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Denis Crispin Twitchett (23 September 192524 February 2006) was a British
Sinologist Sinology or Chinese studies, is an academic discipline that focuses on the study of China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, world's ...
and scholar who specialized in
Chinese history The earliest known written records of the history of China date from as early as 1250 BC, from the Shang dynasty The Shang dynasty (), also historically known as the Yin dynasty (), was a Chinese dynasty that ruled in the middle and ...
, and is well known as one of the co-editors of ''
The Cambridge History of China ''The Cambridge History of China'' is an ongoing series of books published by the Cambridge University Press (CUP) covering the history of China from the founding of the Qin dynasty in 221 BC to 1982 AD. Chinese history before the Qin dynasty is cov ...
''.


Biography

Denis Twitchett was born on 23 September 1925 in
London, England London is the capital Capital most commonly refers to: * Capital letter Letter case (or just case) is the distinction between the letters that are in larger uppercase or capitals (or more formally ''majuscule'') and smaller lowerc ...

London, England
, the son of an architectural draughtsman, and attended Isleworth County Grammar School. During
World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a global war A world war is "a war War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literatur ...
he took a crash course in Japanese, and for the remainder of the war he was part of the
Bletchley Park Bletchley Park is an and estate in () that became the principal centre of . The mansion was constructed during the years following 1883 for the financier and politician Sir in the , Tudor, and styles, on the site of older buildings of the ...

Bletchley Park
operations acting as a listener at one of the forward listening stations in
Sri Lanka Sri Lanka (, ; si, ශ්‍රී ලංකාව, Śrī Laṅkā, translit-std=ISO (); ta, இலங்கை, Ilaṅkai, translit-std=ISO ()), formerly known as Ceylon, and officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, is ...

Sri Lanka
. He also spent a great deal of time in
Japan Japan ( ja, 日本, or , and formally ) is an island country An island country or an island nation is a country A country is a distinct territory, territorial body or political entity. It is often referred to as the land of an in ...

Japan
, and was able to learn from the best Japanese historians of China (who tended to focus on
Tang China The Tang dynasty (, ; ), or Tang Empire, was an Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China that ruled from 618 to 907, with an Zhou dynasty (690–705), interregnum between 690 and 705. It was preceded by the Sui dynasty and fol ...
, a period which became his field of expertise also). Following demobilisation he read Modern Chinese at the
School of Oriental and African Studies SOAS University of London (; the School of Oriental and African Studies) is a public university, public research university in London, England, and a constituent college of the federal University of London. Founded in 1916, SOAS is located in ...
at the
University of London The University of London (UoL; abbreviated as Lond or more rarely Londin in post-nominals Post-nominal letters, also called post-nominal initials, post-nominal titles, designatory letters or simply post-nominals, are letters placed after a p ...
for a year (1946-47). Having won a scholarship to read Geography in 1943 while still a school pupil, he then took up his place at
St Catharine's College, Cambridge St Catharine's College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge. Founded in 1473 as Katharine Hall, it adopted its current name in 1860. The college is nicknamed "Catz". The college is located in the historic city-centre of Camb ...
, whence he graduated with a first-class degree in Oriental Studies in 1950.Davin, Delia
"Twitchett, Denis Crispin (1925-2006)"
''Oxford Dictionary of National Biography'', Oxford University Press, 2013; online edition, January 2010. Retrieved 2 May 2019.
He was a lecturer at the
University of London The University of London (UoL; abbreviated as Lond or more rarely Londin in post-nominals Post-nominal letters, also called post-nominal initials, post-nominal titles, designatory letters or simply post-nominals, are letters placed after a p ...
(1954–56) and
Cambridge Cambridge ( ) is a university city and the county town In the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' ...
(1956–60), the Chair of Chinese at the universities of London (1960–68) and Cambridge (1968–80), and the Gordon Wu '58 Professor of Chinese Studies at
Princeton University Princeton University is a private Private or privates may refer to: Music * "In Private "In Private" was the third single in a row to be a charting success for United Kingdom, British singer Dusty Springfield, after an absence of nearly tw ...

Princeton University
(1980–94). He was a fellow of the
British Academy The British Academy is the United Kingdom's national academy#REDIRECT National academy A national academy is an organizational body, usually operating with state financial support and approval, that co-ordinates scholarly research Res ...
from 1967. He greatly expanded the role of Chinese studies in Western intellectual circles. He married Umeko Ichikawa in 1956. Together they had two children.


''The Cambridge History of China ''

Starting in 1966, Professor Twitchett and historian John K. Fairbank (who taught at
Harvard Harvard University is a private Private or privates may refer to: Music * "In Private "In Private" was the third single in a row to be a charting success for United Kingdom, British singer Dusty Springfield, after an absence of nearly t ...

Harvard
) began plans for the first comprehensive history of China to be published in the English language. Originally expected to be a six volume set of books, the series expanded as time passed and eventually grew to the currently planned 15 volumes. While he was at Princeton, Twitchett worked closely with fellow Sinologist Frederick W. Mote (who had a related wartime experience). Drawing upon the most respected living historians for individual chapters of the books, the series (though still incomplete as of late 2007) is very highly regarded as an authoritative history of China. Twitchett wrote many sections and guided the creation of the whole series from the start until his death. Twitchett deliberately held off creating a book on China before the Ch'in because, as Twitchett put it in the preface to Volume 7, there was still so much work to be done on the period. Since that time the history has become better understood and in 1999 a companion volume ''The Cambridge History of Ancient China, From the Origins of Civilization to 221 BC'' edited by
Michael Loewe Michael Arthur Nathan Loewe (born 2 November 1922) is a British Sinologist, historian, and writer who has authored dozens of books, articles, and other publications in the fields of Classical Chinese and History of China#Ancient China, ancient ...
and Edward L. Shaughnessy was published.


Other publications

* * ''Financial Administration under the T'ang Dynasty'' (1963) * ''Printing and Publishing in Medieval China'' (1983) * ''The Writing of Official History Under the T'ang'' (1992) * (with P.J.M. Geelan) ''The Times Atlas of China'' (1974) Twitchett was the expert who helped create the China maps for ''The Times Atlas of World History'' (first published in 1979).


References


External links


Obituary
in ''
The Times ''The Times'' is a British Newspaper#Daily, daily Newspaper#National, national newspaper based in London. It began in 1785 under the title ''The Daily Universal Register'', adopting its current name on 1 January 1788. ''The Times'' and its s ...
'' * David McMullen, "Denis Crispin Twitchett (1925-2006)," ''Proceedings of the British Academy'' 166 (2010): 322–345

{{DEFAULTSORT:Twitchett, Denis Crispin 1925 births 2006 deaths British sinologists Historians of China Alumni of SOAS University of London Alumni of St Catharine's College, Cambridge Academics of the University of London Academics of the University of Cambridge Princeton University faculty
Fellows of the British Academy Fellow of the British Academy, Fellows of the British Academy (FBA). {{CatAutoTOC Fellows of learned societies of the United Kingdom, British Academy, Fellows of British Academy ...
Bletchley Park people