P. J. Marshall

Peter James Marshall CBE, FBA (born 1933 in Calcutta) is a British historian known for his work on the British empire, particularly the activities of British East India Company servants in 18th-century Bengal,[1] and also the history of British involvement in North America during the same period.[2]

Early life and education

He was educated at Wellington College, Berkshire, and, following national service with the 7th (Kenya) Battalion, King's African Rifles, he took a first class honours degree in history at Wadham College, Oxford, from where he received a D.Phil in 1962.[3]

Academic career and professional activities

Between 1959 and 1993, he taught in the history department at King's College London and was appointed Rhodes Professor of Imperial History in 1980, in which post he remained until his retirement. Between 1965 and 1978, he served as a Member of the Editorial Committee for The Correspondence of Edmund Burke, and between 1975 and 1981 he was Editor of The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History.[4] He sat on the History Working Group for National Curriculum in England in 1989 and 1990. In 1987 he was appointed Vice President of the Royal Historical Society, serving as President between 1997 and 2001. A Junior Research Fellowship bearing his name, and jointly administered by the Royal Historical Society and the Institute of Historical Research at the University of London, where he is an Honorary Fellow,[5] is awarded annually to a doctoral student in history.[6] In December 2008, he was awarded the degree of Doctor of Literature honoris causa by the School of Advanced Study at the University of London.[7] He is an Emeritus Rhodes Professor of Imperial History at King's College London, where he continues to lecture.

British in India

Marshall presents a revisionist interpretation, rejecting the view that the prosperity of Mughal Bengal gave way to poverty and anarchy in the colonial period. He instead argues that the British takeover did not mark any sharp break with the past. After 1765, British control was delegated largely through regional rulers and was sustained by a generally prosperous economy for the rest of the 18th century, except for frequent famines with high fatality rates. Marshall also notes that the British raised revenue through local tax administrators and kept the old Mughal rates of taxation. His interpretation of colonial Bengal, at least until c. 1820, is one in which the British were not in full control, but instead were actors in what was primarily an Indian play, and in which their ability to keep power depended upon excellent cooperation with Indian elites. Marshall admits that much of his interpretation is still contested by many historians.[8]

Selected publications



  1. Marshall, P. J.,East Indian Fortunes: The British in Bengal in the Eighteenth Century, (Oxford, 1976)
  2. Marshall, P. J., The Making and Unmaking of Empires: Britain, India and America c. 1750 - 1783, (Oxford, 2005)
  3. https://web.archive.org/web/20090821085346/http://www.sas.ac.uk/543.html. Archived from the original on August 21, 2009. Retrieved July 3, 2009. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  4. "The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History". Tandf.co.uk. Retrieved 2015-03-04.
  5. https://web.archive.org/web/20070930073936/http://www.history.ac.uk/awards/. Archived from the original on September 30, 2007. Retrieved July 3, 2009. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  6. "Honorary degrees | School of Advanced Study, University of London". Sas.ac.uk. 2012-12-15. Retrieved 2015-03-04.
  7. P.J. Marshall, "The British in Asia: Trade to Dominion, 1700–1765," in The Oxford History of the British Empire: vol. 2, The Eighteenth Century" ed. by P. J. Marshall, (1998), pp 487–507
  8. "Historiography - Google Books". Books.google.com. 2004-05-14. Retrieved 2015-03-04.
  9. https://web.archive.org/web/20111107133935/http://www.us.oup.com/us/catalog/general/subject/HistoryWorld/British/18thC/?view=usa. Archived from the original on November 7, 2011. Retrieved July 3, 2009. Missing or empty |title= (help)

External links

Academic offices
Preceded by
Rees Davies
President of the Royal Historical Society
Succeeded by
Janet Nelson

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