Rod was born in Hamilton, New Zealand, and educated at Victoria University and Merton College Oxford. Most of his academic career was spent at the University of Kent in England where he became Professor of Modern Literature and Cultural History and was several times head of department. He retired in 2009. His main academic fields have been in Victorian and Postcolonial writing and the history and literature of empire.
His books include Affairs of the Hearth: Victorian Poetry and Domestic Narrative (Routledge, 1988), Representing the South Pacific: Colonial Discourse from Cook to Gauguin (Cambridge University Press, 1997), Islands in History and Representation, co-edited with Vanessa Smith (Routledge, 2003) and Leprosy and Empire: A Medical and Cultural History (Cambridge University Press, 2006).
Among his many contributions to edited books are: ‘Home and Away: Degeneration in Imperialist and Modernist Discourse’, in Modernism and Empire (Manchester University Press, 2000); ‘Tahiti: “Queen of the South Sea Isles”’, in the Cambridge Companion to Travel Writing (Cambridge University Press, 2002); ‘Island Transactions: Encounter and Disease in the South Pacific’, in The Global Eighteenth Century (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003); ‘Returning Fears: Tropical Disease and the Metropolis’, in Tropical Visions in an Age of Empire (Chicago University Press, 2005), and ‘The Return of the Native: Tom Harrisson in the New Hebrides (Vanuatu) and Bolton 1933–39’, in Writing, Travel and Empire: In the Margins of Anthropology (I.B. Tauris, 2006).
He has also published articles in distinguished learned journals such as Victorian Literature and Culture, Victorian Poetry, and the Journal of Commonwealth Literature. For a number of years he was co-general editor of the series Routledge Research in Postcolonial Literatures.
Representing the South Pacific was joint winner of the Trevor Reese Memorial Prize for Imperial History 1997–8, awarded by the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London, for ‘an outstanding work of scholarship in the field of imperial history’. The only other New Zealander to have won this award is James Belich. Rod Edmond was awarded a Leverhulme Research Fellowship in 1995 and a research fellowship from the Wellcome Trust for the History of Medicine in 2001. He has broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and 4 on arts and current affairs programmes.
He now lives in Deal on the east coast of Kent with his partner, the novelist Scarlett Thomas, where he cycles, walks and still plays the odd game of cricket.