John K. Fairbank


John K. Fairbank

John King Fairbank (24 May, 1907 - 14 September 1991) was among the most prominent American scholars of East Asia in the twentieth century. His works have been translated into a number of languages, and, in China, he is known mainly by his Chinese name Fei Zhengqing (Pinyin: Fèi Zhèngqīng; 费正清).

Education and early career

Fairbank was born in Huron, South Dakota on 24 May, 1907. He was educated at Sioux Falls High School, Phillips Exeter Academy, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Harvard College, and Oxford University (Balliol). In 1929, when he graduated from Harvard "summa cum laude", he went to Oxford as a Rhodes scholar in order to study British imperial history. At Oxford, Fairbank learned that the Qing imperial archives were being opened, and he decided to go to Beijing to do research for his doctoral degree in 1932. In Beijing, he studied at Tsinghua University under the direction of the prominent Chinese historian Tsiang Tingfu. In 1936, Oxford awarded him a D.Phil. for his thesis on the Chinese Imperial Maritime Customs. He returned to Harvard to take up a position teaching Chinese history.

War service

Following the outbreak of the Pacific War in 1941, Fairbank was enlisted to work for the US government, which included service in the OSS and the Office of War Information. During the war, Fairbank also had the opportunity to visit Chongqing, the temporary capital of Nationalist China. There, like most foreign observers, he witnessed the corruption of the government headed by Chiang Kai-shek, which left a deeply negative impression of the Kuomintang.

McCarthy Era

After the end of the war, Fairbank returned to Harvard, where he resumed his teaching and research duties. In the debate on why the Nationalists had lost the Mainland to the Chinese Communists in 1949, Fairbank was briefly targeted for criticism of being "soft" on Communism, and in 1952, he testified before the McCarran Committee. Ironically, many of Fairbank's Chinese friends and colleagues who returned to China after 1949, such as Fei Xiaotong and Chen Han-seng, would later be attacked for being "pro-American".

Return to academia

Fairbank remained at Harvard for the rest of his career and published a number of both academic and non-academic works on China, many of which would reach a wide audience outside academia. In 1948, he published his best-selling work "The United States and China", which would be republished in several editions. He also published an expanded revision of his doctoral dissertation as "Trade and Diplomacy on the China Coast" in 1953. Fairbank also trained a number of influential China historians at Harvard and worked hard to make Harvard a center for Chinese studies. He founded a center for research in East Asia, which was later named the Fairbank Center for East Asian Research in his honor.

In 1966, Fairbank and the Sinologist Denis C. Twitchett, then at Cambridge University set in motion the plans for the "Cambridge History of China". Originally intended to cover the entire history of China in six volumes, the project grew until it reached its present expected size of 15 volumes. Twitchett and Fairbank divided the history between them, with Fairbank editing the volumes on modern (post 1800) China, while Twitchett took responsibility for the period from the Qin to early Qing. Fairbank edited and wrote parts of volumes 10 through 15, the last of which appeared in the year after his death.

Death

Fairbank finished the manuscript of his final book, "China: A New History" in the summer of 1991. On September 16, 1991 he delivered the manuscript to Harvard University Press, then returned home and suffered a fatal heart attack.cite news |first= |last= |authorlink= |coauthors= |title=John K. Fairbank, China Scholar Of Wide Influence, Is Dead at 84 |url=http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9D0CEEDD123EF935A2575AC0A967958260 |quote= John K. Fairbank, the Harvard history professor who was widely credited with creating the field of modern Chinese studies in the United States and was a leading advocate of diplomatic recognition of the People's Republic of China, died Saturday in Cambridge, Mass. He was 84 years old. He died of a heart attack, said Roderick MacFarquhar, a colleague. |work=New York Times |date=September 16, 1991 |accessdate=2008-08-14 ]

Representative works

*"Trade and Diplomacy on the China Coast: The Opening of the Treaty Ports, 1842-1854." 2 vols. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1953.
*"Patterns Behind the Tientsin Massacre." "Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies" 20, no. 3/4 (1957): 480-511.
*"Ch'ing Administration: Three Studies." (with Têng Ssu-yü) Harvard-Yenching Institute Studies, V. 19. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1960.
*"Chinabound: a fifty-year memoir. New York : Harper & Row, 1982.
*"The United States and China." 4th, enl. ed. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983.
*"China: A New History." (with Merle Goldman) Enl. ed. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1992.

References

Further reading

*Evans, Paul M. "John Fairbank and the American Understanding of Modern China." New York: B. Blackwell, 1988.
* Paul A. Cohen Merle Goldman, eds., "Fairbank Remembered" (Cambridge, Mass.: Published by the John K. Fairbank Center for East Asian Research Harvard University : Distributed by Harvard University Press, 1992). Brief reminiscences by students, colleagues, friends, and family.

External links

* [http://www.fas.harvard.edu/~fairbank/about/john_bio.html Harvard biography]
* [http://www.historians.org/info/AHA_History/jkfairbankbibliography.htm Bibliography]
* [http://uschina.usc.edu/(A(ZOZyaTS3yAEkAAAAMDgyOWYxMWItY2RkOC00OWNkLWJhYmQtMjMxODliMjkxZTgyxyKSalt45jN7wsstLHTk-csBXyw1)S(cntzycnstjysuz45rlb5ro45))/ShowFeature.aspx?articleID=882 John King Fairbank: Present at the Creation]


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