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List of profiled attendees at the Round Table Conference. For a full list of delegates to each session, see the British Library's Round Table Conference records page.

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Sir Geoffrey Latham Corbett

Full nameSir Geoffrey Latham Corbett, KBE 1927, CIE 1921
Born09 Feb 1881, Worcestershire, United Kingdom
Died02 Nov 1937, Cairo, Egypt

Geoffrey Corbett grew up in Worcestershire, attending Bromsgrove School before studying Classics at Hertford College, Oxford. In 1904 he passed the Indian Civil Service exams and served in the Central Provinces, rising to Director of Industries and Controller of Munitions. In 1919 he was appointed Deputy Secretary in the Commerce Department of the Government of India, eventually rising to Secretary in 1926. He was a member of the British delegation at the Washington Naval Conference (1921) and represented India at major conferences including the Cape Town Conference (1926), League of Nations General Assembly (1929) and Imperial Conference, London (1930).

Corbett acted as Secretary to the British Indian delegation at the Round Table Conference.

First Session

  • Appointed Secretary of British Indian Delegation
  • Was involved in a good deal of hospitality work before and during the conferences. From Moonje’s diary alone, the following were noted (NMML.Moonje Diary) 
    • 19th October 1930: 6pm Benn came to 8 Chesterfield Gardens, also there were Sir Denys Bray, Hoare, Shafi and Corbett.
    • 7th November 1930: Sir G Corbett came at 3 and drove me in his car to Richmond. Scenery of meandering Thames is very charming.
    • 1st January 1931: 8pm dinner with Sir Geoffrey Corbett at 46 Clarges Street. General Wigram, new Chief of Staff of India, there. His brother is PS to the King. Military conversation.
    • 14th January 1931: Breakfast with Corbett at 46 Clarges Street. Asked me not to press my points in Defence Committee. I spoke with him in my usual cheerful way but I noted the purpose for which I was invited.
    • 20th January 1931: I held a Lunch at Café Diwan, 46 Clarges Street in honour of Lord Lothian, invited Isaac Foot, Corbett, Jayakar and Tambe. Food well cooked and enjoyed the lunch.
  • 5th January 1931: Maulana Mohammed Ali died. From Hailey’s letter to Irwin: “Before he died, he dictated a long political testimony to Corbett which is, I understand, to be distributed to the Minorities Committee and which contains a good deal of plain speaking but, of course, cannot be altered now.” (British Library E220.34)
  • 4th May 1931: from a note in the Reforms Office in New Delhi, commenting on the Secretarial assistance at the first conference session, consisting of Corbett as Secretary, and two Joint Secretaries (GS Bajpai and A Latifi). Main tasks had emerged as a) keeping minutes, b) providing materials, c) advising on constitutional matters, d) maintaining liaison with other delegates: 
    • “(c) and (d) were much the most important part of their work, because, as happens in most conferences, differences that actually arose or threatened to mar the satisfactory progress of discussions in Conference or Committees were adjusted by informal conversations outside formal meetings. From prominent British Indian delegates, such as Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru, Mr Sastri and Mr Jayakar, I heard appreciative acknowledgment of the unostentatious but most helpful part played by their Secretariat in bringing the session of the Conference to a successful conclusion. This was to be expected, because Lord Irwin had chosen the officers with great care. Each of them had considerable experience of conferences. Sir Geoffrey Corbett and Mr Bajpai, by reason of their participation in a number of Imperial Conferences including the one held last autumn, were personally known to members of His Majesty’s Govt., and the permanent officials attached to the British Delegation. Each one of them was also personally known to and on friendly terms with the members of the British Indian Delegation.”
    • Corbett was, therefore, recommended for the second conference session due to his experience with the Government of India and at the Imperial Conference of 1930. He had the confidence of British leaders and of Gandhi, who he had known personally for many years due to his engagement with the question of Indians in South Africa (National Archives, New Delhi)

Second Session

  • 9th September 1931: Moonje meet Corbett at St James's Palace, who said he was arranging to being Gandhi from Folkestone by motor, fearing a counter-demonstration against his reception at Victoria Station (NMML: Moonje Diary)
  • 15th September 1931: Corbett wrote to Irwin from 42 St James’s Place enclosing a copy of notes on Gandhi’s speech that morning. I was down in Somerset for the weekend. When I returned on Sunday night I found Bajpai awaiting me with sensational stories of what the Mahatma was going to say. Sapru, Jayakar etc were said to be in despair about what he would say. Monday being his Day of Silence it was not possible to do anything then. But I arranged for Bajpai to go down to the East End and see him at 8am this morning (fancy Bajpai out of bed at 8 in the morning!), Gandhi said he would be least provocative as possible. I don’t think he wants a deadlock or to return to India in a fortnight, as Sapru fears. Gandhi said he was relying on me for guidance in satisfying British public opinion. (British Library Photo Eur 095).
  • Mid-October 1931: Corbett contributed part of a proposed solution to the communal deadlock of the Minorities Committee. A Punjab settlement was suggested that would transfer Ambala Division to UP, increasing the Muslim proportion of the Punjab from 55% to 62%, assuring Muslims of a majority under joint electorates. The scheme was rejected by Sikh representatives. (Moore, 1974:222)
  • 30th October 1931: Corbett produced a memorandum for Hoare (now Secretary of State for India), which was passed on to MacDonald. It was felt that a federation could not be launched during the economic crisis and that a delay might be required, and that the support of the future self-governing provinces would be needed before a federation was created. This was essentially the plan of the Simon Report, with more pronounced provincial autonomy. Sapru’s forceful protest saw an end to the plan for a two-staged progress to federation. (Moore, 1974:233-237).
  • 17th November 1931: a circular was distributed by Corbett, A Latifi and B Rama Rau requesting donations for the small fund it was proposed to collect from the members of the British India Delegation for the messengers attached to the Conf maybe sent to Rr EC Gaynor in the office of the delegation. (NMML.Mittter Papers)

Third Session

  • Corbett was unavailable for the third RTC session.


  • January 1932: represented the Government of India at the Cape Town Round Table Conference
  • 1932: appointed Reader in Indian History, Oxford University
  • 1932–35: Chairman of Food Council
  • April 1935: appointed by the Egyptian Cabinet as Adviser to the new Ministry of Commerce and Industry at Cairo

Sources used

  • Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi: Dr BS Moonje papers; PC Mitter papers
  • British Library: IOR/Eur.Mss/E220/34; IOR/Mss.Eur./Photo Eur 095
  • National Archives, New Delhi: Reforms Department/1931/56/31-R
  • R.J. Moore, The Crisis of Indian Unity, 1917-1940 (Oxford: Clarendon Press; 1974)

Selected publications

Secondary literature

ImagesMonochrome photograph of Sir Geoffrey Latham Corbett by Walter Stoneman, 1931

Sir Geoffrey Latham Corbett by Walter Stoneman, bromide print, 1931. NPG x166741 / CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 (

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