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Arthur Frederick and Mary Clabaugh Wright papers

Call Number: MS 876

Scope and Contents

The Arthur Frederick and Mary Clabaugh Wright Papers consist of correspondence, subject files, writings, research notes, and teaching materials which document Arthur Wright's career as a teacher and scholar of Chinese history. The papers also include personal letters to the Wright and Clabaugh families. The papers contain few documents relating to Mary Wright's scholarly career.

The bulk of the papers are professional files from Arthur Wright's office at Yale or study in Guilford, Connecticut. Marya Wright gave this portion of her husband's papers to the Yale University Library between 1978 and 1981. In 1981, Jonathan Wright supplemented this gift with a contribution of his parents' letters to their families from 1934-1947. John King Fairbank gave an additional gift of photocopies of Arthur and Mary Wright's correspondence with several friends and colleagues in 1982.

Though the papers contain materials from the 1930s through 1977, the bulk of the papers dates from after 1959, when the Wrights moved to Yale. The papers are arranged in two series and two additions:



Series I includes all correspondence, as well as organizational records of committees and research and publication projects in which Arthur Wright took an interest. The serles includes files for the Committee on Studies of Chinese Civilization of the American council of Learned Societies, the Committee on Chinese Thought of the Association for Asian Studies, the Cambridge history of China, the history of man project, Sung project, and the Yale Faculty Seminar on Chinese and Comparative Historiography, as well as for Wright's own books and other writings. There are also files for professional colleagues such as Denis Twitchett, Frederick Mote, Herbert Franke, John Fairbank, Etienne Balazas, and Thomas C. Smith. With the latter Wright discussed personal matters such as his feelings about moving to New Haven, as well as more scholarly topics.

Other files include correspondence, writings, project outlines, and notes from students, publishers, journals, and educational associations and institutions. The most voluminous files are those for students such as Michael Freeman, Don Gillin, Conrad Schirokauer, Kent Clarke Smith, and Howard Wechsler, which include advise on research, manuscripts for papers, critiques of writings, and recommendations for fellowships and teaching positions. The file People's Republic of China trip contains Arthur Wright's journal and photographs from his 1973 visit to China. Correspondence with Owen Lattimore reveals the Wrights' support for a friend and colleague during his investigation by the House Un-American Activities Committee, while the file for Ch'ing-ling Sung (Madame Sun Yat-sen) shows the efforts Mary Wright made to help Madame Sun locate materials in the Hoover Collection.

The series also includes letters written by the Wrights to their respective families. In them Arthur Wright describes his studies at Stanford, Oxford, and Harvard and his courtship of Mary Clabaugh. Letters to the Clabaugh family include Mary Wright's depictions of the couple's early married life, their travels and studies in Japan and China, and their internment during World War II.

Files in this series are arranged in alphabetical order by personal, corporate, or project name. Within the file material is arranged in rough chronological order. No attempt has been made to cross-reference material found in a project folder to additional material of the same individual in a personal name folder. The files arranged under Arthur Wright's name include manuscript and printed copies of his writings and popular lectures as well as biographical information and memorial tributes.

Series II consists of notes, outlines, lists, student papers, printed material, clippings, illustrations, and maps collected by Arthur Wright in connection with his teaching and research. Material relating to Wright's courses, both undergraduate and graduate level at Stanford and Yale, is arranged at the beginning of the series by course title. It includes syllabi, lecture notes, and exam questions. The series concludes with boxes of research material arranged by topic, including card files of note cards. The topics are general headings reflecting Arthur Wright's interests in Chinese biography, religion, historiography, dynasties, and cities. within files there is little if any arrangement of material.


  • 1928-1982
  • Majority of material found within 1951 - 1977


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright for unpublished materials authored or otherwise produced by Arthur Frederick and Mary Clabaugh Wright has been transferred to Yale University. These materials may be used for non-commercial purposes without seeking permission from Yale University as the copyright holder. For other uses of these materials, please contact

Copyright status for other collection materials is unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Mrs. Arthur F. Wright, 1978-1981; Jonathan A. Wright, 1981; and John King Fairbank, 1982. Transfer from East Asian Collection, 2000. Gift of Charles Duncan Wright and Jonathan Arthur Wright, 2008.


28.75 Linear Feet (53 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


The papers consist of correspondence, notes, manuscripts, and subject files from Arthur Frederick Wright's teaching career at Stanford University and at Yale University, his research on Chinese history, and his work for the Association for Asian Studies and the American Council of Learned Societies' Committee on Studies of Chinese Civilization. The papers also include personal correspondence of the Wright and Clabaugh families. There is minimal material documenting Mary Clabaugh Wright's career.

Biographical / Historical


Arthur Frederick Wright was born in Portland, Oregon, on December 3, 1913, the son of Charles Frederick and Georgiana Gwynne Wright. After graduating from Stanford University in 1935, Wright earned at B. Litt from the University of Oxford in 1937. He returned to the United States and began his graduate studies in Chinese and Japanese at Harvard University. While at Harvard he met Mary Oliver Clabaugh, another student of Chinese history. They were married on July 6, 1940, in the same year that Wright received his A.M.

After their wedding, the Wrights left the United States to study in Japan and China. When Japan attacked the United States on December 7, 1941, the Wrights were trapped in Peking. They continued to live on their own until March 24, 1943, when they, along with Peking's other enemy aliens, were arrested by Japanese authorities and sent to a prison camp at Wei-hsien, Shantung, until the end of the war. During this period Arthur wright worked as a butcher, water-carrier, and fireman.

After the war, the Wrights remained in China for further study and travel. In 1947 Arthur Wright received his Ph.D. from Harvard and joined the faculty of Stanford University, where he remained through 1959. In 1959, Wright was appointed a full professor at Yale University and in 1961 he was named the first Charles Seymour professor of history, a position he held until his death.

Wright's original field of research was the history of Buddhism and the relationship between Buddhism and politics. These studies appeared in 1958 in Buddhism in Chinese History. He was also an editor and contributor to Studies in Chinese Thought, Confucianism in Action, The Confucian Persuasion, Confucian Personalities, and Confucianism and Chinese Civilization. In later work Wright studied the T'ang dynasty, particularly its capital city Chiang-an, which led to his interest in urbanization. He also produced a lengthy chapter on the Sui for the Cambridge History of China and had an ongoing interest in Chinese historiography.

Wright was particularly influential in two scholarly organizations, the Association for Asian Studies' Committee on Chinese Thought (CCT) and the Committee on Studies of Chinese Civilization (CSCC) of the American Council of Learned Societies. From 1950 on, Wright worked actively in the CCT, editing its journal, serving on its board, and from 1963-1965 working as its vice-president and president. From 1964-1973 he chaired the CSCC, working to organize conferences and develop sources of funding for scholarly endeavors in the field of pre-modern China.

After the death of his first wife, Wright married Marya Wankowicz Welch. They were living in Guilford, Connecticut, at the time of Wright's sudden death on August 11, 1976. From his first marriage Wright had two sons, Charles Duncan and Jonathan Arthur Wright.


Mary Clabaugh Wright was born on September 25, 1917, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, the second child of Samuel Francis and Mary Bacon Clabaugh. She graduated from Vassar College in 1938 and began postgraduate studies in history at Radcliffe College, from where she received an A.M. in 1939. She became interested in the history of China, particularly the field of modern China. It was at this time that she met Arthur Wright, another graduate student, who was pursuing studies at Harvard in Chinese and Japanese.

Mary and Arthur Wright were married in Washington, D.C., on July 6, 1940, and then left the United States to carry on doctoral research in Japan and China. During 1940-1941, they lived in Kyoto and then moved to Peking in June 1941. After December 1941, the Wrights were stranded in China, and in March 1943, they were interned in a camp for enemy aliens at Wei-hsien, Shantung, where they remained until evacuated in October 1945.

The Wrights chose to remain in Peking to continue their studies. When the Hoover Library began a program to collect contemporary materials on the Chinese revolution, the Wrights became their China representatives. They travelled widely in China and met with Mao Tse-tung. Mary Wright had great success in finding materials and she became an expert on contemporary Chinese materials. The collection program became essentially hers, and when in 1947 the Wrights returned to the United States and Arthur Wright accepted an appointment in the history department at Stanford, Mary Wright became China curator at the Hoover Library.

Mary Wright received her Ph.D. from Radcliffe in 1951. Her dissertation, The Last Stand of Chinese Conservatism: The T'ungchih Restoration, 1862-1874, was published in 1957. The book was a model for the study of modern China and marked her as a major historian. Wright held faculty rank at the Hoover Library; though she lectured at Stanford she was not a member of the history faculty there.

In 1959 Arthur and Mary Wright were invited to join the history department at Yale University. Mary Wright came to Yale as an associate professor, the first tenured woman in the faculty of arts and sciences. Her scholarly interests now moved to the study of the processes of revolution. In 1965 she presided over a research conference on the Chinese revolution of 1911, which resulted in the publication of China in Revolution: The First Phase, 1900-1913, to which Wright contributed the introduction "The Rising Tide of Change." She helped found the society for Ch'ing Studies and its journal Ch'ing-shihwen-t'i. She also served on the Joint Committee on Contemporary China.

Mary Wright died in Guilford, Connecticut, on June 18, 1970. She was survived by her husband and two sons, Charles Duncan Wright (b. May 9, 1950) and Jonathan Arthur Wright (b. January 9, 1952).

Guide to the Arthur Frederick and Mary Clabaugh Wright Papers
Under Revision
compiled by Diane Kaplan and staff of Manuscripts and Archives
November 1991
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

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