Michael Roberts (historian)

Michael Roberts (1908–1996) was an English historian specializing in the early modern period. He was particularly known for his studies of Swedish history, and his introduction of the concept of a Military Revolution in early modern Europe.[1]


Roberts was born in Lytham St Annes, Lancashire and educated at Brighton College, and Worcester College, Oxford. He taught at Rhodes University College in Grahamstown, South Africa from 1935, served in the army in East Africa during World War II, and headed the British Council in Stockholm 1944–46.[2] From 1954 until his retirement in 1973, he was professor of modern history at the Queen's University of Belfast. He also held guest professorships in U.S. universities. He was a member of the British Academy and the Royal Irish Academy.

Roberts is chiefly known as the originator of the theory of a "Revolution in Military Affairs" or RMA, which he first presented in a paper entitled "The Military Revolution: 1560-1660" in a lecture at the Queen's university of Belfast in 1955. This theory holds that certain changes in military tactics and technology led to a revolutionary new method of waging war that made combat more decisive.

Although originally working in the area of British history, Roberts soon gained an interest in the history of Sweden and learnt Swedish prior to 1940. He made his most significant contributions on the period from the late 16th to the early 18th century when Sweden was a major player on the European political and military scene, but published several studies on later periods in both Swedish and British history. Some of his works on Swedish history are used as textbooks in Swedish universities and several have also been translated into Swedish. In addition, he proposed the concept of a 'military revolution' in the early modern Europe - an idea that, with modification, is still used by historians.

Roberts also wrote translations of the poet Birger Sjöberg and Sweden's bard Carl Michael Bellman into English,[2] which he published himself. These works are on file at the National Library of Sweden. In 2008 the Birger Sjöberg Society published Frida's New Clothes, a collection of the poet's lyrics in translation. Fourteen of the translations were by Roberts.

Michael Roberts had several Swedish honours bestowed upon him; among other things he received an honorary doctorate from Stockholm University, and was elected a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities.


Jeremy Black, writing in History Today, comments that "Few subjects are identified so closely with one man as English-language scholarship on early-modern Sweden and Michael Roberts."[3]

Glansholms bookshop and antiquariat (in Sweden) comment that Roberts gives a fascinating picture of Sweden in the Age of Liberty in his book, and that "he is a good storyteller in his anglo-saxon tradition, succeeding in telling Swedish history with clarity and humour."[2]

Select bibliography

  • The Whig Party, 1807-1812 (1939).
  • Gustav Adolf the Great (translator) (1940).
  • Gustavus Adolphus, A History of Sweden 1611-1632 (two volumes, 1953–1958).
  • Sweden as a great power 1611-1697 (1968).
  • The early Vasas : a history of Sweden 1523-1611 (1968).
  • Gustavus Adolphus and the Rise of Sweden (1973).
  • Twelve pieces and an introduction from Fridas bok (translator) (1975).
  • Epistles and songs: Carl Michael Bellman (translator) (three volumes, 1977–1981).
  • The Swedish imperial experience, 1560-1718 (1979).
  • British Diplomacy and Swedish Politics, 1758-1773 (1980).
  • The Age of Liberty : Sweden 1719-1772 (1986).
  • From Oxenstierna to Charles XII : four studies (1991).


  1. ^ Michael Roberts, "The Military Revolution, 1560–1660" (1956) reprinted in Clifford J Rogers, ed. (1995). The Military Revolution Debate: Readings On The Military Transformation Of Early Modern Europe. Avalon Publishing. pp. 13–36.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  2. ^ a b c "Sverige under frihetstiden : 1719-1772". Litteratur Magazinet (in Swedish). Glansholms Bokhandel & Antikvariat. Retrieved 16 December 2014. I sin bok ger Michael Roberts en fascinerande bild av denna epok ... Han är en god berättare i sann anglosaxisk tradition och lyckas lyfta fram poänger i den svenska historien med klart humoristiska inslag.
  3. ^ Black, Jeremy. "The Age of Liberty, Sweden 1719-1772". History Today. Retrieved 16 December 2014.

External links

List of people with surname Roberts

Roberts is a surname of British origin. This list provides links to biographies of people who share this surname.

Michael Roberts

Michael Roberts may refer to:

Michael Roberts (college principal) (died 1679), Principal of Jesus College, Oxford, 1648–1657

Michael Roberts (writer) (1902–1948), British poet, writer, critic and broadcaster

Michael Roberts (historian) (1908–1996), British historian

Michael Roberts (politician) (1927–1983), British Conservative Party politician, Cardiff MP 1970–1983

R. Michael Roberts (born 1940), American biologist

Michael D. Roberts (born 1947), American actor

Michael Roberts (fashion journalist) (born 1947), British journalist

Michael Roberts (jockey) (born 1954), South African jockey

Michael Roberts (footballer) (born 1959), Australian rules footballer and TV journalist

Michael Roberts (cricketer) (born 1989), English cricketer

Michael Symmons Roberts (born 1963), British writer

Michael Roberts (priest) (born 1943), British Church of England priest and academic

Michael Roberts (American football), American football player

Mick Roberts (born 1979), rugby league player for the Brisbane Broncos

Michael Roberts, character in Small Island

Rhodes University

Rhodes University is a public research university located in Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. It is one of four universities in the province. Established in 1904, Rhodes University is the province's oldest university, and it is the fifth or sixth oldest South African university in continuous operation, being preceded by the University of the Free State (1904), University of Witwatersrand (1896), Stellenbosch University (1866) and the University of Cape Town (1829). Rhodes was founded in 1904 as Rhodes University College, named after Cecil Rhodes, through a grant from the Rhodes Trust. It became a constituent college of the University of South Africa in 1918 before becoming an independent university in 1951.

The university had an enrolment of over 8,000 students in the 2015 academic year, of whom just over 3,600 lived in 51 residences on campus, with the rest (known as Oppidans) taking residence in digs (off-campus residences) or in their own homes in the town.

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