Obituary: Dr Robin Mundill PhD MA, shoolmaster and historian

Dr Robin Mundill PhD MA: Respected historian who taught at St Andrews University and Glenalmond
Dr Robin Mundill PhD MA: Respected historian who taught at St Andrews University and Glenalmond
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Born: 27 May, 1958, in Margate. Died: 4 July, 2015, in Perthshire, aged 57

Robin Mundill joined Glenalmond College after a distinguished period as a research Fellow at St Andrews University and teaching at Christ’s Hospital School in Sussex. He proved to be an inspiring teacher at Glenalmond, where he was a most diligent and enthusiastic head of the history department. His commitment to teaching was total and many of his pupils have gone on to carry out research at universities. Mundill also administered the school’s history prize – the Gladstone Prize – and brought to its selection process a renewed energy and insight.

John Wright, a colleague on the staff at Glenalmond for many years, remembers Mundill with a special warmth. “He was a dedicated teacher and a noted scholar. Amongst his other admired qualities was his irreverent sense of humour. He and his wife Elaine were a wonderful blend of southern England, Fife and Perthshire.

“Robin was held in enormous esteem by many pupils at 
Glenalmond – as was witnessed by the packed chapel for his memorial service. It was full with past and present colleagues and former and present pupils.

“Robin was a much respected member of the staff and an acknowledged expert in Jewish traditions and culture. He recognised and upheld the very best of both worlds in Judeo-Christian teachings.”

Mundill was a noted scholar of Jewish history and wrote two “fiercely analytical” books which were acknowledged for their detailed and authoritative research. He specialised in the history of the Jews in medieval England and his England’s Jewish Solution was published in 1998 to critical acclaim. The reviewer in the American Historical Review wrote: “The book will provide students with a vigorous, well-informed, and comprehensive review of the historiography of the Anglo-Jewish communities of later medieval England.”

His second major book, The King’s Jews – Murder, Massacre and Exodus in Mediaeval England (2010), was similarly acclaimed, praised by scholars for its erudition and comprehensive account of a complex subject. History Today said: “It is written with verve and enthusiasm, clarity and balance.”

Robin Richard Mundill attended St Laurence College, Ramsgate but spent many school holidays with his grandparents in Antwerp where his interest in Jewish history was founded. He then spent more than a decade at St Andrews University gaining a diploma at Dundee University.

Mundill harboured a life-long love of teaching and initially taught at Christ’s Hospital School, where he also served as a house master. He and his wife Elaine joined the staff at Glenalmond in 1997 and immediately made an impact with staff and pupils. His love of teaching and imparting his considerable knowledge was totally apparent. He had an engagement with all those who he was teaching.

Other school activities included Mundill’s acting as a house tutor and a keen supporter of all the activities in the school’s chapel. He often gave talks as a member of the chaplaincy team and these are fondly remembered as they “were never short of wisdom, wit and uplifting ethical content”.

Mundill much loved the life and culture of America and taught at Cornell University in New York. He also delivered a memorable address at Brooks School in Massachusetts on the subject of the Gettysburg Address and the Civil War in the aftermath of the horrors of 9/11.

He was in demand to lecture to learned institutions and often invited to contribute to broadcasts on the history of English Jewish history. Mundill was a keen supporter of The Jewish Historical Society of England and was due to deliver an evening lecture to their Leeds branch in September.

Apart from the study and teaching of history, Mundill’s greatest devotion was to his wife and their three daughters. They kept a family home in St Andrews with a commanding view of the golf course and the sea. He maintained a keen interest in genealogy and heraldry and was a serious collector of antiques and ancient pewter.

His academic renown was recognised by many academic institutions. He became a Research Fellow at St Andrews and was had schoolmaster fellowships at Selwyn and Corpus Christi, Cambridge.

“It was his generosity of spirit that I shall treasure most,” Wright recalled. He and Elaine were wonderful hosts and became central features at Glenalmond. Robin was always a character: from his days at St Andrews – resplendent in Tweed waistcoat and jacket, fob watch and chain and a baseball cap – he cut an endearing image. Robin preferred to remain a devoted school master and took pride in his pupils’ achievements and remained delightfully modest of his considerable literary achievements.

He is survived by his wife Elaine and their three daughters.