The Maltonian Web


Eric Robson, Historian

A tribute from The Maltonian July 1954

The news of the untimely death on May 21st of Eric Robson came as a great shock to all of us who knew him. At the age of 36 he had risen high in the ranks of English historians and he had the most brilliant prospects.

During his seven years at M.G.S., between 1929 and 1936, he took the fullest part in all sides of school life and endeared himself to many. By the time he reached Form VI it was clear that his talent was outstanding and he had already decided to make historical study his life work. Thus his brilliant career as a student at Manchester University came as no surprise to those of us who had watched him develop.

In 1939 he sought no easy job; he served with the West African Regiment, reached the rank of Major, and after arduous campaigns - Abyssinia, and later in Burma - he became the historian of his regiment. His active service may have led him later to specialize in military history. After the war he was appointed as a lecturer at Manchester University and soon became known as an authority on the Eighteenth Century, especially in its American and military aspects.

His reputation was such that he was asked to compile the relevant chapters for the new edition of the Cambridge Modern History. I regarded it as an honour to be allowed to read the original typescript of these; and I treasure his book, "Letters from America" and certain smaller publications which always came with one of his typical little notes. He wrote regularly for the leading historical journals and some of his articles and criticisms may be found in the bound volumes of "History To-day," in the School Library. At the time of his death he was collaborating in producing the Official History of Parliament. There is no doubt that a brilliant future lay before him and that a professorial chair awaited him.

Yet in spite of his high academic distinction he retained his old charm and modesty; and above all he kept his affection for his old school. He sought every opportunity of helping those who followed him from Malton to Manchester and delighted to act as an elder brother when he had the opportunity. To us who knew him at M.G.S. in the old days he was just" Eric"; personally, Just as I was grateful to have had the opportunity of leading him to a love of history, so later I was glad to be able to ask him for advice and information. Even in his will he thought of his school; and his last mark of affection, is his bequest of books for the library. We are grateful to think that the memory of a great Maltonian will be thus preserved. AB.