From SHAFR President Mary Dudziak:
It is with great sadness that I share the news of the death of Marilyn B. Young, past president of SHAFR, influential scholar of US-Asian relations, and a powerful critic of war. Marilyn died in her sleep at home last night. She had recently ended treatment for metastatic breast cancer.
Marilyn’s work will have a lasting impact. She pioneered critical work on ongoing war -- what she called the “constancy of war and its…constant erasure.” In her 2011 Presidential Address, “'I was thinking, as I often do these days, of war’: The United States in the Twenty-First Century,” Marilyn wrote:
I find that I have spent most of my life as a teacher and scholar thinking and writing about war. I moved from war to war, from the War of 1898 and U.S. participation in the Boxer Expedition and the Chinese civil war, to the Vietnam War, back to the Korean War, then further back to World War II and forward to the wars of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Initially, I wrote about all these as if war and peace were discrete: prewar, war, peace, or postwar. Over time, this progression of wars has looked to me less like a progression than a continuation: as if between one war and the next, the country was on hold. The shadow of war, as Michael Sherry called it fifteen years ago, seems not to be a shadow but entirely substantial: the substance of American history.
It is our work as historians, she insisted, “to speak and write so that a time of war not be mistaken for peacetime, nor waging war for making peace.” The address was published in Diplomatic History.
As past president Fred Logevall put it, “she was a giant in our organization, our field, our discipline. Her scholarship on U.S.-Asian relations was hugely influential to many of us, and she taught me early in my career that as historians we don’t have to check our passions at the door, as long as the passion is controlled and as long as we let the evidence lead us where it wants to go.”
Marilyn’s work explored the broad contours of war and U.S. relations with Asia. Her first book, based on her Ph.D. dissertation, was The Rhetoric of Empire: American China Policy, 1895–1901 (Harvard University Press, 1968). The Vietnam Wars, 1945-1990, (Harper Collins, 1991) won Berkshire Women’s History Prize. She also published Transforming Russia and China: Revolutionary Struggle in the 20th Century (with William Rosenberg) (Oxford University Press, 1980), and several edited collections:Bombing Civilians: A 20th Century History (with Y. Tanaka) (The New Press, 2009); Making Sense of the Vietnam War (with Mark Bradley) (Oxford University Press, 2008); Iraq and the Lessons of Vietnam (with Lloyd Gardner) (The New Press, 2007); The New American Empire (with Lloyd Gardner) (The New Press, 2005); The Vietnam War: A History in Documents (with Tom Grunfeld and John Fitzgerald) (Oxford University Press, 2003); Companion to the Vietnam War (with Robert Buzzanco) (Blackwell, 2002); Human Rights and Revolutions, edited with Lynn Hunt and Jeffrey Wasserstrom (Rowman & Littlefield, 2000); Vietnam and America (with Marvin Gettleman, Jane Franklin and Bruce Franklin) (Grove Press, 1985; rev. edition Anchor Books, 1995); Promissory Notes: Women and the Transition to Socialism (with Rayna Rapp and Sonia Kruks) (Monthly Review Press, 1983); and American Expansionism: the Critical Issues (Little Brown, 1973).
Marilyn received her doctorate from Harvard University in 1963, where she worked with Ernest R. May and John King Fairbank. She was a proud 1957 graduate of Vassar College. She taught at the University of Michigan before joining New York University in 1980, where she was a full professor in the Department of History until her retirement last year. Marilyn taught about the history of U.S. foreign policy; the politics and culture of post-war United States; the history of modern China; and the history and culture of Vietnam.
Marilyn Young will be remembered at the SHAFR annual meeting in June. You are encouraged to share your memories of Marilyn on this page.