History mourns the loss of three emeritus professors, Rhoads Murphey, Robert Berkhofer, Jr. and Albert Feuerwerker

May 21, 2013

 W. Rhoads Murphey III, Professor Emeritus of the U-M Department of History and his wife Eleanor A. Murphey passed away shortly before Christmas 2012 at their residence in a retirement community in Ann Arbor. They will be missed.

Rhoads served during the war with the Friends Ambulance Unit in China, and completed his PhD in Far Eastern History and Geography at Harvard in 1950. He joined the faculty of the University of Michigan in 1964.  He published extensively on China, India and Asia, and his book Shanghai: Key to Modern China (1953) is considered to be a pioneering work on urbanism.  He continued publishing in retirement, including widely used textbooks, A History of Asia, now in its sixth edition, and East Asia: A New History, now in its fifth edition. At Michigan, he was the Director of the Center for Chinese Studies from 1969-1971, Associate Director from 1973-75, and also served as the Director of the Center for South and Southeast Asian Studies. He has been Editor of the Journal of Asian Studies, and has served as the Executive Secretary, Vice President, and President of the Association for Asian Studies.

— Prof. Thomas Trautmann

 Robert F. Berkhofer, Jr., born 1931 in New Jersey, died in 2012 on the other side of America, in California; but he was reared and educated in upstate New York and taught for most of his life in the Middle West. With a BA from SUNY Albany (1953) and a PhD from Cornell University (1960), he taught at Ohio State University (1959-60), the University of Minnesota (1960-69), and the University of Wisconsin-Madison (1979-73) before accepting a professorship in our department in 1973. Throughout his career and these many moves, Bob battled the disabling effects of childhood polio, aided by the support and stimulus of his late wife Genevieve (Zito), herself an American historian who, as a young woman, suffered lasting and serious injuries. So more remarkable was the mark they made. The wide range of friends who knew them during their years in Ann Arbor enjoyed their generous hospitality, lively conversation, and pertinent gossip.

Ann Arbor also provided, in many respects, the fulcrum of Bob’s historical development.  The book that brought him a wide audience and reputation as a writer of critical history was the landmark The White Man’s Indian (Knopf, 1979), described when it first appeared as a “revelatory study of the absolute, seemingly ineradicable pervasiveness of white racism…[that] penetrates to the very heart of our understanding of ourselves.”  Although at first glance different from what was to follow, this book showed a clear and unblinking insight into the biases that underlay and undermined historical discourse.

That insight led to Beyond the Great Story: History as Text and Discourse (Harvard, 1995), a theoretical work finally shaped in the critical environment of the University of California, Santa Cruz where Bob served as Professor after retiring from Michigan in 1991.  Those of us who heard its early stages as papers and discussions recognized that Bob was mastering and rethinking the Novissimum Organum of postmodern historical analysis; and wide scholarly reception paid tribute to its theoretical and practical importance. Both this book and his last, Fashioning History: Current Practices and Principles (Palgrave MacMillan, 2008), elaborate his goal of enabling historians to “authorize new forms of representation.”  It is both appropriate and touching that Bob chose to dedicate each of these books in turn to a talented and receptive in-house historian:  his son Robert F. Berkhofer III, a medievalist; and his daughter-in-law Sally E. Haddan, a colonial Americanist – currently members of the Department of History at Western Michigan University.

— Prof. Diane Owen Hughes


 Albert Feuerwerker, who enjoyed a long and active career at the University of Michigan and who fashioned a distinguished legacy as a scholar of Chinese history, passed away on April 27, 2013.

Born in 1927, he was raised in Cleveland, Ohio. He studied at Harvard University, earning his BA degree in history, magnum cum laude, in 1950 and his PhD in History and Far Eastern Languages in 1957. He was a lecturer at the University of Toronto (1955-1958) and a research fellow at Harvard (1958-1960), and then came to the University of Michigan in 1959, where he spent the remainder of his career. He became professor emeritus in 1996.

At the University of Michigan, he was instrumental in the establishment of the Center for Chinese Studies. He served as its first director, 1961-1967, and again from 1972 to 1983. He applied his leadership to making the University of Michigan one of the major centers in the country for Chinese studies and for Asian studies more broadly. He secured grants, facilitated the creation of new positions in other departments, helped to recruit faculty, supported the growth of the Asia Library, and negotiated a secure place for Asian studies among the University’s commitments.  He was chair of the Department of History from 1984 to 1987 and served on several important University committees.

His professional activities outside the University were extensive. Among them was the presidency of the Association for Asian Studies, 1991-1992.  He served on various national committees over the years, sometimes as chair or co-chair, including the SSRC-ACLS Joint Committee on Contemporary China, the SSRC Subcommittee on Research on the Chinese Economy, the Committee on Scholarly Communication with the People’s Republic of China (of the National Academy of Sciences), the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations, and the SSRC Committee on Exchanges with Asian Institutions. He served on the editorial boards of several major academic journals.

The main focus in his scholarly publications was on the Chinese economy in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, although he often ventured productively into other areas. He set a base-line for discussions of the role of the Qing state in modern economic development with his monograph, China’s Early Industrialization:  Sheng Hsuan-huai (1844-1916) and Mandarin Enterprise (Harvard, 1958).  His 1970 article, “Handicraft and Manufactured Cotton Textiles in China, 1871-1910,” immediately became the standard for research and argument about economic change in that period. He wrote general treatments of modern Chinese economic history that were the starting point for any further work and staples for graduate training in modern Chinese history. He also published lucid short books on eighteenth-century China, on rebellion in the nineteenth century, and the foreign presence in the early twentieth century. His publications pioneered the introduction to a Western audience of the scholarship of the People’s Republic of China. He edited several important collections of academic work on China, and was a co-editor of one of the volumes of The Cambridge History of China, a series in which his articles appeared more than once.

Albert Feuerwerker’s contributions to both his university and his field of scholarship have been enormous. He was a formidable figure in the arenas of his endeavors. Those of us who knew him will also miss him as a friend and colleague. We offer our consolations to his beloved wife, Yi-tsi, and his children, Alison and Paul.

— Prof. Ernest P. Young