Robert began his studies with a BA in History at Newcastle University, which he followed with an MA at the University of Sunderland. His areas of research for these qualifications included a re-appraisal of the 1844 miners’ strike and its effects in the North East of England, and an exploration of the cultural and musical History of Newcastle and the surrounding areas in the late 1950s and 1960s. His wider historical interests include the British Empire and Russia in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Robert's research as part of the European, Ethnic and Expatriate project concentrates on the activities of the China Association. The working title of his thesis is: "The China Association: Returned Expatriates, Sociability and Political Lobbying, c.1880 to 1955".