F.G. Bailey was born in 1924 and currently lives in Del Mar, California.
Bailey was awarded a PhD in anthropology by the University of Manchester - as a representative of the 'Manchester School'. His academic career started with a lectureship at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in 1956. He became Reader in 1960. In 1964, he left SOAS to pioneer the anthropology program at the University of Sussex. In 1971, he accepted a Professorship at the University of California, San Diego, where he remained until retirement.
Bailey wrote six monographs based on his fieldwork in Orissa (now renamed Odisha), but most scholars are probably more familiar with his contribution to political anthropology, especially his monograph Stratagems and Spoils (1969) and the revised edition Treasons, Stratagems and Spoils (2001).
In the 1950s, a treasury fellowship led Bailey into the Kondmals in Orissa, India, where he studied a Hindu village in an area predominantly inhabited by Kond communities. This fieldwork became his Ph.D. (1954), supervised by Max Gluckman and Elizabeth Colson.
The study was published soon after under the title Caste and the Economic Frontier (1957). In it Bailey deals with aspects of social change, focusing on the consequences of a new mercantile economy for power the old land-holding elite. He showed how through law, changing tax structures and education the affluence of certain communities grew, while the wealth of others declined, and how the new wealth led to social mobility within the caste hierarchy.
His second book, Tribe, Caste and Nation (1960), examines the fight for political power and land between ‘tribal’ Kond and caste Hindus and their understanding of the changing political structures of post-colonial Odisha.
The third book, Orissa 1959 (1963), focuses on the system of representative democracy in the new, post-Independence, state of Odisha.
In the 1990s, F.G. Bailey published a second Odisha trilogy. In these later books, he focuses on the situation in 1950s, but addresses themes of general anthropological and sociological interest. These monographs mirror themes developed in the first series. In this way, we could speak of two Indian trilogies, or a second trilogy which mirrors the first.