Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Austin Robinson : World War One pilot display in the Marshall Library

Most people are probably unaware that Sir Austin Robinson, described by Geoffrey Harcourt, as one of the unsung heroes of Cambridge economics, flew flying boats with the Royal Naval Air Service during World War One. This involved undertaking long exhausting patrols out over the North Sea in search of the German submarines and Zeppelins that were menacing British coastal convoys. He also went on to work as a test pilot for Shorts Brothers.

Austin was an ardent photographer and many of the photographs he took during his RNAS career, plus numerous original documents, are now held in the archives of the Marshall Library. As we are now in the midst of 100th anniversary commemerations relating to World War One we decided to use some fo these rare and unpublished photographs to illustrate the flying career of this prominent Cambridge economist.

On Monday we were delighted to host a visit from Catherine Jeffrey, Austin and Joan Robinson's granddaughter. She really enjoyed viewing the display.

The Austin Robinson display is located in the Marshall Library social areas and contains photographs of Austin at Marlborough School in 1916 shortly before enlisting in the RNAS, of the many aircraft he flew and of the flying boat production lines at Shorts Brothers in Rochester. The display will last until the end of November.

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Austin Robinson Goes 'Solo'

To commemorate Austin Robinson's first solo flight exactly one hundred years ago today his grandson David Jeffrey has kindly contributed the following post using information gained from Austin's RNAS flying log book.

"Austin was up early on Wednesday, 30th May 1917 for this was the day he had dreamed of since joining the Royal Naval Air Service some four months previously ... the day he was going to fly solo.

At the time, he was based at RNAS Chingford and the plane he was going to fly was Grahame White 8785, the type of bread and butter machine used by the RNAS for the first-time trainee pilots.

Austin Robinson around 1917

A Grahame White trainer aircraft of around 1916

Austin had first reported for training as a pilot officer at RNAS Crystal Palace on 4th Feburary 1917 and after three weeks of induction training moved on to RNAS Chingford to be taught to fly.

RNAS Crystal Palace which gave basic training on the
naval air service and the rudiments of flying

RNAS Chingford around 1916
For the first three weeks at Chingford he received ground-based training and then first took to the air on 31st March with Flt. Cmdr. Jackson, an experienced trainer, at the controls. Over the next few weeks, he flew 23 sorties, on various Grahame White aircraft, gradually building up his flying competence. Then on 22nd May, for the first time, he flew alone but just hopping off the ground and back again, all in a straight line. On 27th and 28th he continued practising this in preparation for his first solo flight.

His big day, Wednesday 30th May, began at 5.15 am when he practised straight hops on his own. In his pilot's log, see below, he wrote '... rather bad drift. Landing very poor.' He had another practice at 5.55 am and remarked '... lost prop which could not be started' ... perhaps meaning that he had dug the propeller into the grass. There was then a gap, maybe to sort out the damage, till another practise at 7.46 pm after which he remarked '... much better. With F.C. Jackson for 1/2 circuit before solo'.

Everything was now ready and at 8.00 pm he took off solo and flew for 50 minutes (by far the longest time he had ever been in the air) and getting up to 2500 feet (more than twice the height he had every experienced before).

He must have been totally elated but his log book remarks are typically Austin, analytical and reflective 'First solo. Bumpy till 1500 feet. Rather rough on controls.'

Robin Jeffrey
17th April 2017

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

The Return of Alfred Marshall’s Book V, Ch.VII of Principles of Economics (annotated) from Japan

Prof. Shoichiro Uemiya visited the Marshall Library Archive on 9 March, 2017 to return a book that belonged to Alfred Marshall. The book appears to have been in Japan for some time and possibly since the 1920s. 

As Prof. Uemiya  explains in his own words:
“I am an Emeritus Professor of Kobe University in Japan. My major field is the history of economic thought. I studied for a year (1977-78) as an Honorary Research Fellow under the late Prof. R.D.C.Black at Queen’s University, Belfast.

Just before my retirement in March 2012 Mrs. Taeko Minakata, the wife of my supervisor the late Prof. Kanichi Minakata (1923-1985), asked me to return this book, which is part of Marshall’s Principles of Economics. The book contains pages with bound-in pages of written script – possibly in the handwriting of Marshall himself. Her husband told her that he received this particular book from his old-time supervisor Prof. Yasaburo Sakamoto (1894-1981). Prof. Minakata’s major field was Marshall’s Economic Theory. He came to Cambridge for a year (1962-63) to study and stayed at St. Edmund’s House. However, Mrs. Minakata has no idea when or where Prof. Sakamoto got the book. He did travel between 1919-1927 in England, France, Germany, Italy and Switzerland.”

The book comprises Book V, Ch. VII  pp. 449-610 of Principles of Economics. Many of the pages include handwritten insertions in coloured pencils and ink. There is also a stamp showing 15 Jan. 90, University Press, Cambridge. Clare Trowell, Marshall Librarian and Simon Frost, Deputy Librarian can confirm that the inserted pages are in Marshall’s handwriting as the Library Rare Books collections contain many examples of Marshall’s handwriting and it is clearly recognisable.

The Marshall Library Archive contains several photographs, including an intriguing picture of Mrs Mary Paley Marshall entertaining a Japanese visitor and his wife at her house, Balliol Croft, in 1928. This visitor is Prof. Tsunao Miyajima (1884-1965) who translated the Memoirs of Alfred Marshall (1925) into Japanese. Between 1919-1928 Prof. Miyajima was Prof. at the Kansai University, Osaka. In 1928 he also visited France. Between 1948-1952 he was Chief Director of Kansai University. There does not appear to be a link between Prof. Miyajima , Prof. Sakamoto and the mysterious annotated book that has just been returned to the Marshall Library Archives.

We plan to catalogue the returned book as a Rare Book and make it available to scholars of Alfred Marshall as soon as possible.

Prof. Uemiya also kindly donated a copy of his translation of the work:

The Scope and Method of Political Economy / J.N. Keynes    Marshall Library   20 F 18

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Encyclopedia of political thought

Users of the Marshall Library may be interested in the:

Encyclopedia of political thought

The University of Cambridge now has access to the Encyclopedia of political thought.  The Encyclopedia can be accessed via this link:
The Encyclopedia examines the history of political thought, contemporary political theory, and political philosophy. The entries range in size from shorter definitions and biographies to extended treatments of major topics and traditions. Tracing the evolution of political thinking from antiquity to the present, the scope of this unprecedented resource emphasizes the richness and diversity of the field’s traditions.
  • Offers over 900 A-Z entries including shorter definitions and biographies as well as extended treatments of major topics from over 700 contributors from around the world.
  • Examines the history of political thought from antiquity to contemporary political theory and political philosophy
  • Reflects diverse traditions in the evolution of political theory and political science
  • Addresses the theorists, their key theories and methods from within the western canon as well as from non-western perspectives
“A central problem for constitutionalism is the enforcement of constitutional norms. In the USA, there is no effective dissent from the practice, established in 1803 by Chief Justice Marshall in Marbury v. Madison, that courts in appropriate cases may overturn statutes as unconstitutional. But the idea of a constitutional court, though gaining ground around the world, is not a necessary component of constitutionalism. Legislatures and executives may feel bound by constitutional norms, even though they have the formal power to disregard them. Not since 1707 have British monarchs vetoed legislation enacted by parliament, though they have the “legal” authority to do so. In the USA, decisions to impeach and convict federal officials, such as the president and judges, are wholly in the hands of Congress under the constitution itself, but the impeachment power has been used only sparingly and when, occasionally, it was misused, the Senate refused to convict. That said, it is also indisputable that constitutional norms can change so that what was once thought to be perfectly plain and acceptable to one generation becomes unthinkable, as a matter of constitutional law, to another. The most spectacular example in American history is the Supreme Court’s change of mind on the question of racial segregation from its 1896 decision in Plessy v. Ferguson to its decision in 1954 in Brown v. Board of Education.”
— Lieberman, J. K. 2014. Constitutionalism. The Encyclopedia of Political Thought. 730–732

Inscription on the wall of the Supreme Court Building from Marbury v. Madison, in which Chief Justice John Marshall outlined the concept of judicial review

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Austin Robinson's Indian sojourn

Amongst the varied and extensive material contained within the Austin Robinson archives held by the Marshall Library there is an unassuming brown marbled folder containing 112 typewritten foolscap pages. This is the draft report produced by Austin in 1928 at the behest of the Indian States and which was incorporated into "The British Crown and the Indian States" published in 1929. It is significant in that it not only represents Austin's first involvement in the practical problems of development economics but also provides an early example of his belief in the importance of quantifying economic arguments.

 Folder containing Austin's typescript draft notes on the economic relationships between Indian States and British India (Austin Robinson Papers 7/1/10)

It is perhaps not surprising that Austin should be drawn to development economics and the idea that economics should, ideally, be about improving the state of the world. After leaving the Royal Naval Air Service he returned to Cambridge as an undergraduate and, in the long vacation of 1920, found himself participating in the Liverpool University Settlement which undertook to help poor dockers living in the slums of Merseyside. As a result of this experience he gained some understanding of the problems facing the less fortunate elements of society. Moreover Austin was fortunate to be taught by Keynes, Pigou, Fay and Shove at a time when there was general consensus amongst Cambridge economists that economics should not be studied for itself but for the benefits it could bring.

It was not, however, until Austin had the opportunity to live in India that he was presented with the opportunity to use his economic ideas to promote development. In 1923 he was made a fellow of Corpus and, in 1926, married Joan Maurice. Shortly afterwards, and as a result of his College connections, Austin was offered the job of tutor to the ten-year-old Maharaja Jivajiro Scindia in Gwalior, a semi-sovereign princely state in India.

Official photograph of the ten year old Maharajah of Gwalior, dated 19/11/1928  (Austin Robinson Papers 12/1/14)

Austin and Joan arrived in Gwalior in October 1926 and received accommodation in an enormous mansion close to the Maharajah's palace. Although Austin's primary concern was the education of the young Mararajah it was during his time in Gwalior that he became interested in the financial relations between the Princely States and the Government of India and, through this, the problems confronting developing regions generally.

The mansion in which Austin and Joan lived during their stay in Gwalior (Austin Robinson Papers 12/1/2)

Austin's Indian sojourn coincided with the arrival of an official committee under Sir Harcourt Butler which had been appointed to report on a range of issues regarding the governance of India.

Having had the opportunity to meet several of the representatives of the Princely States - notably Pandit Narian Haksar - socially at the Palace of Gwalior, Austin has been made aware of many of the economic and fiscal issues that concerned the states in their dealings with the Government of India. He also met members of the Butler Committee and became concerned that they didn't fully appreciate the significance of the issues as explained to him by Haksar - Butler, in particular, he considered to be "terribly lazy and self-satisfied".

 As a result, in April 1928, Austin produced the draft memorandum that currently resides in the Marshall Library in which he set out the economic case for the Princely States. After reviewing Austin's work the group acting for the States realized that the economic arguments were more complex than they had initially imagined and, in June 1928, asked Joan to accompany them to London to assist in the presentation of their case. Austin was not involved in any subsequent amendments or the final presentation of the document which was later published by P.S. King as 'The British Crown and the Indian States' in 1929.


Table of contents to Austin's memorandum - Click here for larger image (Austin Robinson Papers 7/1/10)

Austin's preface to the memorandum showing some of Joan's amendments - Click here for larger image (Austin Robinson Papers 7/1/10)


Austin argued that, because the Princely States were relatively underdeveloped compared to those areas administered directly by the Government of India, it was essential to review the fiscal burdens and obligations imposed on the States to ensure that they were fair and just and to release capital which could then be used to promote development. To this end he sought to quantify the benefits and burdens arising out of the State's relations with the Indian Government. Although this was difficult due to the paucity of accurate data available he considered it vital if the claims and arguments of the States were not to be dismissed out of hand by the Butler Committee.

This memorandum is significant as it represents Austin's first work in economics to appear in print - although, of course, it was eventually much revised and re-written and was never actually attributed to him in the final published version which appeared in 1929. It is also significant in that it represents his first foray into the practicalities of economic development and, as such, has been described by Geoff harcourt (2006, p.521) as '... a first-class piece of applied political economy'.*1

*1 Harcourt, G.C. (2006) 'Robinson, (Edward) Austin (Gossage) (1897-1993)', in Clark, D.A. (ed.) The Elgar companion to development studies. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, pp. 520-525. 


Friday, 27 May 2016

Austin Robinson - World War One aviator - Part 4

 After leaving Killingholme Austin was posted to RNAS South Shields where, between July and October 1918, his duties involved testing flying boats for airworthiness and then delivering them to locations across the UK.

The first flying boat that Austin tested and delivered was N4240, a Felixstowe F3, which he flew south to RNAS Cattewater near Plymouth in Devon. 

 Short 184 flying boats on the Cattewater slipway (Austin Robinson Papers 12/5/5)

His next delivery involved flying  Felixstowe Porte Baby, N9807 north to Houton Bay, which was the RNAS station for Scapa Flow in Orkney. These were extremely long delivery flights - the flight from South Shields to Cattewater could take over 8 hours - and Austin always had to stop to refuel - at Killingholme if going South or at Dundee if going north. 

 Felixstowe Porte Baby No. 9807 after it was wrecked in a gale at Catfirth (Austin Robinson Papers, loose photo in Box 131)
Interestingly Austin states that the flying boats that were being assembled at South Shields and that he was testing had, initially, been built at Preston - on the other side of the country in Lancashire! Although appearing at first to be rather improbable this was indeed the case and indicates the way in which aircraft at this time were being built.  Dick, Kerr & Co. - originally a builder of trams and electric trains - had been contracted by the government to build flying boats in their Strand Road works in Preston. They received flying boat hulls from nearby boat builders and then constructed the rest of the aircraft and assembled it. The wings would then be removed and the flying boat transported by road on a steam lorry to South Shields, a journey which took 3 days.

In October 1918 Austin was posted to the naval ferry pool in London and was involved in ferrying flying boats from the locations where they were being constructed - notably Hythe on Southampton Water and Cowes on the Isle of Wight - to Felixstowe and a variety of other RNAS stations. 

After the Armistice  Austin was sent to Rochester where he began testing flying boats built by Shorts and then delivering them to Felixstowe. He remained their until April 1919 and, in his words '... got to know Shorts very well indeed' (EAGR Papers 2/9/4). The Robinson archive contains a large number of photographs that he took while at Shorts - of flying boats being constructed, tested and launched. Many of these pictures provide fascinating insights into the construction of these early aircraft and also clearly indicate the importance of women in industry by this time. A selection of these photographs may be viewed on the Marshall Library web site.

Front of No. 3 erecting shed at Short Brothers, Rochester (Austin Robinson Papers 12/5/6)

Short F3 flying boats under construction (Austin Robinson Papers 12/5/6)

Some of the female workforce at Shorts posing on an F3  (Austin Robinson Papers 12/5/6)

While at Rochester Austin worked closely with Short's chief test pilot John Lankester Parker to determine the airworthiness of the flying boats being produced there. Rejection of a particular aircraft was a serious matter as it would mean that Shorts would not get paid for it and this happened on one occasion when a Felixstowe F3 proved to be 'intolerably tail heavy' (EAGR Papers 2/9/4). The problem was referred to the aeronautical engineers at the Felixstowe Seaplane Experimental Station who suggested raising the entire tailplane by 4 inches and, once this was done, '... the boat was perfectly comfortable to fly' (EAGR Papers 2/9/4). Austin observed that 'It taught both of us a lot that we did not know about some of the more curious aspects of aircraft design' (EAGR Papers 2/9/4).

Austin's last flight as a flying boat pilot occurred in April 1919 when, on the suggestion of Oswald Short, he took his younger brother Christopher on a flight in N4033, a Felixstowe F3. The flight was uneventful and the following day he travelled to Cambridge to begin his studies as an undergraduate at Christ's.


Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Mary Paley Group Study Room Launch 

by Clare Trowell & Sue Woods

On Friday 22nd April at 2.30pm The Marshall Library launched the new group study room for students. The Reading Room at the Marshall Library is a great silent study space for individual work and the Social Area is welcoming and relaxing but the Library was missing a sensible quiet study area for groups, so this was my first initiative as Librarian to create a useable group study space within the Marshall Library. 

It was a great event - attended by a good number of students and involved bunting and free cake in the Library Social Area, as well as a speech from me!! 

We decided to name the room after Mary Paley, the wife of Alfred Marshall - she was also the first female librarian and an accomplished economist and scholar in her own right. Sue Woods has written a short history of Mary's life:

In 1871 Mary was one of the first 5 women admitted to the University of Cambridge. She spent 3 years at Newnham College studying for the Moral Sciences Tripos. Mary and fellow student Amy Bulley were the first women to be allowed to take the men's tripos. 

Even though Mary passed all her exams, as a woman, she was not permitted to graduate. Mary was, however, invited to become the first woman lecturer in economics at Cambridge and she soon took over the teaching of economics from her former teacher, Alfred Marshall. In 1876 the couple become engaged and they were married the following year. From then on Mary devoted her life to Alfred, and became subservient to him, supporting him in his research and the publication of his work.
Together Mary and Alfred wrote "Economics of Industry", which was published in 1879 under both their names. Even though it was highly rated by Keynes and other leading economists of the day, Alfred disliked the book and allowed it to go out of print, without a murmur from Mary. We were fortunate enough to be able to borrow the first edition of the book from the University Library Rare Books department, complete with annotations by Mary herself.
When Alfred died in 1924 he left many of his books and donated much of his money to the library. Mary acted as a volunteer librarian and looked after the collection for nearly 20 years, until she retired at the age of 87. From 1925 until her death in 1944 she gave £250 annually to the library, and also bequeathed £10,000 to the University for the "development and increased usefulness of the Marshall Library". 

Throughout her life Mary enjoyed painting and produced a bound volume of watercolours, which was passed to the Library for safe keeping. We were also able to display Mary's book of watercolours in the new group study room at the Launch Event.
It was good to get such great feedback from the students about the standard of the new facilities at the launch. The room includes a managed desktop PC, a connection for a laptop as well as a flipchart, pens and magnets for group work.
The room is available to book online via the Marshall Library website (in the same way as Bloomberg & Datastream). The room is available for booking during library opening hours in term time but access to the room closes an hour before library closing time.
The room is bookable for groups of up to 5 for 1-2 hours at any one time and there are some basic ground rules which we ask you to abide by:

  • The Mary Paley Room is bookable by students for group work only and is not available for private study
  • The room may be booked for up to 2 hours (slots) at any one time
  • There will be a 15 minute grace period for each booking. After this time the booking will lapse and the slot may be offered to another group
  • Please make sure you leave the room as you found it
  • No food and drink is allowed in the Mary Paley Room
I really hope students find this new group study space at the Marshall Library useful and I welcome any feedback you may have.