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Robb, Peter (G.) 1945-

ROBB, Peter (G.) 1945-

PERSONAL: Born March 20, 1945, in New Zealand; immigrated to England; son of John Daniel Lang (a teacher) and Marianne G. (Bellingham) Robb; married Elizabeth Anne (a financial adviser), 1973; children: Benjamin, Thomas (twins). Education: Attended Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, 1963-67, University of London, 1967-70.

ADDRESSES: Office—History Department, University of London, Thornhaugh Street, London WC1H 0XG, England. E-mail[email protected]

CAREER: London University, School of Oriental and African Studies, London, professor of Indian history, 1971—.

WRITINGS:

The Government of India and Reform: Policies towards Politics and the Constitution, 1916-1921, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 1976.

(Editor, with David Taylor) Rule, Protest, Identity: Aspects of Modern South Asia, Humanities Press (Atlantic Highlands, NJ), 1978.

(Editor) Rural India: Land, Power, and Society under British Rule, Curzon Press (London, England), 1983.

(Editor) Rural South Asia: Linkages, Changes, and Development, Curzon Press (London, England), 1983.

The Evolution of British Policy toward Indian Politics, 1880-1920: Essays on Colonial Attitudes, Imperial Strategies, and Bihar, Manohar Publishers (New Delhi, India), 1992.

(Editor) Dalit Movements and the Meanings of Labour in India, Oxford University Press (Delhi, India), 1993.

(Editor, with David Arnold) Institutions and Ideologies: A SOAS South Asia Reader, Curzon Press (Richmond, Surrey, England), 1993.

(Editor, in collaboration with K. N. Chaudhuri and Avril Powell) Society and Ideology: Essays in South Asian History Presented to Professor K. A. Ballhatchet, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1993.

(Editor, with K. N. Malik) India and Britain: Recent Past and Present Challenges, Allied Publishers (New Delhi, India), 1994.

(Editor) The Concept of Race in South Asia, Oxford University Press (Delhi, India), 1995.

(Editor, with Kaoru Sugihara and Haruka Yanagisawa) Local Agrarian Societies in Colonial India: Japanese Perspectives, Curzon Press (Richmond, Surrey, England), 1996.

(Editor) Meanings of Agriculture: Essays in South Asian History and Economics, Oxford University Press (Delhi, India), 1996.

(Editor, with Kaoru Sugihara and Haruka Yanagisawa) Local Agrarian Societies in Colonial India: Japanese Perspectives, Curzon Press (Richmond, Surrey, England), 1996.

Ancient Rights and Future Comfort: Bihar, the Bengal Tenancy Act of 1885, and British Rule in India, Curzon Press (Richmond, Surrey, England), 1997.

A History of India, Palgrave (New York, NY), 2002.

SIDELIGHTS: Peter Robb is an historian of India, whose interests lie primarily in the period from the 1780s to the 1920s. He writes on the nature and impact of British colonial rule and on historical developments within modern South Asia, particularly in relation to government, politics and law, the rural economy, questions of identity, and the world of ideas.

Robb's first volume is The Government of India and Reform: Policies towards Politics and the Constitution, 1916-1921. Kenneth W. Jones wrote in the Journal of Asian Studies that "for the student or scholar of this period, the book provides a mass of valuable and well-ordered information. Here we can see such events as the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, the Rowlatt Acts, the Khilafat movement, and the first noncooperation campaign through the eyes of senior British administrators, as well as seeing their responses to these events. This approach is a valuable companion to the nationalist and provincial histories, which provide differing points of focus and differing perspectives." Jones felt that "Robb's conclusions must be taken seriously by all professional historians. He has carefully and extensively documented his generalizations."

Robb edited Rule, Protests, Identity: Aspects of Modern South Asia with David Taylor. The work is a collection of essays that cover India-related topics, including governance, history, politics, law, and literature. The editors make it clear that the collection is meant to represent a variety of opinions, rather than one unified voice. Gandhi is profiled, as is one of his atheist followers. Other essays in the collection explore topics including the essence of India as it appears in the country's literary offerings, and Indian opposition movements.

In Rural India: Land, Power, and Society under British Rule, editor Robb has collected nine papers, the summation of a 1980 conference held by the London School of Oriental and African Studies that focused on land use and governance under British rule in the 1800s. Topics explored in the collection include land control, political upheaval, fragmentation of British rule, and the role of the peasant. The essays also consider the social and psychological implications of the time. David Kopf of the Journal of Interdisciplinary History noted that the essays focus more on economics than history.

Society and Ideology: Essays in South Asian History Presented to Professor K. A. Ballhatchet, edited by Robb in partnership with K. N. Chaudhuri and Avril Powell, is a collection of essays that explore "the question of British hegemony." According to Kopf, many of the essays, especially "Colonial Perceptions of Ethnicity in Nineteenth-Century Sri Lanka," written by John Rogers, and "The Politics of Childbirth: British and Bengali Women in Contest," contributed by Dagmar Engels, "are presented intelligently and objectively."

Robb's 1997 monograph, Ancient Rights and Future Comfort, deals with the formation of British agrarian policy in India. According to David Washbrook, a critic for the Times Literary Supplement, it is a study that shows how "Indian society was irrevocably transformed by the desire to keep it exactly as it was—or rather as its colonial rulers thought it ought to be. In the course of elucidating this irony, Robb ranges far beyond what might be considered the dry field of tenancy law and rental regulation. He treats the 1885 Act as a peg on which to hang a wide series of discussions."

In A History of India, Robb concentrates on the period from the sixteenth century to the end of the twentieth, giving the most attention to the colonial period. History: Review of New Books reviewer Ian J. Kerr called it "a splendid book, crammed with insightful observations and analyses. It also provides many succinct summations of complicated issues and trends—the kind of judicious summing up that a long-established scholar such as Peter Robb … is well qualified to provide."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

periodicals

Foreign Affairs, March, 2003, Lucian W. Pye, review of A History of India.

History: Review of New Books, fall, 2002, Ian J. Kerr, review of A History of India, p. 42.

Journal of Asian Studies, August, 1978, Kenneth W. Jones, review of The Government of India and Reform: Policies towards Politics and the Constitution, 1916-1921, pp. 782-783; February, 1979, Frank Conlon, review of Rule, Protests, Identity: Aspects of Modern South Asia, pp. 409-410; May, 2003, Matthew Sayers, review of A History of India.

Journal of Interdisciplinary History, summer, 1995, David Kopf, reviews of Rural India: Land, Power, and Society under British Rule, and Society and Ideology: Essays in South Asian History Presented to Professor K. A. Ballhatchet, pp. 181-183.

Times Literary Supplement, September 5, 1997, David Washbrook, review of Ancient Rights and Future Comfort: Bihar, the Bengal Tenancy Act of 1885, and British Rule in India.

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