Earl H. Pritchard

Male, Deceased Person

1907 – 1995


Who was Earl H. Pritchard?

Earl H. Pritchard was a scholar of China and one of the founders of the Association for Asian Studies and served as its president.

Pritchard was born on June 5, 1907 in Pullman, Washington, where he spent his childhood on the farm of his father, Thomas Pritchard. He attended Washington State College and graduated with his B.A. in 1928. He then attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where completed his M.A. in 1929. Returning to Pullman in 1930, he applied for a Rhodes Scholarship and became the second student from Washington State College to win the scholarship. He spent three years at the University of Oxford and was awarded his PhD in history in 1933.

After completing his doctoral dissertation, Pritchard taught at Reed College in Portland, Oregon from 1934 until transferring to Washington State in 1935, where he stayed until 1937. He studied Chinese at Columbia University and the University of Michigan between 1937 and 1939, but he later regretted that his Chinese did not reach the level of proficiency he felt any serious student of China should be.

Pritchard taught at Wayne State University in Detroit between 1939 and 1947. This stint was interrupted from 1942 to 1945 when he was a civilian analyst with military intelligence during the Second World War. He was in charge of a 15-20 person group that studied Japanese transportation networks in China and Japan. He was the first recipient of the War Department's highest award for intelligence service, the Distinguished Civilian Service Medal. After the end of the war, he was an Associate Professor of history at the University of Chicago from 1947 until 1962. He was disappointed when the Fulbright Fellowship that he earned in 1948 to go to China was canceled because of the Communist revolution led by Mao Zedong that was sweeping away the nationalist forces of Chiang Kai-shek at the time. Pritchard never had an opportunity to visit the country he researched and taught about for most of his life, although he did travel to Japan in 1957. He moved to Tucson in Arizona to assume the chair of the Oriental Studies Department at the University of Arizona. He significantly built up the program until his retirement in 1972. He taught for several more years as Professor Emeritus.

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Jun 5, 1907
Also known as
  • Earl Pritchard
  • Columbia University
  • University of Michigan
  • Washington State University
May 9, 1995

on July 23, 2013


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