Edward W. Wagner personal archive
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:
Extent10 cubic feet (28 document boxes, 6 flat boxes, 1 card box, 1 portfolio folder, 0.82 GB on floppy disks)
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.
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).
- Research files, 1961-1998
- Writings, 1950-1994
- Conference files, 1959-1992
- Correspondence files, 1958-1998
- Teaching materials, 1958-1995
- Personal materials, 1942-1995
- Accession number: 17468; 2006 August 11.
- Black, Kay E. and Edward W. Wagner. “Ch’aekkŏri Paintings: A Korean Jigsaw Puzzle.” Archives of Asian Art 46 (1993), 63-75.
- Choi, Jim Ok. “The Informatization of Korean Historical Data.” The Review of Korean Studies 8, no. 4 (2005) : 19-42.
- 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.
- Gewertz, Ken. “Edward Wagner dies at 77.” Harvard University Gazette 97, 10 January 2002, 8.
- Harvard College Class of 1945. Fiftieth Anniversary Report. Edward Willett Wagner. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Printed for the Class, 1995.
- Harvard College Class of 1945. Sixtieth Anniversary Report. Edward Willett Wagner. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Printed for the Class, 2005.
- 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.
- 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).
- “Korean History Scholar, Professor Dies at 77,” The Harvard Crimson, 7 March 2002.
- Palais, James B. “Edward W. Wagner (1924-2001).” The Journal of Asian Studies 61, no. 3 (August 2002) : 1137-1139.
- 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).
- Wagner, Edward W. “The Ladder of Success in Yi Dynasty Korea.” Occasional Papers on Korea, no 1. (April 1974) : 1-8.
- Wagner, Edward W. Edward W. Wagner personal archive, 1942-1998. HUM 243, Harvard University Archives.
- Yi, Esther. “Professors Honor Korean Studies Pioneer, Professors in field commemorate Wagner’s contributions with lecture.” The Harvard Crimson, 30 September 2008.
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.
- Black-and-white photographs.
- Civil service -- Korea -- Examinations -- History.
- Civil service -- Social aspects -- Korea.
- Codes (symbols)
- Color photographs.
- Computational linguistics -- Korea (South)
- Computer printouts.
- Computer-generated (general attribute)
- Curriculum vitae.
- Decoration and ornament -- Korea.
- Families -- Korea.
- Floppy disks.
- Kinship -- Korea.
- Korea -- Genealogy.
- Korea -- History -- Chosŏn dynasty, 1392-1910.
- Korea -- Officials and employees -- Titles.
- Korea -- Politics and government -- 1392-1910.
- Korea -- Politics and government -- 1864-1910.
- Korea -- Social life and customs.
- Korean language -- Data processing.
- Koreans -- Japan.
- Koreans -- Kinship.
- Letters of recommendations.
- Military service -- Korea -- Examinations.
- Newspaper clippings.
- Painting, Korea.
- Political parties -- Korea.
- Programs (computer)
- Reference sources.
- Registers (lists)
- Résumés (personnel records)
- Social classes -- Korea -- History.
- Social status -- Korea -- History.
- Still-life painting, Korean.
- Wagner, Edward W. Edward W. Wagner personal archive, 1942-1998: an inventory
- Description rules
- EAD ID
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.
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