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Papers of A.N. Prior and Mary Prior


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The archive comprises correspondence (12 boxes) and other papers (1 box). The majority of the archive (11 boxes) comprises correspondence between Arthur and Mary Prior written between 1943 and 1945 when Arthur was away from home serving with the Royal New Zealand Air Force. These personal letters include discussions about philosophy, religion and the war.


  • Creation: 1922-2006, n.d.


1.95 Linear metres (13 physical shelfmarks)

Language of Materials

  • English

Conditions Governing Access

Material of a sensitive personal nature is closed. This is indicated in the catalogue.

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark and folio or page reference, where available, e.g. MS. 12558/1, fols. 1-2].

Please see our help page for further guidance on citing archives and manuscripts.

Full range of shelfmarks:

MSS. 12558/1-13

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 12558


Correspondence and other papers of A.N. Prior (1914–1969), philosopher, and Mary Prior (d. 2011), historian and author, with a little correspondence of other family members.

Biographical / Historical

Arthur Norman Prior was born in New Zealand and studied at the University of Otago in Dunedin where he received a BA in philosophy and psychology (1935) and an MA in philosophy (1936). He taught philosophy at the University of Otago for a short period before travelling to Europe, returning to New Zealand in 1940. After serving with the Royal New Zealand Air Force (1942-1945), Prior taught philosophy in New Zealand at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch (1946-1958) and in England at the University of Manchester (1959-1966) and the University of Oxford (1966-1969) where he was a fellow of Balliol College. His first book, Logic and the Basis of Ethics, was published in 1949.

Mary Laura Prior studied at the University of Otago in Dunedin in the 1940s and later at St. Hilda's College, Oxford, where she completed her doctorate in 1976. Her doctoral thesis, 'Fisher Row: the Oxford Community of Fishermen and Bargemen, 1500-1800', was published in 1982 as Fisher Row: Fishermen, Bargemen, and Canal Boatmen in Oxford, 1500-1900. Prior is probably best known for her contributions to the book Women in English Society, 1500-1800 (published 1985) which she also edited.

Arthur and Mary Prior met at the University of Otago in the 1940s and were married in 1943. They had two children, Martin and Ann.

For a fuller biography of Arthur Prior, see the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. An obituary of Mary Prior was published in The Guardian newspaper.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Bequeathed to the Library by Ann Prior, daughter of Arthur and Mary Prior, and received in 2017.

Catalogue of the papers of A.N. Prior and Mary Prior
Finding aid prepared by Marion Lowman and Carolyn Lewis
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom