In Memoriam: John Munro (1938–2013)

It is with deep regret that the Centre for Medieval Studies learned of the death 23 December 2013 of John H. A. Munro, Professor Emeritus of Economics and Medieval Studies. To quote Munro’s close friend and colleague Herman van der Wee of the University of Leuven, we mourn the loss of ‘an unrivalled master, a devoted teacher, and a faithful friend.’

John Munro was among the world’s leading authorities on late medieval and early modern monetary, financial, and industrial history, with over 150 publications to his credit during a distinguished career that spanned fifty years.

John Munro was born in Vancouver and took a combined honours BA in Economics and History in 1960 at the University of British Columbia before proceeding to Yale, where he completed a PhD in medieval economic history under the supervision of Roberto Lopez in 1964. After an initial appointment in History and Economics at UBC, he was invited in 1968 to join the Department of Political Economy (from 1982, the Department of Economics) at the University of Toronto, where he was tenured in 1970 and promoted Full Professor in 1973. From the moment of his appointment in Toronto, Munro took a leading role at the Centre for Medieval Studies, supervising or co-supervising over twenty doctoral dissertations, serving as Associate Director from 1976 to 1979, and influencing several generations of students through his legendary graduate seminar on ‘The Dynamics of the European Economy, 1300-1750.’

John Munro was the recipient of many research grants and academic honours. Among the latter, he was proudest of his election in 1999 to the Comitato Scientifico of the Istituto Internazionale di Storia Economica ‘Francesco Datini’ in Prato and his appointment four years later to the institute’s executive committee; of the recognition of his pioneering research on the economy of the late medieval Low Countries by election as a Foreign Member of the Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Science and the Arts in 2000; and of his election in 2011 to a Life-Time Fellowship of the Medieval Academy of America.

In March 2004, several of John Munro’s former doctoral students organized an international workshop at the Centre for Medieval Studies to mark his retirement, the proceedings of which were published as a Festschrift under the title Money, Markets, and Trade in Late Medieval Europe: Essays in Honour of John H. A. Munro, L. Armstrong, I. Elbl, and M. Elbl, eds. (Leiden, 2007).

John Munro’s research interests focused mainly on the Low Countries and England, though his publications extend to topics as diverse as the usury prohibition, medieval demographics, and international merchant law. His major publications are: Wool, Cloth and Gold: The Struggle for Bullion in Anglo-Burgundian Trade, ca. 1340-1478 (Brussels and Toronto, 1973); Textiles of the Low Countries in European Economic History, ed. Erik Aerts and John Munro, Studies in Social and Economic History, Vol. 19 (Leuven, 1990); Bullion Flows and Monetary Policies in England and the Low Countries, 1350 – 1500 (London, 1992); Textiles, Towns, and Trade: Essays in the Economic History of Late-Medieval England and the Low Countries (London, 1994); and (as editor and contributor) Money in the Pre-Industrial World: Bullion, Debasements and Coin Substitutes, Financial History Series no. 20 (London, 2012).

Lawrin Armstrong