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John G. A. Pocock papers

Identifier: MS-0425

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Scope and Contents

This collection contains lectures, speeches and writings; reprints; book manuscripts; and the conference papers of John G. A. Pocock. It spans the years of 1962 to 2017. The majority of the papers in the collection date from Pocock's time at Johns Hopkins University, including time as professor emeritus. There are a few items dating from the 1960s and early 1970s that precede his Hopkins career. Writings make up the bulk of this collection. Professor Pocock did much of his writing by hand, and the detailed notes on some of his manuscripts afford a glimpse into the process of editing historiographical text. The collection also provides an overview of the evolution of Pocock's theories on political science, British history and historiography as well as the changing trends in the historical field. This holding notably includes his handwritten manuscripts of Barbarism and Religion (1999).


  • Creation: 1962-2017


Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. Researchers are responsible for determining any copyright questions. It is not necessary to seek our permission as the owner of the physical work to publish or otherwise use public domain materials that we have made available for use, unless Johns Hopkins University holds the copyright.

Biographical Note

John Greville Agard (J. G. A.) Pocock was born in London, England on March 7, 1924. At the age of three, his parents relocated to New Zealand.

Pocock attended Medbury School from 1932 to 1937 and Christ's College in Christchurch, New Zealand from 1937 to 1941. From 1942 to 1946 he earned both bachelor's and master's degrees at Canterbury University College in the University of New Zealand. In 1948 he returned to England to obtain a PhD from Cambridge. He completed the degree in 1952 with a dissertation entitled "The Controversy Over the Origins of the Commons, 1675-88." He later rewrote it and published it in 1957 as The Ancient Constitution and the Feudal Law.

After completing his education, Pocock returned to New Zealand where he taught history at the University of Otago from 1953 to 1955. In 1956 he returned to Cambridge where he held a Research Fellowship until 1958. In 1959 Pocock went back to New Zealand and developed the Political Science Department the University of Canturbury, eventually serving as the first Head of Department. He stayed in New Zealand until 1965, occasionally traveling to England for research.

At the end of 1965, Pocock relocated to the United States to take up a position as a professor of history at Washington University in St. Louis. While there he became active in setting up the Conference for the Study of Political Thought and also held an Overseas Fellowship at Churchill College, Cambridge. He published his second book during this time, Politics, Language and Time, 1971. Pocock remained with Washington University until 1974, when he moved to Maryland and the Johns Hopkins University. The next year he published his third book, The Machiavellian Moment: Florentine Political Thought and the Atlantic Republican Tradition. It was followed quickly by his fourth book, The Political Works of James Harrington.

Pocock remained with the Johns Hopkins University until he took emeritus status in 1994. During his time at Hopkins he published several more books, including: Virtue, Commerce and History (1985), The Ancient Constitution and the Feudal Law: A Reissue with Retrospect (1987), and Reflections on the Revolution in France (1987), Law, Sovereignty and History in a Divided Culture: The Case of the New Zealand Waitangi (1991), Barbarism and Religion (1999) as well as editing a number of other books.


11.43 Cubic Feet (7 record center boxes, 7 full size letter document boxes)

Language of Materials



This collection contains lectures, speeches and writings; reprints; book manuscripts; and the conference papers of John G. A. Pocock, a historian of political thought and professor emeritus at Johns Hopkins University. His papers spans the years of 1962 to 2017, with the majority of the materials dating from Pocock's time at Hopkins. This holding notably includes his handwritten manuscripts of Barbarism and Religion (1999).


The collection consists of four series: Lectures, speeches and other writings; Reprints; Manuscripts and research; and Conference papers. The collection remains primarily in original order by Pocock, with accruals being added to the bulk of the initial acquisition.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by John G. A. Pocock in several accruals, with the first starting in 1997 and the most recent in June 2018.


Accessions: 1996-97.MS.015, 2002-03.MS.007, 2009-10.MS.042, 2010-11.MS.036, 2017-18.MS.056

Processing Information

Finding aid prepared by Holly Callahan on August 5, 2008, and shortly after accruals were added by Kelly Spring and others. Reprocessed, with another accrual of materials, for descriptive clarity in July 2018 by Bex Dansereau and Annie Tang.

Most of the descriptions of materials were derived from Pocock's original titling.

Additionally, Pocock prefers the style of his author name to be: "J. G. A. Pocock," with deliberate spaces between his first and middle initials, and this format is reflected frequently in the finding aid.

Guide to the John G. A. Pocock papers
Holly Callahan, Kelly Spring, Bex Dansereau, Annie Tang
July 2018
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

The Sheridan Libraries
Special Collections
3400 N Charles St
Baltimore MD 21218 USA