Robert Skidelsky, Baron Skidelsky

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The Lord Skidelsky

Lord Skidelsky 2020.jpg
Robert Skidelsky, 2020
Personal details
Born (1939-04-25) 25 April 1939 (age 81)
Harbin, China
Political partyCrossbench
Alma materJesus College, Oxford
Nuffield College, Oxford

Robert Jacob Alexander, Baron Skidelsky, FBA (born 25 April 1939) is a British economic historian. He is the author of a three-volume award-winning biography of British economist John Maynard Keynes (1883–1946). Skidelsky read history at Jesus College, Oxford and is Emeritus Professor of Political Economy at the University of Warwick, England.[1][2]

Early life[edit]

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.[3] His father worked for the family firm L. S. Skidelsky which leased the Mulin coalmine from the Chinese government. Boris had three brothers, one of whom was the British novelist and bridge player and writer S. J. "Skid" Simon (1904-1948). In 1919, a factory was built by L. S. Skidelsky in Harbin for obtaining albumin from blood.[4]

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. He then 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 Chinese Communists took the city.[5]

Skidelsky has two sons, Edward Skidelsky, a lecturer in philosophy at the University of Exeter;[6][7] and William Skidelsky, a journalist and author of Federer and Me: A Story of Obsession.


From 1953 to 1958, Skidelsky 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.[8]

Academic career[edit]

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. However, the controversy surrounding the publication of his biography of 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, Skidelsky was professor of history, philosophy and European studies at the Polytechnic of North London. In 1978, Skidelsky was appointed Professor of International Studies at the University of Warwick, where he has since remained, although 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. Since 1997, Skidelsky has been an honorary fellow of Jesus College, Oxford. He was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 1994.[8] Since 2016, he serves as a director/trustee of the School of Civic Eduction in London [3], which forms part of an association of schools of political studies, under the auspices of the Directorate General of Democracy ("DGII") of the Council of Europe[4]. He is currently writing a book on globalisation with Vijay Joshi, a Fellow of St John's College, Oxford.[citation needed]

Political career[edit]

Skidelsky has been a member of three political parties. Originally a Labour Party member, Skidelsky 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[9] and in 1992 became a Conservative.[8] He was made chief opposition spokesman in the Lords, first for Culture, then for Treasury affairs (1997–1999), but he was removed by Conservative party leader William Hague for publicly opposing NATO's 1999 bombing of Yugoslavia.[8]

In 2001, Skidelsky left the Conservative Party for the Cross Benches. He was chairman of the Social Market Foundation between 1991 and 2001.[8]

In September 2015, Skidelsky endorsed Jeremy Corbyn's campaign in the Labour Party leadership election, writing 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?"[10]

He currently writes a column on economic history for Project Syndicate, an international media organization.[11]


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.[8] 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[8] and was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize for non-fiction writing in 2001.

Selected works[edit]

  • 1967: Politicians and the Slump
  • 1969: English Progressive Schools
  • 1975: Oswald Mosley
  • 1983: John Maynard Keynes: Hopes Betrayed, 1883–1920
  • 1992: John Maynard Keynes: The Economist as Savior, 1920–1937
  • 1993: Interests and Obsessions: Historical Essays (Macmillan)
  • 1995: The World After Communism: A Polemic for our Times (Macmillan)
    • Published in America as The Road from Serfdom: The Economic and Political Consequences of the End of Communism
  • 1996: Keynes (Oxford University Press: Past Masters)
  • 2000: John Maynard Keynes: Fighting for Freedom, 1937–1946
  • 2009: Keynes: The Return of the Master (London: Allen Lane)
  • 2012: How Much Is Enough? Money and the Good Life. with Edward Skidelsky (Allen Lane)[12]
  • 2018: Money and Government: The Past and Future of Economics


  1. ^ "Professor Lord Robert Skidelsky". University of Warwick. Retrieved 23 January 2012.
  2. ^ "How Much is Enough? The Economics of the Good Life". University of Warwick. Archived from the original on 17 January 2011. Retrieved 23 January 2012.
  3. ^ Lord Skidelsky (12 September 2003). "My A-level hell, by Lord Skidelsky". The Guardian.
  4. ^ Yin-tʻang Chang (1933). The Economic Development and Prospects of Inner Mongolia (Chahar, Suiyuan, and Ningsia). Commercial Press, Limited. p. 117.
  5. ^ Skidelsky, Robert (1 January 2006). "Essay: A Chinese Homecoming".
  6. ^ [1]
  7. ^ [2]
  8. ^ a b c d e f g "Biography". Archived from the original on 9 October 2008.
  9. ^ "No. 52606". The London Gazette. 18 July 1991. p. 10975.
  10. ^ Skidelsky, Robert (10 September 2015). "Why we should take Corbynomics seriously". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 July 2017.
  11. ^ "Robert Skidelsky - Project Syndicate". Project Syndicate. Retrieved 19 October 2017.
  12. ^ "Two new books probe the limits of capitalism". The Economist. 21 July 2012.

External links[edit]

Orders of precedence in the United Kingdom
Preceded by
The Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn
Baron Skidelsky
Followed by
The Lord Macfarlane of Bearsden