Francis Woodman Cleaves
Francis Woodman Cleaves (born in Boston in 1911 and died in New Hampshire on December 31, 1995) was a sinologist, writer and historian who taught at Harvard University, where he was key in establishing Mongolian studies in America. He is well known for his work in translating The Secret History of the Mongols.
In 1935, on a fellowship from the Harvard-Yenching Institute, Cleaves went first to Paris, where he studied with Paul Pelliot, then to Peiping, as Beijing was then called, where he studied with the Mongolist Antoine Mostaert S.J. Always an avid book collector, he also roamed the stalls and shops in Liulichang, the street for books and antiques. There he accumulated an extensive collection not only in Chinese and Mongol, his own interests, but also in Manchu, which he did not plan to himself use. The books in Manchu were particularly rare, and form the core of Harvard's Manchu collection.
In 1941 Cleaves returned to the United States, but lost his books and the manuscript of his doctoral thesis (they were found after the war). He taught Chinese in the Department of Far Eastern Languages at Harvard, and worked on the Chinese dictionary project of the Harvard-Yenching Institute. He joined the United States Navy and served in the Pacific. After the war ended, he helped to relocate Japanese citizens who had lived in China back to Japan, and sorted through the books they left behind to find those suitable for shipping to the Harvard-Yenching Library.
After the war, Cleaves also began teaching Mongolian and passing along the traditions of European sinology of his mentors. Among his students, or perhaps better, disciples, was Joseph Fletcher, the distinguished Mongolist and historian, and Elizabeth Endicott-West, author of basic studies on the Yuan dynasty and Mongol history.
Cleaves retired in 1980, but continued to write papers on Mongolian history.
- Bettine Birge, "Yuan studies in North America: historical overview, contributions, and current trends," in Haihui Zhang. A Scholarly Review of Chinese Studies in North America (Ann Arbor, MI.: Association for Asian Studies, 2013). ISBN 9780924304729. pp. 55-56.
- Mark Elliott, "Highlights of the Manchu-Mongol Collection," in Patrick Hanan. ed., Treasures of the Yenching: Seventy-Fifth Anniversity of the Harvard-Yenching Library. (Cambridge, MA; Hong Kong: Harvard-Yenching Library, 2003), pp. 79-81.
- "Memorial Minute," Harvard University Gazette (January 22, 1998)