Fonds 1364 - Fritz M. Heichelheim fonds

Identity area

Reference code

UTA 1364


Fritz M. Heichelheim fonds


  • ca. 1922-1968 (Creation)

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Extent and medium

3.56 m of textual and graphic records (25 boxes)

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Name of creator


Biographical history

Fritz Moritz Heichelheim was born on May 6th, 1901 in Giessen (Hesse) Germany, the son of a banker, Albert Heichelheim. Heichelheim married Gerta Oppenheimer in 1934 and together they had one son named Peter, who later became a doctor. Heichelheim was educated at the Landgraf Ludwig Gymnasium in Giessen and Giessen University. In 1923 he passed the “Oberlehrarexamen” in Latin, Greek, History and Arabic (first class). In 1925 he obtained his PhD in Philosophy. His thesis, “Die Auswartige Bevolkerung im Ptolemaerreich”, was published in 1925. He also studied Classics, Ancient history and Oriental languages at Munich and Berlin.

After receiving his doctorate, Heichelheim taught at Gymnasia in Hesse and was also appointed “Privatdozent fur Alte Geschichte” at the University of Giessen. In 1933, after teaching at Hesse for ten years and at Giessen for four, he was dismissed as a non-Aryan and chose to leave Germany. For two and a half years, he received research grants from the Classical Faculty of Cambridge University, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Society for the Protection of Science and Learning. These grants allowed Heichelheim to complete “Wirteschaftsgeschichte des Altertums vom Palaolithikum bis zur Volkerwanderung der Germanen, Slawen und Araber”, a 1200 page book published by A.W. Sijthoff of Leiden in 1938. In 1936 and in 1938 he received a grant from the Leon Bequest Committee at the University of London to do historical research. In 1938/39 he lectured on Select Papyri at Classical Faculty at Cambridge University. In 1941 he began the cataloguing of Greek coin collections housed at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. Heichelheim began teaching at Nottingham University in 1942 and continued until 1948 when he accepted a position as lecturer at University College, University of Toronto in the Department of Classics. At the same time of his appointment with the University of Toronto, Heichelheim received an honorary professorship in Ancient economic history at Giessen, his old university. He was appointed assistant professor in 1953, Associate professor in 1958 and professor in 1962. In 1961, the University of Giessen bestowed upon him an honorary doctoral degree in agriculture. In 1963 he was a visiting professor at the Free University of Berlin and in 1966 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

Within the academic world, Prof. Heichelheim was known as an expert numismatist, papyrologist and an expert in the economic history of the ancient world, particularly the Greeks and Romans. He was a respected scholar who published some 600 items including books, articles, reviews and chapters to various survey histories in collaboration with other authors such as E. N. Adler, Elemer Balogh, and Cedric Yeo. Some of his more popular works include Ancient Economic History, published in two volumes in 1958 and 1964 and History of the Roman People with Cedric Yeo in 1962. He is credited with discovering the boom and bust economic cycle in the Roman and Greek empires. An accomplished linguist, Prof. Heichelheim was renowned for his facility in 20 languages. In the early 1950’s he persuaded the University of Toronto to enter into a joint project with the University of Giessen to translate and publish the Geissen papyri and ostrakai. He acted as director of the staff committee on this project throughout the 1950s. He also developed several theories including that the modern alphabet was first developed from a musical scale, and that the human idea of living in a city will soon come to an end.

Professor Heichelheim died of a heart attack on Monday April 22, 1968 on the front campus of the University of Toronto.

Archival history

This accession comprises all the records of the Fritz M. Heichelheim fonds. Originally received into the Library following his death in 1968, they were managed until 2004 by the Fisher Rare Book Library. In the fall of 2004, these papers were transferred to the University Archives. Since the records had been partially arranged and described by the Fisher, the original order of the records is not known. However, an attempt was made wherever possible to maintain the integrity of the records as they were received.

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Scope and content

This fonds contains the personal papers of Prof. Fritz Moritz Heichelheim, mainly while professor of classics at the University of Toronto (1948-1968) and in academic positions at Universities in Britain such as Cambridge and Nottingham University.

The largest series (Series 1) contains correspondence spanning 46 years received from friends, family and colleagues living in North America as well as Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Correspondence is in mostly English and German depending on the language of the writer. Some of Prof. Heichelheim’s outgoing replies will be found scrawled on the back of the incoming letter or as a separate documents. The completeness of this series documents Prof. Heichelheim’s wide interest in classical studies, numismatics and papyri translation. Other series document some of his teaching and research activities, mainly at universities in England as well as his literary works on Roman and Greek history also in both English and German. No manuscripts for his major books such as his published thesis in the 1930’s or his collaborative works such as A history of the Roman people (1962) with C. A. Yeo have been found.

His extensive work in numismatics however will be found in Series 5. This series contains the manuscript and photographs for his catalogue Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum Vol. IV of the General and Leake Collections at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge produced mainly during the late 1930’s to the 1950s. Records in this series provide some documentation on the joint project of University of Toronto and Heichelheim’s previous employer, the University of Giessen in Germany. This project directed by Prof. Heichelheim during the 1950s dealt with the translation and publication of the Giessen papyrus and ostraka (handwriting on pottery).

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Language of material

  • English
  • German

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Correspondence is in mostly English and German.

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