Huddled in the reading room of Houghton library, bespectacled researchers, like little boys at Christmas, gasped and grunted in surprise last week, as they read through the catalogue outlining the University's recently-released collection of the papers of Leon Trotsky.
For 40 years Harvard had stored the papers in their end of a bargain with the Russian revolutionary leader who wanted to protect his friends and colleagues from Stalinist reprisals that claimed Trotsky's life.
So when Houghton finally released the collection, scholars from around the world were delighted. "There were 35 people in the reading room at 11 a.m.," manuscript curator Rodney Dennis said the day the papers came out of storage. "Thirty of them were working on Trotsky, and five on the rest of Western civilization," he added.
The papers won't reveal many new historical revelations; instead they will help to "show Trotsky as a person," his former bodyguard, van Heijenoort said. Other scholars added that the documents show Trotsky was hardworking and unafraid, although realistic about his chances for survival.