Robert Skidelsky, Baron Skidelsky : biography
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 at 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. 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 in his biography of Oswald Mosley (published in 1975) and published English Progressive Schools (1969). In 1970, he became an Associate Professor of History at 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. In 1991, he was made a life peer, 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 the then Conservative party leader William Hague, for publicly opposing NATO's bombing of Yugoslavia. In 2001, he left the Conservative Party for the Cross Benches. He was chairman of the Social Market Foundation between 1991 and 2001.
Skidelsky's second volume of his 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 Samuel Johnson Prize for non-fiction writing 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.
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