Papers of Professor Denys Hay (1915-1994)

Scope and Content

The papers of Professor Denys Hay include within Gen. 2124/1-2 a variety of material relating to Edinburgh University, both about individuals and teaching. The material includes: lecture notes on European history, given 1946-1952; correspondence relating to Richard Pares (1902-1958); material relating to David Talbot Rice (1903-1972); material relating to Professor John Butt (1906-1965); and, Hay's bank account pass-books, 1946-1950s. It also includes his thesis submitted to the Honours School of Modern History, Balliol College, Oxford, 1937. The thesis is entitled The dissolution of the monasteries in the Diocese of Durham. Within Gen. 2238 there are: notes and correspondence relating to the official history of the war including problems relating to such a history, as well as notes on the history of the Ministry of Munitions; notes and correspondence relating to the Cabinet Office (Historical Section), 1950s; and, notes on an official history of Historiographers Royal in Scotland. Within MS 3110 there are several files containing: notes, bibliography and lecture material on Italian history; lectures on the theory of history; notes on European history; and, Birkbeck Lectures.

Administrative / Biographical History

Denys Hay was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne on 29 August 1915. He was educated at the Royal Grammar School in Newcastle, and then studied at Balliol College, Oxford, where he was awarded the degree of MA with First Class Honours in Modern History in 1937. Before the outbreak of the Second World War, Hay held a temporary lectureship in History at Glasgow University, 1938, and was an Assistant Lecturer at Southampton, 1939. During the war he served with the Royal Corps of Transport (then the Royal Army Service Corps) and with the Directorate of Personnel Selection in the War Office. He had also been part of the war-time St. Paul's Cathedral fire-watching squad. In 1943, he was appointed as an assistant in the preparation of the official war history. Hay, and then he became a Lecturer in Medieval History at Edinburgh University in 1945. He was appointed to the Chair of Mediaeval History at Edinburgh in 1954, Dean of Arts, 1962-1965, and was Vice-Principal, 1971-1975. Hay was an historian who made important contributions to the study of the Renaissance period and his many publications over three decades include: Polydore Vergil: Renaissance historian and man of letters (1952), The Italian Renaissance in its historical background (1961), The church in Italy in the fifteenth century (1977), and Renaissance essays (1988). He retired in 1980 and then became Visiting Professor at the University of Virginia then Professor of History at the European University at Badia Fiesolana, near Florence, 1980-1982. Professor Emeritus Denys Hay died in Edinburgh on 14 June 1994.

Access Information

Gen. 2238 was noted as having been restricted to 1998, so contact repository for details. Otherwise, generally open for consultation to bona fide researchers, but please contact repository for details in advance.

Acquisition Information

Notes and correspondence relating to an official history of the war were received from Professor Hay in 1986, Accession no. E.86.46. Other material was received from the Professor in 1991, Accession no. E99.24.


The biographical history was compiled using the following material: (1) University of Edinburgh Journal. Vol.17. 1953-1955. p.68. Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd. (2) Who's who 1987. London: A. and C. Black, 1987. (3) Obituary. The Scotsman. 23 June 1994. (4) Obituary. The Independent. 21 June 1994. (5) Denys Hay 1915-1994. Proceedings of the British Academy. Vol.90. 1996. pp.391-410. London: The British Academy, 1996.

Compiled by Graeme D Eddie, Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections Division

Other Finding Aids

Important finding aids generally are: the alphabetical Index to Manuscripts held at Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections and Archives, consisting of typed slips in sheaf binders and to which additions were made until 1987; and the Index to Accessions Since 1987.


Corporate Names

Geographical Names