Robert Needham Cust

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Robert Needham Cust (21 February 1821 – 27 October 1909) was a British colonial administrator and linguist. He was part of the Orientalism movement and active within the British and Foreign Bible Society.


He was educated at Eton College, Trinity College, Cambridge,[citation needed] Haileybury and the College of Fort William, Calcutta, graduating from the last-named institution in 1844. He then worked for the East India Company, in Hoshiarpur and Ambala, in India. [1]

He was present at the battles of Mukdi, Firuzshah, and Sobraon in 1845-46, and at the close of the Sikh campaign was placed in charge of a new province in the Punjab. There he filled in succession every office in the judicial and revenue departments, and was rapidly promoted until 1867, when he resigned and returned to England, after having been a member of the Viceroy's Legislative Council and Home Secretary to the Government of India in 1864-65. [1]

After returning to England he devoted himself to scientific research, philanthropy, and magisterial and municipal duties, declining reappointments in India. He was member and officer in many scientific, philanthropic, and religious societies and a prolific writer.

He retired in 1867, and began his linguistic writings.

He was one of the few Victorian intellectuals to oppose the racist theories popular at the time. In 1883 he wrote:

the vast majority of the educated public appears to have accepted at least some aspect of the new racial doctrine.


He was the son of Hon. & Rev. Henry Cockayne Cust and the brother of the Earl of Bromlow.

He married Maria Adelaide, daughter of Henry Lewis Hobart, Dean of Windsor. They had four children.[2]


  • Draft Bill of Codes Regulating Rights in Land and Land-Revenue Procedure in Northern India (1870)
  • A Sketch of the Modern Languages of the East Indies (1878)
  • Linguistic and Oriental Essays (from 1880) seven volumes
  • Pictures of Indian Life (1881)
  • Modern Languages of Africa (1883) two volumes
  • Poems of Many Years and Many Places (1887, 1897) two volumes
  • Three Lists of Bible Translations Actually Accomplished (1890)
  • Africa Rediviva (1891)
  • Essay on the Prevailing Method of the Evangelization of the Non-Christian World (1894)
  • Common Features Which Appear in All Forms of Religious Belief (1895)
  • The Gospel-Message (1896)
  • Memoirs of Past Years of a Septuagenarian (1899)
  • Oecumenical List of Translations of the Holy Scriptures to 1900 (1900)
  • The modern languages of Oceania ( Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, London, Vol. 19, 1887, p. 369-392)

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