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Munz - Papers of Peter Munz

Identifier: munp

Scope and contents note

The papers of Peter Munz were received in instalments over several years, but largely in 2007 and 2008 following his death. They include research notes spanning 70 years, offprints (both his own and those given to him), some books from his collection, some correspondence, typescripts of conference papers, lectures, articles and books by him. Also included are non-print materials in the form of cassette tapes, diskettes, and CD-ROM containing files and e-mails from his PC.

Subject coverage is a very broad sweep of history and philisophy. Medieval European history is particularly strongly represented - Charlemagne, Barbarossa and Marsilius of Padua are some of the more prominent names covered - but a good deal of early modern European history is here. Comparisons of eastern and western philosophies and philosophers are also represented, as are the history of thought and the history of history itself, along with social commentary.

Papers are in English, German, Italian and occasionally Latin or Greek.


  • Creation: 1930-2006

Conditions governing access

Access to the papers for consultation with in the J.C.Beaglehole Room is open to bona fide researchers.

Biographical note

Munz, Peter

Missing Title

Born, Chemnitz, Germany
Died, Wellington, New Zealand

MA (NZ: Canterbury), PhD (Cambridge)

History: Assistant (Temporary), 1945; Junior lecturer, 1945-46; Senior lecturer, 1948-61; Associate Professor, 1961-67; Professor, 1967; Retired, 1986; Emeritus Professor, 1987.

Peter Munz was born in Chemnitz, Germany in 1921. He was educated in Germany, Switzerland and Italy until it became too unsafe for a German Jew to remain there. He emigrated to New Zealand with his mother and sister, spending a period of several months in Haifa en route, having originally intended to stay there with an uncle there, before continuing to New Zealand, where there were family friends. They arrived in January 1940.

He continued his studies here at Canterbury University College, studying history, German and philosophy. Here he became a firm friend of Karl Popper, his philosophy lecturer. After gaining a first in history (1943), he went on to do a PhD at Cambridge University, where he studied with Wittgenstein, gaining his PhD with his work on 'The place of Hooker in the history of thought.' He subsequently turned his PhD into a book which was published in 1952.

He took up a junior lectureship in history at Victoria University College in 1945, progressing to senior lecturer in 1949 and Associate Professor in 1967, developing his research through the 1950s and 1960s in two particular areas: medieval history, and the place of religion in modern thought. These were by no means the entire focus of his thinking, which ranged broadly across many disciplines. He published widely and significantly throughout that period and in 1967 succeeded J.C.Beaglehole as Professor of History at Victoria University of Wellington. He continued to teach and conduct research, publishing increasingly in philosphical areas and by the time of his retirement from Victoria in 1986 he was working in the area of the history of knowledge. He was appointed Professor Emeritus in 1987 and continued to engage with contemporary thinking and to publish such titles as 'Philosophical Darwinism: on the origin of knowledge by means of natural selection' (1993) and 'Critique of impure reason: an essay on neurons, somatic markers and consciousness' (1999). He was working on the question of the evolution of culture before he died.

As a lecturer he is reported to have lectured engagingly and without notes and was much admired by many students.


10 linear_meters ([44 numbered boxes including some file boxes and one folder])

Language of Materials


Physical arrangement note

The bulk of the material came to us after Professor Munz' death, and was boxed in several clusters: filing cabinets (18 boxes), study, Ohiro Road (4 boxes), 'residual papers CoB03' (7 boxes), miscellaneous from Cotton basement (1 box), authored works, offprints and publications (4 boxes), magazines (1 box), and a number of boxes with no attributed location or particular grouping, including boxes of stamps, postcards and diskettes.

Within the filing cabinet boxes there were two obvious sequences: a standard numbered sequence and those identified as 'Peet' (also numbered). The Peet series spans the years from 1937 to approximately 1948, although there are some unnumbered files interspersed which include material from the early 1950s up to 1953-4. They were not filed within the other numeric sequence, but were identified as files stored flat at the back of the drawer they were in. Because they are so clearly separate sequences, they are arranged physically as separate series. A detailed listing of the boxes, reflecting the order in which they were packed for delivery to the J.C.Beaglehole Room, is held in the Munz papers documentation folder.

Material for which there was no clear link to an accession record has been assigned to the series whose content it most closely matches.

Peet series: 1937 - ca1953 This numbered series of folders consists largely of research and study notes, with occasional items of correspondence) on a range of topics, dating from Peter's period of study in Italy, through the six months spent in Haifa in 1939, and including his time of study in both Christchurch and Cambridge. This series appears to have placed some emphasis on chronology, with some folders carrying material related to a several ideas.

Filing cabinet series: This numbered series of folders consists of research notes across the spectrum of Peter's interests, manuscripts and typescripts of articles, lectures &c, reviews both by and of PM, some correspondence & clippings. As a general rule, the folders in this series contain only material relvant to the topic on the cover, although there may be several widely separated folders relevant to any one topic. A card index to this series is held as part of this collection.

Ohiro Road study series: Four boxes labelled "Assorted files from study - Ohiro Road" This series consists of a mixture of labelled folders and loose items, being notes, reviews, correspondence, some photographs and clippings.

"Residual files CoB03" series: Eight boxes, consisting of a mixture of labelled folders and loose items, being notes, offprints, reviews, correspondence, some photographs and clippings.

Other files series: Two boxes - one a proof copy of 'The Shapes of time' and the other containing mostly offprints. (Possibly additional files from Ohiro Road study.)

Non-print media: Within the collection are boxes containing photographic negatives, microfilms, cassette tapes, diskettes and a CD-ROM of files and e-mails from PM's PC. Apart from a box of microfilms originally boxed with files from the Filing Cabinet series, these items have been kept with whatever they were originally boxed with.

Publications and offprints: This series consists of offprints or duplicates of articles written by Peter or given to him by others, magazines and published books.

Miscellaneous: This series consists mainly of personal items, postcards and an Emergency Precaution Scheme armband (NZ -WWII).

Detailed listing

A detailed listing is available from the J.C.Beaglehole Room.

Administrative Information

All text and images are copyright. Enquiries for re-use should be made in the first instance to the J C Beaglehole Room, VUW Library.

Guide to the papers of Peter Munz
Edited Full Draft
Sue Hirst
September 2013
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Language of description note
Finding aid is written inEnglish
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XML EAD edition

Repository Details

Part of the Tapuaka Heritage & Archive Collections - JC Beaglehole Reading Room, Victoria University of Wellington Library Repository

P O Box 3438
Wellington 6140 New Zealand
+64 4 4635681