Beasley, W.G. 1919-2006 (William Gerald Beasley)

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Beasley, W.G. 1919-2006 (William Gerald Beasley)


See index for CA sketch: Born December 22, 1919, in England; died November 19, 2006. Historian, educator, and author. Beasley was an authority on Japanese history and a retired professor of the history of the Far East at the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). He completed his B.A. at University College London just before enlisting in the Royal Navy in 1940. It was during his military service that he learned the Japanese language and came to appreciate the culture. Serving at first on the destroyer Tartar, he was next assigned to the navy's special branch after a failed eye test disqualified him for officer training school. Beasley served in Canada and also back in England before volunteering to attend the U.S. Navy Language School in Colorado. He learned Japanese there, and then studied strategic geography in New York City. After World War II, Beasley was stationed in Japan. He worked for U.S. Naval Intelligence in Yokosuka and at the British Embassy in Tokyo. Demobilized in 1946, he returned to England and joined the SOAS faculty as a lecturer. Completing his Ph.D. in 1950, he was named a full professor in 1954. Beasley remained at the University of London until his retirement in 1983. During and after his tenure, he would publish many highly respected histories of Japan. Among these are Great Britain and the Opening of Japan, 1834-1858 (1951), The Modern History of Japan (1963; later revised as The Rise of Modern Japan, 1990), and The Japanese Experience: A Short History of Japan (1999). His The Meiji Restoration (1972) won the American Historical Association's John K. Fairbank Prize; Beasley's last book was The Collected Writings of W.G. Beasley (2001), and he was working on an autobiography. Named a Commander of the British Empire in 1980, Beasley was a member of the British Academy and an honorary member of the Japan Academy. He was also recognized by Japan with other honors, including the 1983 Order of the Rising Sun, Third Class, and the 2001 Japan Foundation Award.



Times (London, England), December 26, 2006, p. 70.