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570 China Review International: Vol. 4, No. 2, Fall 1997 C. Martin Wilbur. China in My Life: A Historian's Own History. Armonk, New York: M. E. Sharpe, 1996. 330 pp. Hardcover $39.95, isbn 1-56324-763-1. C. Martin Wilbur's reminiscences of a long life and career in sinology, upon careful reading, reveal layers of useful knowledge and life experience. The narrative is presented chronologically, derived from memories, personal travel journals, engagement books saved, and especially from letters sent by this meticulous historian to his wife and parents—and from all of this there emerges a kaleidoscope of nuggets and anecdotal minutiae that will appeal to a variety of readers. There is useful information on topics that include Chinese historiography, Field Museum curatorship, institutional pioneering in academia, the Chinese-American wartime alliance and intelligence gathering, and subsequent postwar fieldwork and scholarly exchanges. For graduates ofthe Columbia University East Asian Institute, many of the names of persons and events here will have meaning. Through it all is interwoven a personal story that reveals the high priority that Wilbur placed on marriage, family, students, and friendships. Apparently, no one had to advise Wilbur, the serious seeker ofhistorical evidence, also to "get a life." This life showed an admirable balance between career and human fulfillment . The reader with an interest in twentieth-century China and some experience in academia—whether as student, teacher, or in "academic promotional work"—will appreciate many shared experiences. There are also surprises among the author's candid descriptions of East Asia at the grassroots level. Wilbur is one of the last surviving American academic pioneers who grew up in Asia in the early twentieth century as children ofmissionaries and who returned to the United States to develop area studies. The reader will get a sense of the tremendous growth of sinology that paralleled the explosion of technology. Coming as it does now, at the end ofthe century, Wilbur's China in My Life fortuitously provides us with a preliminary retrospective ofAmerican sinology. Wilbur knew many of those who were in the vanguard—as childhood acquaintances , or later as fellow students, and during the Second World War. These fellow pioneers performed their national service with the Office of Strategic Services, in intelligence gathering and analysis in Washington and out in the field in the China/Burma/India theater. What a gathering ofbudding Asianists must have taken place as these people rubbed shoulders in the Library of Congress Annex and at the OSS! Their names© 1997 by University are 3U included here along with the organizational framework under which they ofHawai'i Pressworked, but their achievements remain "secret" and vaguely alluded to. Although the author's memory of the day-to-day routine may have dimmed, tiie reader glimpses enough to wish for more details ofthe "remarkable successes" of the Reviews 571 wartime OSS—could these be brought to light and placed in the context ofwhat they contributed to particular military campaigns? Perhaps this book will sufficiently pique the curiosity of students to motivate them to study in much greater depth the contributions ofarea experts to military operations and to diplomacy. In any case, the author's clean, direct prose allows the reader to grasp easily the continuity between the OSS network and postwar Asian studies. Although for Wilbur the postwar decade included heavy "promotional work" on behalfof Columbia's East Asian Institute, one senses that his scholarly production suffered. His extremely useful Documents on Communism, Nationalism, and Soviet Advisors in China 1918-27was printed a full ten years after he joined the Columbia faculty in 1946 and was not followed by die usual monographs that one has come to expect from serious scholars in recent decades. Students of East Asian studies learn ofearly pioneers like Wilbur, Fairbank, and Reischauer through their institutes, their textbook surveys, and die work oftheir students rather than through any prolific research and publishing by them. That said, Wilbur's publishing record offers hope to diose late bloomers and nontraditional students who have also struggled with Chinese-language sources. It was after his 1976 "retirement" from teaching that his writing actually took offand he produced diree scholarly classics in succession. In the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9367
Print ISSN
1069-5834
Pages
pp. 570-572
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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