Joan Violet Maurice was born in Camberley, Surrey in 1903, the daughter of Sir Frederick and Lady Helen Maurice. She was educated at St. Paul's Girls' School in London, and admitted to Girton College, Cambridge in 1922. She graduated in 1925 and married another economist, Austin Robinson in the following year.
Joan and Austin Robinson spent the two following years in India. When they returned, they made their home in Cambridge, where Austin received a position as an assistant lecturer in Economics, rising in time to the rank of University Professor. Joan was appointed an assistant lecturer in Economics in 1931, a lecturer in 1937 and a reader in 1949, and she became a fellow of both Girton and Newnham Colleges. During these years she formed an important part of what has become known as the 'Cambridge Circus', the group that assisted, critiqued and prodded J.M. Keynes toward the development of 'The General Theory' and thus lay behind the Keynesian revolution.
Joan Robinson's time in India, however, was not forgotten. Rather, it was an experience that blossomed into a life-long interest not only in the sub-continent, but in politico-economic aspects of developing countries around the world. Robinson travelled the globe until quite late in her life, embracing even the most difficult conditions in an effort to understand the societies in which she found herself. After the second world war, these interests increasingly found their way into her work, as Robinson began to concentrate on the problems of growth and capital accumulation, taking what she needed from the theories of Marx, and applying the new models she created to analyses of development (or underdevelopment) and international trade. Her interest in, and visits to, China in the 1960s and 70s were particularly fruitful.
Joan Robinson became a full professor in 1965 and an honorary fellow of King's College in 1970. She retired in 1971, but continued to write, teach and supervise until her death. She died in 1983.
This collection contains texts, correspondence, notebooks and photographs related to Joan Robinson, as well as copies of texts by some other economists. Although the documents could be used to illuminate the personal life of Joan Robinson, the strength of the collection lies in what they reveal about her economic thought and that of her contemporaries. Titles of items throughout are taken from the item itself unless they are in square brackets, when they are archivally given to convey some idea of the subject of an untitled piece. Titles in inverted commas are those under which Joan Robinson published the piece, or a version of it.
All the material described here was given to King's College, Cambridge by Professor Robinson's heirs in 1983 and 1984, unless otherwise noted. The College warmly acknowledges her family's generosity, and that of subsequent benefactors who have augmented their gift.
The first part of the collection consists of drafts and proofs of Joan Robinson's writings, published and unpublished. These are followed by correspondence, biographical material and printed pieces of work by Joan Robinson and others.
Access to some material in this collection is restricted while the author is still living, on the ground that it touches on their private or professional concerns. Other material has been reserved because, in the College's opinion, the contents of these files might be considered confidential, or offensive, by living people other than the author. Further information about such restrictions will be provided in the records of relevant items and files.
Copyright in the published and unpublished writings of Joan Robinson is administered by King's College, Cambridge. For permission to quote from her writings, please contact the Librarian, King's College, Cambridge CB2 1ST.
Please cite as King's College Archive Centre, Cambridge, The Papers of Professor Joan Violet Robinson, JVR
Much of the information (and some of the phrasing) in the above biography was taken from M. Beaud and G. Dostaler, 'Economic Thought Since Keynes: A History and Dictionary of Major Economists' (Edward Elgar, 1995), pp. 387-90.
The first handlist of these papers was compiled by the College Archivist, Michael Halls, in 1986 with the particular help of Professor Sir Austin Robinson and Professor the Lord Richard F. Kahn. The new database catalogue, created in June 2003, has incorporated many annotations to the original handlist made by archivists in the intervening period.