1939

George E. Taylor: The Northwest's Expert on Asia and International Trade


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George E. Taylor's long commitment to scholarship and civic leadership have had a profound impact on the Pacific Northwest and its place in the global community.

--Jere Bacharach, Director,
The Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies

Development of the Pacific Northwest's vital intellectual and commercial exchange with Asia can be credited in large part to the efforts of UW professor George E. Taylor. In the years immediately after World War II, Taylor assembled a group of eminent American and èmigre scholars specializing in Asian and Russian studies, which formed the core of the UW's Far Eastern and Russian Institute, now known as The Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies.

Taylor was born in Coventry, England in 1905 and took degrees at the University of Birmingham, England, Johns Hopkins University, and Harvard University. Taylor was working in China to restructure its university system when the country was occupied by the Japanese in 1937. He was forced to leave China only two years later when the Japanese discovered he was smuggling medical supplies to the Chinese resistance. Before his departure, he managed a stint as a correspondent for the Manchester Guardian, reporting on China's northern provinces.

In 1939, Taylor joined the UW as chairman of the Department of Oriental Studies. During World War II, he was called to Washington, D.C. to serve as deputy director of the Office of War Information, where he worked with Ruth Benedict and other social scientists to study Japanese society. This research was used to formulate the terms of the Japanese surrender and to establish a new system of government for Japan.

When Taylor returned to the UW, he applied the methods of analysis he had developed during the war in an educational setting. He found that the most effective way to construct a thorough and realistic picture of a society was to bring together historians, political scientists, economists, anthropologists, and other specialists from relevant disciplines, encouraging them to combine their insights in the analysis of a specific issue. This interdisciplinary approach to research and teaching was the heart of the new academic unit that Taylor created at the University in 1946 known as The Far Eastern Institute, renamed The Far Eastern and Russian Institute in 1949. Although geographically removed from the nation's intellectual centers on the East Coast, the institute nonetheless won national and international acclaim for its brilliant faculty and superb publications on Asia and Russia.

Taylor indulged his creative talents in a play he wrote shortly after the war, entitled The Phoenix and the Dwarfs, based on his experiences in China. The play was produced off-Broadway and in Seattle. In a more scholarly vein, his assignment in 1955 as head of a U.S. State Department advisory group sent to the Philippines to reorganize the University of Philippines led to the publication of his book, The Philippines and United States: Problems of Partnership (1964).

After retiring from the UW in 1969, Taylor assumed another career promoting the expansion of international trade in Washington state's economy. Early on, he perceived the important role that foreign trade would play in the state's growth. As a result, in 1973 he was instrumental in forming the Washington Council on International Trade, serving as its president from 1976 to 1987. The council has become an important arena in which business leaders, scholars, and elected officials can address the role of the Pacific Northwest in the international economy. Taylor stressed the importance of international trade in an article that appeared in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, saying: "Free trade is not a moral principle, it is the best expedient we know for raising the quality of life in our country and every other."footnote 2


  1. Assistance provided by Felicia Hecker and by Jere Bacharach, Director of the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies, is greatly appreciated.
  2. Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Dec. 12, 1985.

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