Robertson, James (1911-1988)

views updated Jun 11 2018

ROBERTSON, JAMES (1911-1988)

A psychoanalyst, filmmaker, and influential researcher at the Tavistock Clinic on the impact of early separation on child development, James Robertson was born in Rutherglen, Scotland, on March 22, 1911, and died in London on December 31, 1988.

Robertson was the eldest child of five in a working-class Scottish family, and left education at 14 to work in a Glasgow steelworks. From 19 to 27 years of age he attended various part-time Glasgow University Extension Courses on literature, history, economics, and philosophy, and in 1939 spent a year at Fircroft College for the Higher Education of Working Men in Birmingham, studying the humanities. From 1941 to 1945 he studied for the External Diploma in Social Studies at London University. In 1946-47 he completed the Mental Health Certificate at the London School of Economics. He trained in the British Psychoanalytical Society, attaining associate membership in 1952, and full membership in 1970. Robertson met his future wife and colleague, Joyce, while studying in Birmingham. A Quaker, he registered as a conscientious objector during the war, and joined his wife to work with Anna Freud as the only male social worker at the Hampstead War Nurseries. He was accepted for psychoanalytic training on the recommendation of Anna Freud, being analyzed by Barbara Lantos.

In 1948 he joined John Bowlby at the Tavistock Clinic to do research on the effects on separation from the mother in early childhood. This research was conducted in children's hospital wards at the time when national policy was weekly visits. He could not forget the unnecessary unhappiness of the children and was concerned at the time that harm was being done. He and his wife made a series of important films illustrating these effects vividly, and actively campaigned for change. Later films, about institutionalization, foster care and substitute mothering, were influential in promoting the use of fostering rather than children's homes.

Robertson's untiring campaigning over 30 years was critically important in changing the United Kingdom National Policy on recognizing and meeting the emotional needs of children in hospital. Parents are now expected to stay with their young children in hospital. The vivid illustration on film of increasing disturbance in young children separated from their families initially shocked many pediatricians and nurses, and Robertson came under attack, but finally, following the first two films, the Platt Report in 1959 recommended that practice should change. In the 1960s, the National Association for the Welfare of Children in Hospital was formed, with the help and support of both Robertson and his wife. Robertson's pioneering use of film has been developed using video, particularly by those in the field of attachment, and in recent studies of infant and child development.

Jennifer Johns

See also: Tavistock Clinic.


Robertson, James. (1953). A two-year-old goes to hospital. London: Robertson Centre and Ipswich, Concord Films Council.

. (1958). Going to hospital with mother. London: Robertson Centre and Ipswich, Concord Films Council.

. (1958). Young children in hospital. London: Tavistock Publications.

. (1976). Young children in brief separation, series of five. London, Robertson Centre and Ipswich, Concord Films Council.

. (1989). Separation and the very young. London: Free Association Books.

Robertson, James

views updated May 23 2018

Robertson, James

ROBERTSON, JAMES. (1717–1788). British officer and governor. Born in Newbigging, Scotland, on 29 June 1717, Robertson enlisted in the army as a private, earning promotion to sergeant before receiving a commission in the marines in 1739. He served in the wars against France and in Scotland against the Jacobite rising of 1745. Shortly thereafter he was able to purchase the rank of captain in the earl of Loudoun's regiment, seeing service in Ireland before going to America as a major in 1756. Robertson served as deputy quartermaster general during the Seven Years' War, seeing action at Louisburg, Ticonderoga, and Crown Point; became a lieutenant colonel in 1760; and supervised Britain's acquisition of the Floridas at the war's end. His testimony in 1765 before Parliament is credited with spurring the passage of the Quartering Act.

Robertson, who lived in New York City during the Seven Years' War, was promoted to brigadier general at the start of the Revolution, advising General William Howe in the campaign that led to the successful occupation of that city in 1776. Promoted to major general, he was named military commandant of the city. Believing that most Americans were loyal to the crown, Robertson urged the restoration of civil government in occupied territories to win public support. In 1779 the royal government of New York was reestablished, with Robertson, now a lieutenant general, as governor. During his term as governor, he had to contend not just with Patriot raids and a flood of Loyalist refugees, but also with the politics of the officer corps and the opposition of many Loyalists to his policy of conciliation. He was also charged with incompetence, womanizing, senility, corruption, and smuggling; the charge of senility probably being inaccurate. Most significantly, General Sir Henry Clinton refused to end martial law, thereby alienating most of the inhabitants of New York City and Long Island. Out of office with the war's end, Robertson, now a wealthy man, moved to London, where he died on 4 March 1788.


Klein, Milton M., and Ronald W. Howard, eds. The Twilight of British Rule in Revolutionary America: The New York Letter Book of General James Robertson, 1780–1783. Cooperstown: New York State Historical Association, 1983.

Robertson, James

views updated May 23 2018


Canadian Presbyterian leader; b. Dull, Perthshire, Scotland, April 24, 1839; d. Toronto, Canada, Jan. 4,1902. His parents, James and Christina (McCallum) Robertson, immigrated to Canada with him in 1855. After education at the University of Toronto; Princeton University, N.J.; and Union Theological Seminary, New York City, he was ordained (1869) a minister of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. He served at Norwich, Ontario (186974), and was minister of Knox Church at Winnipeg (187481) before being appointed (1881) superintendent of the Presbyterian missions in western Canada. He held this post until his death, gaining a reputation for his ability to deal effectively with the problems of his farflung missions. In 1895 he was elected moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Canada, which in 1913 established the Robertson Memorial Lectureship, consisting of eight lectures to be given annually in the eight theological colleges of the United Church of Canada. One of the lectures must deal with some aspect of Dr. Robertson's life or with the territory in which he worked. He married (1869) Mary Anne Cowing; they had two daughters.

Bibliography: c. w. gordon, The Life of James Robertson, Missionary Superintendent in the Northwest Territories (New York 1908). j. t. mcneill, The Presbyterian Church in Canada, 18751925 (Toronto 1925).

[e. delaney]

Robertson, James

views updated May 21 2018

Robertson, James (b Liverpool, 1912; d Ruabon, N. Wales, 1991). Eng. conductor. Chorusmaster, Carl Rosa Opera 1938–9; on staff Glyndebourne 1937–9; dir. and cond. SW Opera 1946–54; cond. NZ Nat. Broadcasting Orch. 1954–7; Carl Rosa Opera 1958; guest cond. SW Opera 1958–63; mus. dir. NZ Opera 1962–3, 1978–81; dir., London Opera Centre 1964–78. CBE 1969.

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