ACLS and the Promotion of Chinese Studies in the United States, 1928–1958

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Pauline Yu

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This essay recounts the early history of the development of Chinese studies in the United States undertaken by the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), starting in 1928 under the leadership of its newly appointed Assistant Secretary, Mortimer Graves, in collaboration with key members of the American Oriental Society. Through planning conferences, surveys, and reports, he ascertained the needs of the field and secured funding to meet them. These included seed money for faculty positions, fellowships for graduate students and scholars, programs to spark interest in Asian studies curricula, the creation of bibliographical and journal resources and a new scholarly society, and the development of intensive language training methods. Subsequent philanthropic and government support continued this trajectory, but Graves’s thirty-year campaign succeeded in laying the foundation for the field as we know it today.




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