|The Right Honourable
The Lord Skidelsky
Robert Skidelsky, October 2014.
25 April 1939 |
|Alma mater||Jesus College, Oxford|
Robert Jacob Alexander, Baron Skidelsky, FBA (born 25 April 1939) is a British economic historian of Russian origin and the author of a major, award-winning, three-volume biography of British economist John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946). He read history at Jesus College, Oxford and is Emeritus Professor of Political Economy in the University of Warwick, England.
Skidelsky's parents, Boris Skidelsky and Galia Sapelkin, were British subjects of Russian ancestry, Jewish on his father's side and Christian on his mother's. His father worked for the family firm, L. S. Skidelsky, which leased the Mulin coalmine from the Chinese government. In Harbin a factory was built by L. S. Skidelsky in 1919 for obtaining albumin from blood.
When war broke out between Britain and Japan in December 1941, he and his parents were interned first in Manchuria then Japan, and finally released in exchange for Japanese internees in England. Then he went back to China with his parents in 1947, living for a little over a year in Tientsin (now Tianjin). They left for Hong Kong just before the Communists took the city.
From 1953 to 1958, he was a boarder at Brighton College. He went on to read history at Jesus College, Oxford. From 1961 to 1969, he was successively research student, senior student, and research fellow at Nuffield College, Oxford. In 1967, he published his first book, Politicians and the Slump, based on his D.Phil dissertation. The book explores the ways in which British politicians handled the Great Depression.
During a two-year research fellowship at the British Academy, Skidelsky began work on his biography of Oswald Mosley (published in 1975) and published English Progressive Schools (1969). In 1970, he became an Associate Professor of History in the School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University. But the controversy surrounding the publication of his biography of Sir Oswald Mosley - in which he was felt to have let Mosley off too lightly - led Johns Hopkins University to refuse him tenure. Oxford University also proved unwilling to give him a permanent post.
From 1976 to 1978, he was professor of history, philosophy and European studies at the Polytechnic of North London. In 1978, he was appointed Professor of International Studies at the University of Warwick, where he has since remained, though joining the Economics Department as Professor of Political Economy in 1990. He was appointed Professorial Fellow of the Global Policy Institute at London Metropolitan University. Skidelsky has been an Honorary Fellow of Jesus College, Oxford, since 1997. He was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 1994. He is currently writing a book on globalisation with Vijay Joshi, a Fellow of St John's College, Oxford.
Skidelsky has been a member of three political parties: originally a Labour Party member, he left that party to become a founding member of the Social Democratic Party, where he remained until the party's dissolution in 1992. On 15 July 1991 he was created a life peer as Baron Skidelsky, of Tilton in the County of East Sussex, and in 1992 he became a Conservative. He was made chief opposition spokesman in the Lords, first for Culture, then for Treasury affairs (1997-9), but he was removed by Conservative party leader William Hague for publicly opposing NATO's 1999 bombing of Yugoslavia.
In September 2015, Skidelsky endorsed Jeremy Corbyn's campaign in the Labour Party leadership election. He wrote in The Guardian: "Corbyn should be praised, not castigated, for bringing to public attention these serious issues concerning the role of the state and the best ways to finance its activities. The fact that he is dismissed for doing so illustrates the dangerous complacency of today's political elites. Millions in Europe rightly feel that the current economic order fails to serve their interests. What will they do if their protests are simply ignored?"
The second volume of Skidelsky's three-volume biography of John Maynard Keynes, The Economist as Saviour, 1920-1937, won the Wolfson History Prize in 1992. The third volume, Fighting for Britain, 1937-1946, won the Duff Cooper Prize in 2000, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for biography in 2001, the Arthur Ross Book Award for international relations in 2002 and the Lionel Gelber Prize for International Relations, and was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize for non-fiction writing in 2001.