Dr Robert Elgood FSA

Academic Profile

Robert Elgood was born in 1948, the son of a paediatrician. He has a BA in Islamic History from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), London University 1975-1979 (where he is now a Research Associate in the Art and Archaeology Dept.) and a DPhil from Oxford University in Indian Anthropology. He is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and a Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society. For some years he was also a Fellow of the Royal Anthropological Society. In 1986 he was elected to the Meyrick Society and 1996 he was elected a member of the Rowland Club.

After leaving the Oratory he was an articled clerk in a law firm for three years before running an antique picture gallery in Sussex for Kiels, leading dealers in oak and walnut furniture. He then went to live in Florence for five years where he restored a 15th century villa and garden, farmed (making excellent chianti) and studied Italian art and history. While still in Italy he began to commission learned articles for a book - Islamic Arms and Armour (1979). While interviewing a potential author at SOAS it was put to him that he should study there, compiling and editing his book while an undergraduate. He is the author of Arms and Armour of Arabia in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, (1994) a book written at the request of a member of the Qatari royal family; Firearms of the Islamic World in the Tareq Rajab Museum, Kuwait, (1995); Hindu Arms and Ritual. Arms and Armour from India 1400-1865 (2004). His articles include three for Macmillan’s’ World Dictionary of Art and another for Brill’s Encyclopedia of Islam (EI3). In 2008 he worked on the Royal Collection writing an introductory essay to a new edition of Sir Caspar Purdon Clarke’s Catalogue of the Collection of Indian Arms and Objects of Art at Marlborough House, originally published in 1898 and his Arms and Armour at Sandringham published in 1910. The Arms of Greece and her Balkan Neighbours in the Ottoman Period was published by Thames and Hudson in 2009 in Greek and English editions. An exhibition on Balkan Arms in the National Historical Museum, Athens, opened on 25th March 2010, Greek National Day and has now moved on to Nicosia. His paper on Deccani Arms for a symposium at the Metropolitan Museum, N.Y. in 2008 was published in Sultans of the South. Arts of India's Deccan Courts 1323-1687 in 2011.

Dr Elgood was appointed Research Fellow, Eastern European, Islamic and Asian Arms and Armour at the Wallace Collection in 2006 having been commissioned to write a catalogue of the Oriental Arms. The work was awarded a Leverhulme Grant. While at the Wallace Collection he arranged the programme and funding for an Indian Conservator to come from Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur to study at the Wallace Collection, the V&A and at the Royal Armouries, Leeds; and organised a tour of arms museums and armouries in India for museum experts. He has established and funded a research team in Mehrangarh Fort currently translating arms documents from Marwari and Marathi. He is completing catalogues of the arms in Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur; and in Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum, Jaipur.

He has lectured at the British Museum, the Wallace Collection, SOAS, The Victoria and Albert Museum etc and in India, the Gulf, Europe and the United States. He worked for some years as Sotheby’s Oriental arms expert in the 1980s. He is consulted on aspects of weapons history and arms museum projects: he is an adviser on the new Arms and Hunting Museum, Doha. In November 2011 he carried out an inspection tour for UNESCO and the Punjab Government advising on arms matters for museums in the Punjab.

Amongst Dr Elgood's many interests is architecture and architectural conservation. He is a long time member of The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings and has considerable building experience. He is currently involved in historic building conservation in India. For nine years from 1994 he was on the executive committee of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, London, the largest Indian cultural centre outside India where he was particularly involved in building additional classrooms and with the Arts Committee. In 1982 during the Falklands War he worked for the all Party United Kingdom Falkland Islands Committee, (UKFIC) a political lobby group established in 1968 at the request of the Islanders to preserve their freedom to remain British. On behalf of the UKFIC he wrote two volumes of evidence on the causes of the war for the Franks Committee, appearing before it at the Admiralty. He also submitted written evidence to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee on the Falklands. After the war he was elected to the Committee and in due course became Vice Chairman of the Falkland Islands Association, serving in a voluntary capacity for about sixteen years under Bill Hunter-Christie, Eric Ogden MP, and Sir Rex Hunt. For the last eight years he was also Chairman of the Political Committee. He visited the Islands three times, the last time in 2007 as a guest of the Falkland Islands Government on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the war. Dr Elgood was also involved with Claude Blair in efforts to prevent the Royal Armouries from being removed from the Tower of London, their historic home, and sent to Leeds. Dr Elgood lives in Oxfordshire where he has space for his large library but spends a certain amount of time researching each year in India, a home from home, or the Near and Middle East.

He usually walks the 180 km Tour de Mont Blanc every year in June. In July 2011 he rode a horse 430km across Mongolian with a Hungarian expedition to visit a remote tribe of reindeer herders on the Siberian frontier. He is married to Dr Heather Elgood, Course Director of the Diploma in Asian Art at SOAS and has three sons.