Munro, John H. A.

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Munro, John H. A.

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  • Munro, John Henry Alexander

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John Henry Alexander Munro was born in Vancouver, British Columbia on March 14, 1938. He received his undergraduate education at the University of British Columbia, graduating with a combined Honours in Economics and History Bachelor of Arts degree in 1960. He then enrolled at Yale University as a graduate student, studying under Roberto Lopez. He received his Master of Arts in 1961 and his PhD in Economic History in June, 1965. His studies at Yale were supported by research fellowships such as the Canada Council Pre-Doctoral Degree Fellowships (1961-1963), and the Imperial Oil Graduate Research Fellowship. His thesis “Bullionism in Anglo-Burgundian Commercial Relations, 1348-1478” was later published under the title "Wool, Cloth and Gold: The struggle for bullion in Anglo-Burgundian Trade ca 1340-1478" in 1973.

Professor Munro began his 50-year academic career as an Instructor at the University of British Columbia in the Departments of History and Economics in 1964. He was promoted to Assistant Professor in 1965, and in 1968 he accepted a position at the University of Toronto. He joined the Department of Political Economy with the rank of Associate Professor, received tenure in 1970, and was promoted to full Professor in July, 1973.

At the University of Toronto he participated in many committees both within the Department of Political Economy (later Economics) and throughout the University. Beginning in 1976, he assumed a leading role in the Centre for Medieval Studies in developing curriculum, organizing conferences, and conducting searches for faculty appointments, and supervising or co-supervising over twenty doctoral dissertations.

His graduate seminar on ‘The Dynamics of the European Economy, 1300-1750’ has been described as “legendary”. He was also active in the University of Toronto Faculty Association. In 2004 he prepared a report entitled “The Debate about Mandatory Retirement, or Positive Individual Choices in Retirement at 65” for RALUT (Retired Academics and Librarians at the University of Toronto).

Professor Munro is recognized as one of the world’s leading authorities in late medieval European and early modern monetary, financial and industrial history. His 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. He produced over 150 scholarly publications including 94 articles, 40 book reviews, and authored or co-authored seven books. His major publications are: Wool, Cloth and Gold: The Struggle for Bullion in Anglo-Burgundian Trade, ca. 1340-1478 (1973); Textiles of the Low Countries in European Economic History, ed. Erik Aerts and John Munro, Studies in Social and Economic History, Vol. 19 (1990); Bullion Flows and Monetary Policies in England and the Low Countries, 1350–1500 (1992); Textiles, Towns, and Trade: Essays in the Economic History of Late-Medieval England and the Low Countries (1994); and (as editor and contributor) Money in the Pre-Industrial World: Bullion, Debasements and Coin Substitutes, Financial History Series no. 20 (2012).

Professor Munro was Medieval Economic History Area Editor for The Oxford Encyclopedia of Economic History (1995-2003), a member of editorial boards for The Collected Works of Erasmus from 1999, Textile History (1982-1987), Explorations in Economic History (1998-2004), The International History Review (2000-2003), and Medieval Clothing and Textiles (from 2003). He also served as a referee for numerous American, British and European journals and national and international university presses, including all of the aforementioned publications (except The Collected Works of Erasmus) and the American Historical Review, Journal of Economic History, Speculum: Journal of Medieval Studies, Economic History Review, and European Review of Economic History.

He was the recipient of many research grants and academic honours; of the latter he was particularly proud of three. The first was his election in 1999 to the Comitato Scientifico of the Istituto Internazionale di Storia Economica Francesco Datini da Prato and his appointment four years later to its executive board. The second was 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. The third was his election in 2011 to a Life-Time Fellowship of the Medieval Academy of America.

Professor Munro was also a member of the Economic History Association (USA), served on the Economic History Committee of the Canadian Economics Association from 1985 to 1990 and chaired it for the last two years; and was elected councillor of the Medieval Academy of America for the 1990-1993 term. He was in great demand as a speaker at conferences, workshops and other academic special events, producing more than 70 papers for presentation. He also organized three conferences: a workshop, Medieval monetary problems: bimetallism and bullionism’ for the 42nd annual meeting of the Economic History Association (1982); the 1985 annual conference of Centre for Medieval Studies, on ‘Medieval urban society’; and session B-15, ‘Textiles of the Low Countries in European economic history’, of the 10th International Economic History Congress in 1990.

Professor Munro retired in 2003 when he was “subjected to mandatory retirement”, and was appointed Professor Emeritus. To honour him, some of his former students and colleagues organized a conference, Money, Markets and Trade in late Medieval Europe: An International Workshop in Honour of John Munro, the following year. It was held in the familiar surroundings of the Centre for Medieval Studies, and the proceedings were published in 2007. Following his official retirement, he continued to teach on contract until his death in Toronto on 23 December 2013. He is survived by his wife, Jeanette, and two children, Robert and Valerie.


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This biographical note draws on information in Professor Munro’s personal records, including his 60-page curriculum vitae; in “In Memoriam: John Munro (1938-1913)”, Centre for Medieval Studies, University of Toronto website; and in his obituary in the Globe and Mail on 22 February 2014.

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