He is the son of Theodore Wood and Jessica H. (Merrick) Friend. He graduated from Williams College with a B.A. in 1953 and from Yale University with a Ph.D. in 1958. In 1960, he married Elizabeth Pierson, who died in 2003. They had three children: Pier Friend, Timmie Friend,  and the writer Tad Friend.
He also chairs the review panel for the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation. In 2004 he served as Distinguished Visiting Professor of Southeast Asian Studies at the Johns Hopkins University, School of Advanced International Studies.
His papers are held at Swarthmore College.
- 1966 Bancroft Prize
- Indonesian destinies. Harvard University Press. 2003. ISBN 978-0-674-01137-3.
- Between two empires: the ordeal of the Philippines, 1929-1946, Yale University Press, 1965
- The Blue-Eyed Enemy: Japan Against the West in Java and Luzon, Books on Demand, ISBN 978-0-608-06352-2
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