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COLLECTION Identifier: HUM 243

Edward W. Wagner personal archive

Edward Willett Wagner (1924-2001) was Professor of Korean Studies at Harvard for thirty-five years and was a pioneer in the study of Korean history in the United States. A specialist in pre-modern Korean history, Wagner's research centered on the study of the elite structure of Korea’s Yi (Chosŏn) dynasty. The Edward W. Wagner personal archive documents Wagner’s academic and professional career as a teacher, writer, and historian and highlights his role as an authority on the history and language of Korea.

Dates

  • 1942-1998

Researcher Access

The Edward W. Wagner personal archive is open for research with the following exceptions:

Access to Harvard University administrative records in this collection is restricted for 50 years. These records include financial information and grant proposals.

Student and personnel records are closed to research use for 80 years. This restriction covers records that include grades, student papers, letters of recommendation, and curriculum vitae of other scholars.

Much of the restricted material is in the Research files, Correspondence files, Teaching materials, and Personal materials series.

Restricted materials are housed in boxes 33-36.

Restrictions are noted at the folder level.

Restrictions on use:

Due to their format, floppy disks are not available for research use. Online access to their content is not yet available.

Extent

10 cubic feet (28 document boxes, 6 flat boxes, 1 card box, 1 portfolio folder, 0.82 GB on floppy disks)

The Edward W. Wagner personal archive documents Wagner’s academic and professional career as a teacher, writer, and historian and highlights his role as an authority on the history and language of Korea.

The Research files series is the largest component of the collection. The files principally document Wagner’s attempts to define and characterize the political-social elite component of traditional Korean society (yangban) during the Korean Yi Dynasty from 1392 to 1910. Using civil examination rosters, lineages, family registers, and clan genealogies Wagner analyzed the men who passed the higher civil service examination (munkwa) in the five-hundred year period in which it was administered (1393-1894). The research files also chronicle Wagner’s studies into two other sectors of the Yi Dynasty: the chungin or the middle-people of the Yi Dynasty; and the provenance of select Korean paintings executed on folding screens (ch’aekkŏri) and used for interior decoration during the latter part of the Chosŏn period. Of particular interest, Wagner’s research provides an early example of the manipulation and analysis of large quantities of data using a computer, demonstrating the role of the computer as a research tool. The research files also contain drafts and revisions of Wagner’s many articles on such topics as the social stratification, social mobility, and ruling system of Yi Dynasty Korea, the genealogy and status of Korean women, the computerization of Korean studies, and Korean lineage structure and the literati.

The Writings series reflects Wagner’s research interests and illustrate his extensive investigations of Korean history, particularly the Chosŏn period (1393-1894). Manuscript drafts, articles for encyclopedias, conference papers, and speeches dating from 1950 to 1994, document Wagner’s study of the Yi Dynasty, including the origins and development of chapkwa examinations and chungin lineages, and illustrate the use of the computer for the analysis of the Yi Dynasty political-social elite.

The Conference files series contains letters, schedules, programs and agendas dating from 1959 to 1998. Although chiefly documenting the arrangements made for each conference or meeting, the files also include some of the lectures Wagner presented at each conference. Topics addressed by Wagner include the impact of the literati purges in Korea in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the origins of the Chungin ruling class of the Yi Dynasty, and the relevancy of the Yi Dynasty to the creation of modern Korean society and polity.

The Correspondence series contains materials to, from, and about Wagner, from 1958 to 1998, and is mainly professional in nature. In some cases, manuscripts and other pertinent enclosures including reprints, memoranda, reports, and news clippings are also present. The correspondence illustrates the demand for Wagner's expertise in the composition and nature of traditional Korean society during the Yi Dynasty and recounts the professional relationships Wagner maintained with scholars and his students during his career. Many of the exchanges highlight Wagner's long-term efforts to promote the growth of Korea and Korean studies in the United States. Additionally, the correspondence files also include more routine correspondence related to Wagner's travels, conference arrangements, speaking engagements, and the publication of his articles and books.

Teaching materials document Wagner’s teaching on Korean history and language at Harvard from 1958 to 1995. The records offer a glimpse into the Korean instruction that students received at Harvard University and Wagner’s role in efforts to improve the curriculum in the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations.

The Personal materials series highlights Wagner’s accomplishments as a student, teacher, and historian from 1942 to 1995, service as a member of the United States military government in Korea, and his many research trips to Korea.

Biographical note

Edward Willett Wagner (1924-2001) was Professor of Korean Studies at Harvard for thirty-five years and a pioneer in the study of Korean history in the United States. His primary research centered on the dynamics of political power and civil service elites in the Chosŏn period of Korean history (1392-1910). Wagner’s analysis of the full roster of successful candidates for the highest civil service examinations from 1392-1894 enabled scholars to explore the political, marital, and societal connections of the Korean elite for this five hundred year period. Born in Cleveland, Ohio, Wagner grew up in Canton, Ohio, before attending Harvard University. While at Harvard, Wagner was drafted into the United States Army during World War II and was heading to Japan when the war came to an end. He served in Japan as a civilian advisor to the American military government working to transition South Korea back into independence from 1946 to 1948. Wagner returned to Harvard, receiving his AB and MA degrees in 1949 and 1951. From 1953 to 1958, Wagner studied at Tenri University in Nara, Japan and Seoul National University in Korea, before returning to Harvard to join the faculty of Far Eastern Languages in 1958, earning his PhD in 1959. During the 1970s, Wagner was chairman of the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations and the founding director of the Korean Institute at Harvard University (1981-1993).

A specialist in pre-modern Korean history, Wagner's research centered on the study of the elite structure of Korea's Yi (Chosŏn) dynasty. This interest grew out of his doctoral dissertation, The Literati Purges: Political Conflict in Early Yi Korea, in which he attempted to describe and analyze the political purges of scholar-officials carried out in Korea in 1498, 1504, and 1519. Though Wagner’s interpretation of these events centered on the structural and institutional conflict between Korean monarchs and members of the aristocratic yangban elite, he was unable to examine carefully the composition of the contending forces, including the differences in the socio-political background of those purged and those who planned the purges. In 1967, to address the shortcomings in his original work, Wagner began a computer-assisted research project on the composition of Chosŏn’s hereditary governing elite in collaboration with Professor June-ho Song of North Chŏlla National University. Over the course of thirty years, Wagner and Song assembled a vast database of the 14,607 men who passed the higher civil service examinations (munkwa) in Korea between 1393 and 1894. Using examination rosters, genealogies, local gazetteers, and literary collections, this project provided detailed information on the entire Korean ruling class of the Chosŏn period (1392-1910). The first large-scale project of its kind to be computerized, the results of this project made a significant contribution to the understanding of the composition of Yi Korea's elite ruling structure and recruitment for public office. Wagner’s Munkwa project demonstrated the enormous advantages of the use of the computer in interpreting Chinese characters into English. Wagner’s work was published as a CD-ROM with the production of Wagner and Song Boju joseon mungwa bangmok (Wagner and Song’s Munkwa Roster of the Joseon Dynasty) in 1998.

In the course of his work on the munkwa, Wagner extended his research into two other segments of Chosŏn society. First, the nearly 8,000 men of record (the chungin or middle-people) who passed technical examinations qualifying them for positions as government interpreters, medical practitioners, astronomer-astrologers, and statute law clerks; and second, approximately 36,000 men of record who passed the dynasty’s preliminary civil service examinations (sama), the classics licentiate (saengwŏn) and literary licentiate (chinsa) examinations. This research enabled Wagner to achieve significant insights into the social and political dynamics of Korean society. Wagner’s use of Korean genealogies, lineage documents, and lists of those persons who passed the technical examinations also provided a basis for the study of Chosŏn government painters and calligraphers employed by the Korean central government and on their immediate families and households.

Wagner’s use of examination rosters, supplemented with genealogical records, clan rosters and local gazetteers, provided scholars of Korean history with an efficient and reliable means to determine the socio-political and family background not merely of a small group of the highest level Korean officials but of the far larger group of men who served in the government or assumed positions of leadership elsewhere in society. Moreover, Wagner’s computerization work made the acquisition of Korean historical data much easier for scholars, students, and the general public; and contributed to an enormous interest in Korean studies.

During his tenure at Harvard, Wagner taught courses in the Korean language, undergraduate surveys of Korean history, and graduate seminars on Chosŏn history. He was responsible for the inauguration of the Korea Colloquium and the establishment of Korean Institute scholarships for students in Korean studies. An engaging teacher, warm and generous to his students, Wagner also oversaw many PhD candidates in Korean history at Harvard, some of whom would go on to establish Korean studies programs in their respective universities.

Wagner's research and role in the early development of Korean studies transformed the understanding of late pre-modern Korean institutions and society and laid the groundwork for future research on Korean history. For his work, Wagner received two cultural awards by the Korean government in 1982: a medal and plaque by the Korea-U.S. Centennial Program Committee, in "special recognition for your dedication and tireless efforts in promoting friendship and mutual understanding between our two peoples," and the Sungrye Medal (Order of Diplomatic Merit), Third Class, presented by the Consul-General of the Republic of Korea. In 2001, the Korean Institute at Harvard established a fund in honor of Wagner to support Korean studies at Harvard and to advance scholarly exchange between the United States and Korea.

Wagner married Leonore Uhlmann (1924-1985) in September 1948; they divorced in 1963. In 1965, Wagner married Namhi Kim (born 1923), Senior Preceptor and director of the Korean Language Program at Harvard, and Master Potter at the Harvard Ceramics Program. Wagner had two sons, Robert Alan (born 1953) and John Christopher (born 1956); and three daughters Yunghi (born 1951), Sokhi (born 1953), and Sanghi (born 1956).

Arrangement

  1. Research files, 1961-1998
  2. Writings, 1950-1994
  3. Conference files, 1959-1992
  4. Correspondence files, 1958-1998
  5. Teaching materials, 1958-1995
  6. Personal materials, 1942-1995

Acquisition information

The Edward W. Wagner personal archive was donated by the Harvard University Archives by Professor Wagner's wife, Namhi Kim Wagner.
  1. Accession number: 17468; 2006 August 11.

Online access

Some of the Edward W. Wagner personal archive has been digitized and is available online. Links accompany detailed descriptions.

Related material

In the Harvard University Archives
  1. Wagner, Edward W., The Literati Purges: Case Studies in the Factionalism of the Early Yi Dynasty PhD diss., Harvard University, 1959 January (HU 90.7684).
In the Harvard University Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations
  1. The Gateway to Premodern Korean Studies website contains useful resources for the study of premodern Korea including bibliographies, e-journals, databases, and other institutional websites; the Wagner-Song munkwa pangmok, a database comprised of the personal data of 14,607 people who passed the munkwa civil service examinations from 1393 to 1894 (in Korean); and selected papers by Professor Edward Wagner, most of which were not previously published.

Inventory update

This document last updated 2017 May 24.
References
  1. Black, Kay E. and Edward W. Wagner. “Ch’aekkŏri Paintings: A Korean Jigsaw Puzzle.” Archives of Asian Art 46 (1993), 63-75.
  2. Choi, Jim Ok. “The Informatization of Korean Historical Data.” The Review of Korean Studies 8, no. 4 (2005) : 19-42.
  3. Deuchler, Martina, James B. Palais, and Carter J. Eckert. “Edward Willett Wagner, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Memorial Minute.” Harvard University Gazette 102, 22 March 2007-4 April 2007, 35.
  4. Gewertz, Ken. “Edward Wagner dies at 77.” Harvard University Gazette 97, 10 January 2002, 8.
  5. Harvard College Class of 1945. Fiftieth Anniversary Report. Edward Willett Wagner. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Printed for the Class, 1995.
  6. Harvard College Class of 1945. Sixtieth Anniversary Report. Edward Willett Wagner. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Printed for the Class, 2005.
  7. Hoon-sang, Lee. “Edward W. Wagner: The Father of Korean Studies in North America.” The Review of Korean Studies 7, no. 3 (2004) : 117-132.
  8. Kim, Sun Joo, “Edward W. Wagner and His Legacy: Toward New Horizons in the Research of Korean History” (paper presented at The Wagner Fiftieth Anniversary Special Lecture, Korea Institute, Harvard University, 2008 September 29).
  9. “Korean History Scholar, Professor Dies at 77,” The Harvard Crimson, 7 March 2002.
  10. Palais, James B. “Edward W. Wagner (1924-2001).” The Journal of Asian Studies 61, no. 3 (August 2002) : 1137-1139.
  11. Wagner, Edward W. “A Computer Study of Yi Dynasty Civil Examination Rosters” (paper presented at the 22nd Annual Meeting, Association for Asian Studies, San Francisco, California, 1970 April 3).
  12. Wagner, Edward W. “The Ladder of Success in Yi Dynasty Korea.” Occasional Papers on Korea, no 1. (April 1974) : 1-8.
  13. Wagner, Edward W. Edward W. Wagner personal archive, 1942-1998. HUM 243, Harvard University Archives.
  14. Yi, Esther. “Professors Honor Korean Studies Pioneer, Professors in field commemorate Wagner’s contributions with lecture.” The Harvard Crimson, 30 September 2008.

Processing Information

The Edward W. Wagner personal archive was processed from October 2016 to June 2017 by Dominic P. Grandinetti with assistance from Kimberly Valmores and George Apodaca.

Processing included rehousing materials in the appropriate containers, establishment of series and subseries hierarchy, photocopying news clippings, and the creation of this finding aid.

Wagner’s original folder titles were retained; any folder titles and dates supplied by the archivist appear in brackets.

Wagner used personal bank deposit slips for writing notes. These slips are found throughout the collection. During processing, the archivist photocopied the annotated side of each slip and replaced the original with the photocopy; the original slip was restricted and retained in a separate folder.

In all respects, the archivist attempted to retain and preserve the original arrangement and existing relationships of the documents as established by Edward W. Wagner. Processing and arrangement details of each series are noted at the series level.
Digital Processing Note Disk image creation for the seven Edward W. Wagner 3.5 inch floppy disks using a 3.5 inch USB external floppy drive initially proved unsuccessful. Only one floppy disk was properly imaged using the USB 3.5 inch external floppy disk drive in conjunction with Forensic Toolkit Imager, the standalone disk imaging program offered by Forensic Toolkit (FTK). However, all seven 3.5 inch floppy disks were imaged successfully when using KryoFlux, a USB floppy disk controller and software package that reads floppy disk data as a raw stream or common sector format via measurements of the media’s magnetic flux transition timing. Once all the floppy disks were successfully imaged, they were analyzed using FTK where file formats, extensions, data size, and other information were acquired. This method provided a more reliable, precise, and robust capture of the data present in the floppy disks and led to the acquisition of nearly 30-word processing documents, which include fragments chiefly for Wagner’s writings on Ch'aekkŏri paintings. Various page elements including diagrams, legends, and picture captions, glossaries, and tables are also on the floppy disks.
Digital Processing Note The Wagner personal archive includes seven 3.5 inch floppy disks. All seven floppy disks were imaged successfully using KryoFlux, a USB floppy disk controller and software package that reads floppy disk data as a raw stream or common sector format via measurements of the media’s magnetic flux transition timing. Once all the floppy disks were successfully imaged, they were analyzed using Forensic Toolkit (FTK) where file formats, extensions, data size, and other information were acquired. This method led to the acquisition of nearly 30 word processing documents. Analysis of the disk contents revealed fragments chiefly for Wagner’s writings on Ch'aekkŏri paintings; and various page elements including diagrams, legends, and picture captions, glossaries, and tables. Online access to this material is not yet available.
Link to catalog
Title
Wagner, Edward W. Edward W. Wagner personal archive, 1942-1998: an inventory
Description rules
dacs
EAD ID
hua40016

Repository Details

Part of the Harvard University Archives Repository

Holding nearly four centuries of materials, the Harvard University Archives is the principal repository for the institutional records of Harvard University and the personal archives of Harvard faculty, as well as collections related to students, alumni, Harvard-affiliates and other associated topics. The collections document the intellectual, cultural, administrative and social life of Harvard and the influence of the University as it emerged across the globe.

Contact:
Pusey Library
Cambridge MA 02138 USA
(617) 495-2461