Peter Pulzer was born in 1929 in Vienna. His father Felix was a civil engineer and the family was very assimilated and completely non-observant. Peter has one sister who now resides in Germany, and is married to a German (non-Jewish). The family was modestly prosperous. They lived in Brigittenau (20th Bezirk). Peter was educated locally but sent to the Jewish school after the Anschluss.
On the night of the November Pogrom (Kristallnacht) in 1938, the family's flat was ransacked, and in 1939 they emigrated to Britain through the good offices of a British clergyman (C of E). They settled in Kingston, where Peter attended the local grammar school and later read History at King’s College, Cambridge. He also obtained an external degree from the University of London. He was a lecturer at Oxford University from 1962 and a Fellow in History and Politics at Christ Church College. Subsequently he became Gladstone Professor of Government at All Souls College.