Position

AHA President, 1968

Institution

Harvard University

From Perspectives, November 1991

John K. Fairbank (May 24, 1907–September 14, 1991), a renowned China scholar and former professor of history at Harvard University, died on September 14, 1991, at the age of 84.

Mr. Fairbank was born in Huron, South Dakota, in 1907. Originally enrolling at the University of Wisconsin, he transferred to Harvard, graduating summa cum laude in 1929. As a Rhodes scholar from 1929 through 1932, Mr. Fairbank traveled to Beijing and served as a lecturer at Qinghua University. Over the next two years as a Rockefeller Foundation Fellow, he traveled widely in a dozen Chinese provinces.

Mr. Fairbank joined the Harvard faculty in 1936, where he began to transform a field that until then had been largely concerned with Chinese antiquity. After spending time in both Washington, D.C., and Chongqing, China, during World War II, Mr. Fairbank returned to Harvard and was director of the East Asian Research Center from 1955 to 1973. He was named Francis Lee Higginson Professor of History at Harvard in 1959, retiring in 1977. In addition to his academic work, Mr. Fairbank served in an advisory capacity to the governments of China and the United States.

Mr. Fairbank wrote and edited more than two dozen books, including The United States and China, first published in 1948. With Edwin O. Reischauer, Mr. Fairbank wrote East Asia: The Great Tradition and East Asia, the Modern Transformation, widely used textbooks that are considered classics in their field. He recently finished editing his latest book, China: A New History.

Mr. Fairbank was a former president of the American Historical Association and the Association for Asian Studies.

He is survived by his wife, Wilma Cannon Fairbank, by two daughters, Laura Fairbank and Holly Fairbank Tuck, and by three grandchildren.

 

Bibliography

The United States and China. Cambridge, Harvard Univ. Press, 1948; Reprint, 4th ed., enl. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1983.

Chinese Communist publications: an annotated bibliography of material in the Chinese Library at Harvard University, edited by J. K. Fairbank and E-tu Zen Sun for the Russian Research Center and mimeographed for private distribution. Cambridge: Russian Research Center, Harvard University, 1949.

Modern China; a bibliographical guide to Chinese works, 1898-1937, by John King Fairbank and Kwang-ching Liu. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1950.

Bibliography of modern China: works in Western languages (revised): section 5, economic, compiled by Douglas S. Paauw and John F. Fairbank for the Regional Studies Program on China. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University, 1951.

A documentary history of Chinese communism, by Conrad Brandt, Benjamin Schwartz and John K. Fairbank. London: G. Allen & Unwin, 1952.

Trade and diplomacy on the China coast; the opening of the treaty ports, 1842-1854. 2 vols. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1953.

China’s response to the West; a documentary survey, 1839-1923, by Ssu-yü Teng and John. K. Fairbank, with E-tu Zen Sun, Chaoying Fang, and others. Prepared in Coöperation with the International Secretariat of the Institute of Pacific Relations. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1954.

Japanese studies of modern China; a bibliographical guide to historical and social science research on the 19th and 20th centuries, by John King Fairbank and Masataka Banno. Rutland, Vt., Published for the Harvard-Yenching Institute: C. E. Tuttle Co., 1955; Reprint, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1971.

Ch`ing administration; three studies, by John K. Fairbank and Ssu-yü Têng. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1960.

A history of East Asian civilization, by Edwin O. Reischauer and John K. Fairbank. 2 vols. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1960-65.

China: the people’s middle kingdom and the U.S.A., by John K. Fairbank. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1967.

Trade and diplomacy on the China coast; the opening of the treaty ports 1842 1854. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1969.

East Asia: tradition and transformation, by John K. Fairbank, Edwin O. Reischauer and Albert M. Craig. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1973.

Chinese ways in warfare. With contributions by Edward L. Dreyer, and others Edited by Frank A. Kierman, Jr., and John K. Fairbank. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1974.

China perceived; images and policies in Chinese-American relations, by John K. Fairbank. 1st ed. New York: Knopf, 1974.

The missionary enterprise in China and America, edited and with an introduction. By John K. Fairbank. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1974.

Chinese-American interactions: a historical summary, by John K. Fairbank. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1975.

The I. G. in Peking: letters of Robert Hart, Chinese Maritime Customs, 1868-1907, edited by John King Fairbank, Katherine Frost Bruner, Elizabeth MacLeod Matheson; with an introd. by L. K. Little. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1975.

China perceived: images and policies in Chinese-American relations, By John K. Fairbank. New York: Vintage Books, 1976.

The Cambridge history of China, general editors, Denis Twitchett and John K. Fairbank. Cambridge [Eng.]; New York : Cambridge University Press, 1978-2002.

China: tradition & transformation, by John K. Fairbank, Edwin O. Reischauer. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1978; Reprint, Rev. ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1989.

Chinabound: a fifty-year memoir, by John King Fairbank. 1st ed. New York: Harper & Row, 1982.

Christianity in China: early Protestant missionary writings, edited by Suzanne Wilson Barnett and John King Fairbank. Cambridge, Mass.: Published by the Committee on American-East Asian Relations of the Dept. of History in collaboration with the Council on East Asian Studies/Harvard University: Distributed by the Harvard University Press, 1985.

The great Chinese revolution, 1800-1985, by John King Fairbank. 1st ed. New York: Harper & Row, 1986.

China watch, by John King Fairbank. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1987.

H.B. Morse, Customs Commissioner and historian of China, by John King Fairbank, Martha Henderson Coolidge, Richard J. Smith. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1995.

China: a new history, by John King Fairbank and Merle Goldman. Enl. ed. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1998.