any material held in our archive.

It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain any necessary copyright clearance from the copyright holder.

We reserve the right to make a charge for the publication of material obtained from our archive.

Language of material

  • English
  • French

Script of material

  • Latin

Language and script notes

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Finding aids

The collection catalogue is published online

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Related units of description

The Wellcome Library holds the papers of several psychoanalysts mentioned in Milner's papers, including John Bowlby (ref. PP/BOW), Melanie Klein (ref. PP/KLE) and D W Winnicott (ref. PP/DWW and GC/148).

Related descriptions

Publication note

Extensive use has been made of this material by a scholar who is writing a biography of Milner.

Notes area


Please note that there is further material that currently remains uncatalogued.

Alternative identifier(s)

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      Accession area