Albert Morton Craig, 93 – Harvard Gazette
At a meeting of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences On May 3, 2022, the following tribute to the life and service of the late Albert Morton Craig was released in the Faculty’s permanent archives.
Albert Craig was born in Chicago on December 9, 1927, the son of Adda Clendenin Craig and Albert Morton Craig. At age 10, Craig lost his father to a heart attack. Family finances were strained, but he won a swimming scholarship to Northwestern University. There he set a national freshman swimming record.
In 1946, he was enlisted. While stationed in Kyoto, he found time to visit temples and practice judo and met Teruko Ugaya, whom he married in 1953. Returning home, he graduated from Northwestern in philosophy in 1949.
Recipient of one of the first Fulbright scholarships, he studied economic history at the University of Strasbourg for a year and Japanese language and history at Kyoto University from 1951 to 1953, while obtaining a black belt. fourth degree in judo. He then pursued a doctorate. in Far Eastern History and Languages at Harvard, which he completed in 1959. He immediately took up an assistant professorship in the History Department, where he taught until his retirement in 1999.
Craig’s thesis led to a pioneering monograph, “Chōshū in the Meiji Restoration”. His work transformed the historical understanding of the process by which the samurai of Chōshū and other domains overthrew the Tokugawa regime and set in motion Japan’s modernization revolution. Against Japanese interpretations rooted in Marxist scholarship, which located the push for change in a cross-class alliance of inferior samurai and merchants, Craig postulated a “proto-nationalism” rooted in traditional warrior values as the driving force behind significant changes in that time. . Craig reveled in respectful debate on big issues. In the afterword to “Chōshū”, he writes, “I invariably learn more from disagreeing with Professor Tōyama than from agreeing with most other writers”.
Over the next few decades, Craig dug deep into the work of Fukuzawa Yukichi, Japan’s most important public intellectual of the modernizing decades of the late 19th century. Through careful research – it would have been immensely easier in our age of digital research – he found important sources of Fukuzawa’s knowledge of the West in popular English-language readers aimed at school children. Craig published articles and later two books—one with translations by Teruko—on Fukuzawa’s writings.
He co-authored several textbooks on East Asia and world history, writing sections that showed his passion for the history of regions far beyond Japan. Not a talker, Craig showed his curiosity over lunches with colleagues by persistently asking about trends in the study of their part of the world. He once started a counseling conversation with a graduate student by saying, “Before we start, how is your family? Teruko always tells me that I have to remember to ask that.
In 1961, President Kennedy appointed Craig’s mentor and senior colleague, Edwin Reischauer, Ambassador to Japan. With a number of talented graduate students suddenly in need of guidance, the History Department promoted Craig, after only a year as an assistant professor, to a permanent position. In a letter to the department director, Reischauer wrote that Craig was “at the top of his age class in Japanese history and with the few real stars.” Over the next four decades, Craig educated generations of Japanese historians, supervising more than 40 doctoral dissertations. For nearly three decades, he also taught thousands of undergraduates in a general education course colloquially called “Rice Paddies,” which focused during his early years, along with John Fairbank and Benjamin Schwartz, on history. of East Asia, then, with Edwin Reischauer and Henry Rosovsky each for more than a decade, on the history specifically of Japan. In peak years – usually in times of economic stress – the course had over 400 students.
Craig encouraged graduate students to broaden their horizons in pursuit of their interests, from eighth-century demographic history to the social and political history of postwar Japan. When asked how he achieved this, he sometimes joked that his pedagogy was inspired by Japanese master craftsmen, who expected their apprentices to steal the master’s secrets through observation. In fact, he combined frequent requests of the “so what” variety with high expectations and strong, low-key support from his students. He offered constant interest and encouragement in the work of junior colleagues in Chinese and Korean history, including the authors of this minute.
Craig held several important administrative positions during his career, including associate director for Japan at the East Asian Research Center (now Fairbank Center) and director of the Japan Institute (now Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies). But his most impactful leadership roles have arguably focused on China and Korea. While directing the Harvard-Yenching Institute (HYI) from 1976 to 1987, he quickly integrated China into the Institute’s programs as soon as the United States and the People’s Republic of China established diplomatic relations in 1979. , ending a 30-year rift in its original close ties with scholars and scholars from mainland China. Through skilful budgetary management, he doubled the number of researchers invited by the Institute to Harvard each year, rebuilding these bridges without reducing the flow of Korean, Japanese, Taiwanese or Hong Kong researchers.
Craig did not wear his politics on his sleeve, but his commitment to political and intellectual freedom was strong. In 1982, Korean Democratic leader Kim Dae-jung was released from prison in Korea and exiled to the United States. Dr. Kim has long been invited to conduct research at Harvard. As the Korean Institute had yet to be founded, a logical home for Kim would have been the Fairbank Center, but professors affiliated with the Center declined the invitation “because he was not an academic”. Hearing this, Craig told the Executive Director of HYI, a historian of Korea, that “HYI normally does not affiliate non-academics but, in this case, we can make an exception.”
In retirement, Craig continued to pursue his passions for research, writing and swimming. At 80, he set a swimming world record for his age group.
Albert Craig died on December 1, 2021. He is survived by his wife, Teruko; sons Jean and Paul; and three grandchildren. A daughter, Sarah, died in 1992.
Andrew Gordon, President