North American Scholar

HEICHELHEIM, Fritz Moritz

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  • Date of Birth (YYYY-MM-DD): 1901-05-06
  • Born City: Giessen
  • Born State/Country: Germany
  • Parents: Albert, dir. Mitteldeutsche Creditbank & Bella Simonsfeld H.
  • Date of Death (YYYY-MM-DD): 1968-04-22
  • Death City: Toronto
  • Death State/Country: ON
  • Married: Gerta Oppenheimer, 1934.
  • Education:

    Study at Giessen, Munich, & Berlin; Ph.D. Giessen, 1925; D. Phil, habil., 1929; D. Agriculture (hon.) 1961.

  • Professional Experience:

    Tchr. German gymnasia, 1925-9; Privatdozent in anc. hist. Giessen, 1929-33 (dismissed on racial grounds); independent research at Cambridge, 1933-42; asst. lctr. to lctr. arch. & anc. hist. University Coll., Nottingham, 1942-8; lctr. to prof. anc. hist. University Coll., Toronto, 1948-68; prof. econ. hist, (hon.) Giessen, 1948; vis. prof. Freie Universität Berlin, 1963; fell. RSC, 1966.

  • Dissertation:

    “Die auswärtige Bevölkerung im Ptolemäerreich” (Giessen, 1925); publ. Klio Beiheft 18 (Leipzig, 1925).

  • Publications:

    Wirtschaftliche Schwankungen der Zeit von Alexander bis Augustus, Habilitationsschrift, Giessen (Jena, 1930); “Griechische Staatskunde von 1902 bis 1932” in JAW Supplbd. 250 (1935) 145-289; Wirtschaftsgeschichte des Altertums, vom Paläolithikum bis zur Völkerwanderung der Germanen, Slaven und Araber, 2 vols. (Leiden, 1938; Eng. trans. An Ancient Economic History, 3 vols. [Leiden, 1957-70]); “Roman Syria,” in An Economic Survey of Ancient Rome, ed. T. Frank (Baltimore, 1938) 4:121-257; The Adler Papyri. The Greek Texts, ed. with Elkan Nathan Adler & John Gavin Tait; The Demotic Texts by Francis Llewellyn Griffith (London, 1939); Fitzwilliam Museum: Leake and General Collections (Oxford, 1940, in series Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum); Political Refugees in Ancient Greece from the Period of the Tyrants to Alexander the Great by Elemér Balogh with the collaboration of Heichelheim (Johannesburg, 1943); “On Athenaeus XIV, 639e-640a,” HThR 37 (1944) 351; An Edict of Constantine the Great: A Contribution to the Study of Interpolations, with G. Schwarzenberger (Oslo, 1947); “Römische Sozial- und Wirtschaftsgeschichte (von der Königszeit bis Byzanz),” in Historia Mundi 4 (Munich, 1956) 397-488, bibliography 588-92; A History of the Roman People, with C. A. Yeo (Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1962; 3d ed. with Allen Ward, 1984); A Chronological Table from 323 to 30 B.C. (Hertford, 1962, also in Proc. IX Intern. Cong. Pap.); “Geschichte Kleinasiens von der Eroberung durch Kyros II. bis zum Tode des Heraklios I. (547 v. Chr.-641 n. Chr.),” in Handbuch der Orientalistik, Erste Abt., vol. 2, Abschnitt 4, Lieferung 2 (Leiden, 1966), 32-98; “Geschichte Syriens und Palästinas von der Eroberung durch Kyros II. bis zur Besitznahme durch den Islam (547 v. Chr.-641/2 n. Chr.),” ibid., 99-290.

  • Notes:

    Heichelheim was a scholar of immense learning and productivity, one of the generation of Jews lost to German universities in the Nazi period. As a student he wondered how he would ever be able to read all the books he needed to. So he began to diminish his sleeping time by 15 minutes; after several weeks he would take off another 15 minutes, and so on. He thus got his sleeping requirements down to four hours per night. As an academic he found refuge and support as a research scholar in Cambridge and here completed his Wirtschaftsgeschichte des Altertums. With characteristic, versatile energy he also collaborated in editing the Adler papyri and catalogued the Greek coins in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, for a volume of the English portion of the Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum. He became a British subject in 1940.Despite his by now voluminous publications, far surpassing the life work of most scholars, he could obtain at first only an assistant lectureship in Nottingham. Here he generously helped the South African Elemer Balogh, blocked from scholarly libraries because of the war, to complete his book on political refugees in ancient Greece—surely a work with deep resonance to Heichelheim. Ronald Stroud recalls, “in teaching Cicero's letters he lingered longest over, and had the most to say about, those written from exile.” He moved to University College, Toronto in 1948, again, incredibly as it now seems, offered only a lectureship; at age 61 he was finally promoted to professor.His publications number over 600. In his Habilitationsschrift, on economic trends from Alexander to Augustus, Heichelheim laid the foundation for his chief work, an economic history of antiquity that was to range from the Stone Age to the migrations of the Slavs, Germanic peoples, and Arabs (though he scarcely reached the lower limits). In both chronological and geographic scope this book remains unique and its learning is stupendous. He wrote in a sweeping style, with interpretations so broad and general as to be sometimes illuminating, sometimes incomprehensible and unverifiable. There are indeed many precise observations (J. A. O. Larsen said of him that he was an economic historian “who wasn't afraid of statistics”), but the main target was synthesis on a large scale rather than analysis. (The most useful review known to me is by N. Lewis, CW 34 [1940-1] 163-7.) The billowing bibliographies at the end of each long chapter are seldom true footnotes that prove some point in the text, but are rather massive compendia of publications, not all of them relevant to the narrative. An English translation was published in three volumes (1957, 1964, 1970) but was justly criticized for inaccuracy and awkward style; the third volume, published posthumously, lacks bibliographies, because Heichelheim had not brought them up to date, but even as a torso it is valuable.As an economic historian, Heichelheim sought economic patterns and structures even in the absence of clear evidence in sources. He thought, for example, that the breakthrough to complex civilization in early cultures was due to the discovery of “Leihkapital,” which allowed various kinds of organized economies; but such “planned economies” were slower to develop in the ancient world than he was prepared to admit. He also accepted ancient statements, now widely rejected, that credit Solon with a reform of Athenian coinage; this led him to think that Solon developed a “Stadtwirtschaft” in which the whole population of Athens was integrated into a state-supervised economic machine. He further envisioned in our own age the growth of ever more potent planned economies that will lead to the rule of some princeps or pharaoh over the whole world. His other major publications include long narrative chapters, some of book length, within encyclopedic handbooks, and a textbook history of Rome

  • Sources:

    H. G. Gundel, Gnomon 41 (1969) 221-4; Int. Biog. Diet. Central European Emigres, ed. H. A. Strauss & W. Roder (Munich, 1983) vol. 2; G. V. Sumner, Phoenix 22 (1968) 189; The Times (London) (27 Apr. 1968); F. V. Winnett, PRSC, ser. 4, vol. 6 (1968) 119-21, with portrait.

  • Author: Mortimer Chambers