Robert Tignor, Egyptologist and Historian, ‘Wonderful Mentor’ and Transformative Department Chair, Dies at 89

Written by
Jamie Saxon, Office of Communications
Dec. 23, 2022

Robert “Bob” Tignor, the Rosengarten Professor of Modern and Contemporary History, Emeritus, and a renowned scholar of British colonialism and its aftermath, world history, and the modern histories of Egypt, Nigeria and Kenya, died of complications related to pneumonia at his home in Princeton on Dec. 9. He was 89.

Tignor spent his entire career at Princeton. He joined the faculty in 1960 after earning his Ph.D. at Yale University and taught for 46 years before transferring to emeritus status in 2006. He was also affiliated with the Program in Near Eastern Studies and the Program in African Studies and served as director of the latter from 1970 to 1979.

He was born on Nov. 20, 1933, in Philadelphia and earned his bachelor’s from the College of Wooster in 1955.

While Tignor was hired originally as a historian of Egypt and seen as a rising figure in Middle East history, Jerome Blum, the department chair at that time, suggested that Tignor offer Princeton’s first courses in African history. Tignor moved to Nairobi, learned new languages including Arabic, and immersed himself in the history of the continent as he explored new methods, including ethnographic accounts of the roles of the Kamba, Kikuyu and Maasai peoples of East Africa in the rise and fall of the British empire in Kenya.

Read more at News at Princeton.

Photo by Jacqui Hall-Handelman ’95