Obituary: Professor J-P. Mayer

Jacob-Peter Mayer, writer and editor, born Frankenthal Germany 7 May 1903, married Lola Grusemann (died 1979; one son), 1980 Edna Coe, died Stoke Poges Berkshire 9 December 1992.

J-P. Mayer, editor for many years of the Gallimard complete edition of the works of Alexis de Tocqueville and founder of the De Tocqueville Centre at Reading University, was a leading figure in the anti-Nazi movement in Germany in the mid-1930s.

Peter Mayer was born in Frankenthal, Germany, and was only 15 when the Great War ended, thus missing service in the trenches of the Western Front; he grew up through the great German depression of the early 1920s. He secured a job as a journalist, writing syndicated articles for the main newspapers of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) of which he was a keen supporter. He was trusted enough to carry abroad in his head educated guesses about the way German armament was already developing in the early 1930s; he reported direct to Leon Blum in Paris or to Sir Stafford Cripps in London. He married an ardent fellow socialist, Lola Grusemann, who had a Communist brother.

When the Nazis came to power in January 1933, Mayer went into resistance, and helped to plan an abortive SPD coup d'etat in 1934 that was called off because the Communists refused to join in it. While his wife was pregnant with their only son, they were both arrested for distributing unlicensed pamphlets, and were lucky to escape with a fine. The Nazis relaxed their strictest anti-Jewish laws during the Berlin Olympic Games of 1936, and the Mayers took advantage of this lull by going to England, ostensibly on holiday; they did not return. Peter Mayer already knew Kingsley Martin, editor of the New Statesman, and Richard Crossman, who had recently joined the magazine, and made a living of a sort reviewing books for Martin.

Mayer's first book, written with Crossman and others, called Political Thought: the European tradition, came out in 1939. In parallel with it he produced - also in 1939 - Prophet of the Mass Age, a study of Count Alexis de Tocqueville, to whom much of the rest of his life was devoted. This book was later translated into German, Spanish and Finnish and reworked for the American market in 1960.

When the war began he was taken on - under the wing of the Ministry of Economic Warfare - to prepare broadcasts to Germany. Though he did not become a British subject till 1948, neither Mayer nor his family were interned in the summer of 1940, as so many refugees from Germany and Austria were.

Mayer disagreed with his employers about how post-war Germany ought to be organised, and spent the last two years of the war monitoring broadcasts in German at Caversham - a duller but necessary task.

He variegated it by writing a short book on Max Weber and German Politics and a book on French political thought from the Abbe Sieyes to Sorel, which reached its third edition in 1961. He also edited Martin's book on French liberal thought in the 18th century, and wrote on the sociology of the cinema.

He produced in 1948 an edition, not superseded for many years, of de Tocqueville's recollections, and launched in 1951 an edition of the complete works in French. He produced several editions, in French and in English, of The Ancien Regime and the Revolution and of Democracy in America; and after a spell as Nato Professor at Seattle, settled at the Reading University, where he became Professor Emeritus, and where the De Tocqueville Institute he founded in the early Seventies is still hard at work.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Ashdown Group: Human Resources Manager

£28000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: A successful organisation...

Recruitment Genius: Internal Recruiter - Manufacturing

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Internal Recruiter (manufact...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager (CIPD) - Barking / East Ham - £50-55K

£50000 - £55000 per annum + 25 days holidays & benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Man...

Recruitment Genius: Operations / Project Manager

£40000 - £48000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This software company specialis...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent