Papers of Sir Thomas Malcolm Knox

Scope and Content

Knox's papers comprise mainly his correspondence on a variety of subjects, personal, scholarly and business, speeches and addresses, offprints, testimonials, travel diaries and other miscellaneous material, 1925-1966. The correspondence reflects his devotion to philosophy and particularly to that of Hegel, whose works he studied throughout his life, as well as the strong ties which bound him to family and friends.

Administrative / Biographical History

T. Malcolm Knox (1900-1980) was born in Birkenhead, educated at Bury Grammar School and the Liverpool Institute. He studied at Pembroke College, Oxford where he took a first in Classical Greats in 1923. As an undergraduate he was influenced by Collingwood, and developed his later love of Classical and German philosophy, a wide interest in letters and history and a preference for the idealistic School of Philosophy and especially Hegel. After graduating he took a post with Lever Brothers, first as Secretary to Lord Leverhulme and later in various managerial and executive posts including being in charge of the company's interests in West Africa.

He returned to academic life in 1931, after the death of his first wife in 1930, as lecturer and Fellow of Jesus College, Oxford. He also became Lecturer in Greek Philosophy at Queen's College. While teaching at Oxford he looked after both the business interests of the College and the Library. He was appointed as Professor of Moral Philosophy at St Andrews in 1936 where an older tradition of Philosophy still flourished. In 1947 he was appointed to the University Court.

At the time of his appointment to St Andrews in 1936 it was clear that there was already dispute between the St Andrews Colleges and University College, Dundee. These difficult relations dominated life in the University at this time. Knox was appointed Acting Principal from 1952-53 on the death of Principal Irvine due to the outstanding qualities he had already demonstrated as deputy-principal, professor and head of department. He was confirmed in office as Principal by Crown appointment in 1953.

His immediate task was to implement the recommendations of the Tedder Report and the changes in the structure of the university as embodied in the University of St Andrews Act, 1953. Knox made it his personal task to reconcile the two sections of the University. However, the implementation of change was easier in Dundee than in St Andrews. At his resignation in 1966 the two Universities of St Andrews and Dundee were about to separate and to expand in different directions.

Knox was a skilled and conscientious administrator, a prudent husbander of the university's finance, a wily committee-man, a coiner of sharp aphorisms, and a master of formidable silences. He earned the unstinted respect if not always the warm affection of his colleagues. He expected life to be difficult and the exacting academic and ethical standards he felt it his duty publicly to uphold made him a trenchant critic of much that was fashionable in university circles in the 1960s. Personal relationships never came easily to him but behind his sometimes inscrutable reserve were more human traits: a taste for music and theology, a considerable acquaintanceship with English history and literature, a connoisseur's appreciation of vintage claret, a genuine pleasure in giving hospitality and in doing small, unexpected kindnesses. His retirement was marked by further books, articles and reviews including more translations with commentaries from the writings of Hegel which had been his life-long interest as a philosopher. His published works include Hegel and Prussianism (London, [1940]), R.G. Collingwood, The idea of history, edited by Knox (Oxford, 1961), translations of Hegel's: Philosophy of right (Oxford, 1942); Early Theological Writings [Tbingen, Berne, Frankfurt 1790s] (1948, reprinted 1971); Natural Law [Jena 1802] (1975); and System of Ethical Life and First Philosophy of Spirit [Jena 1802-3, 1803-4] (1979 with H.S. Harris).

(Source: Alumnus Chronicle, article by J.N. Wright, no. 57, June 1966, pp. 11-13; 'Obituary' by Norman Gash in Alumnus Chronicle, no. 71, June 1980, pp. 47-8.).


The correspondence is retained in Knox's own arrangement.

Access Information

By appointment with the Archivist. Access to unpublished records less than 30 years old and other records containing confidential information may be restricted.


Description compiled by Rachel Hart, Archives Hub Project Archivist.

Other Finding Aids

Handlist and index to correspondence are available in the Reading Room of GB 227.

Conditions Governing Use

Applications for permission to quote should be sent to the University Archivist. Reproduction subject to usual conditions: educational use and condition of documents.

Appraisal Information

This material has been appraised in line with standard GB 227 procedures.

Custodial History

9 boxes were originally held on deposit as msdep3 on behalf of Principal Knox from 1966, to remain unlisted and unconsulted until after his death. Accordingly, they were transferred to the ownership of the University at his death in 1980 and accessioned in December 1980. One envelope of additional material was given to the University in 1996.

Related Material

GB 227 UYUY875 Knox comprises official records created by Principal Knox in the exercise of his role as Principal of the University of St Andrews, 1953-1966. Other manuscript holdings can be accessed through the general index, these include: a copy of his inaugural lecture as Professor of Moral Philosophy at St Andrews, 1936 (ms 37022/77), and an incomplete manuscript of his translation of Hegel's lectures on the history of philosophy.

Additional Information

This material is original.