Charles R. Boxer, historian

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Charles Ralph Boxer

Birthdate: (96)
Birthplace: Sandown, Isle of Wight, UK
Death: April 27, 2000 (96)
St Albans, Hertfordshire, UK
Immediate Family:

Son of Hugh Boxer and Jane Boxer
Husband of Ursulla Norah Anstice Boxer and Emily "Mickey" Hahn, journalist & author
Father of <private> Vecchio (Boxer) and <private> Boxer
Brother of Myles Boxer

Occupation: historian of Dutch and Portuguese maritime and colonial history
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Charles R. Boxer, historian

Charles Ralph Boxer FBA (8 March 1904 at Sandown on the Isle of Wight – 27 April 2000 at St. Albans, Hertfordshire) was a distinguished historian of Dutch and Portuguese maritime and colonial history.


   * 1 Education and Military Career
   * 2 Academic career
   * 3 Awards and honours
   * 4 Published works
   * 5 Obituaries
   * 6 External links

Education and Military Career

The son of Colonel Hugh Boxer and his wife Jane Patterson, Charles Boxer was educated at Wellington College and the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, Boxer was gazetted a second lieutenant in the Lincolnshire Regiment in 1923 and served in that regiment for twenty-four years until 1947. He served in Northern Ireland, then, from 1930 to 1933, he was a language officer in Japan assigned to the 38th Infantry Regiment based at Nara, Nara Prefecture, Japan. At the same time, he was assigned to the non-commissioned officers school at Toyohashi. In 1933, he qualified as an official interpreter in the Japanese language. Posted to Hong Kong in 1936, he served as a General Staff Officer 3rd grade (GSO3) with British troops in China at Hong Kong, doing intelligence work. In 1940, he was advanced to General Staff Officer 2nd grade (GSO2). Wounded in action during the Japanese attack on Hong Kong on 8 December 1941, he was taken by the Japanese as a prisoner of war and remained in captivity until 1945. After his release, Boxer returned to Japan as a member of the British Far East Commission in 1946-47. During his military career, Boxer published 86 publications on Far Eastern history with a particular focus on the 16th and 17th centuries.

In 1945, he married Emily Hahn (d. 1997), with whom he had two daughters. He had earlier been married to Ursula Norah Anstice Tulloch.

Academic career

As a major in the British Army, Boxer had resigned from the service in 1947, when King's College London offered him its Camões Chair of Portuguese, a post he held for twenty years until 1967. During this period, the School of Oriental and African Studies of the University of London also appointed him as its first Professor of the History of the Far East, serving in that post for two years from 1951 to 1953.

On retiring from the University of London in 1967, Boxer took up a visiting professorship at Indiana University, where he also served as an advisor to the Lilly Library located on its campus in Bloomington, Indiana. From 1969 to 1972, Boxer held a personal chair in the history of European Overseas Expansion at Yale University.

Awards and honours

Honorary doctorate, University of Utrecht, 1950

Honorary doctorate, University of Lisbon, 1952

Fellow of the British Academy, 1957

Honorary doctorate, Universidade Federal da Bahia, 1959

Honorary doctorate, University of Liverpool, 1966

Member of the China Academy, Taiwan, 1966

Papal Knight of the Order of St. Gregory the Great, 1969

Honorary doctorate, University of Hong Kong, 1971

Honorary doctorate, University of Peradeniya, 1980

Gold Medal, Institute Historico e Geografico Brasileiro, 1986.

Caird Medal of the National Maritime Museum, 1989

Other awards:

Order of Santiago da Espada (Portugal)

Grand Cross of the Order of Infante D. Henrique (Portugal) [edit] Published works

S. George West, A List of the Writings of Charles Ralph Boxer Published Between 1926 and 1984, Compiled for his Eightieth Birthday (London: Tamesis Books Ltd, 1984).

Key works:

• Jan Compagnie in Japan, 1660-1817 (1936)

• Fidalgos in the Far East, 1550-1770. Fact and Fancy in the History of Macao (1948)

• The Christian Century in Japan (1951)

• Salvador de Sá and the Struggle for Brazil and Angola, 1602-1686 (1952)

• South China in the Sixteenth century (1953)

• The Dutch in Brazil (1957)

• The Great Ship from Amacon (1959)

• The Tragic History of the Sea (1959)

• The Golden Age of Brazil, 1695-1750 (1962)

• The Dutch Seaborne Empire (1965)

• The Portuguese Seaborne Empire (1969)


   * The Guardian Magisterial historian of Portugal and its dark imperial past
   * Renaissance Studies Obituary Professor C. R. Boxer
   * The Asia Society of Japan In Memoriam Charles Ralph Boxer (1904 - 2000)
   * Reminiscences [1]

External links

   * Works by or about C. R. Boxer in libraries (WorldCat catalog)

Source: Downloaded April 2011 from



Charles Boxer

Magisterial historian of Portugal and its dark imperial past

by Antonio de Figueiredo

  • The [Manchester] Guardian, Tuesday 16 May 2000 01.15 BST

  • Article history

Professor Charles Boxer, who has died aged 96, was one of the best British historians of early European overseas expansion and empire- building in Asia and Brazil. As such, he was perhaps better known and honoured internationally than in his native England. Upon the news of his death in Portugal, he was hailed as the academic who had opened the "musty store-chests" of the past to disclose a vast panorama of corruption and exploitation behind the image of golden ages promoted by cultural diplomacy.

Boxer's main subjects were the Portuguese and Dutch overseas expansions and rival conquests in Asia, Brazil and Angola, on which he produced more than 350 writings, including a dozen major essays in book form, as well as the classic panoramic text- books, The Dutch Seaborn Empire, 1600-1800 (1965) and The Portuguese Seaborn Empire: 1415-1825 (1969).

In 1947 he was appointed as Camoens professor of Portuguese studies, at King's College, London University, a post founded and co-funded by Lisbon, and, at the time, the only such chair in the English-speaking world. He held the position until his retirement in 1967 (since when he has been professor emeritus), with an interruption from 1951 to 1953 as the university's professor of the history of the far east.

Longevity, hard research and fecund writing, combined with a somewhat hedonistic attachment to social life, were not the only unusual marks of Boxer's life and career. Born at Sandown, on the Isle of Wight, he was educated at Wellington College and Sandhurst, from where his precocious interest in Japanese language and culture opened an early career in the army.

In 1923, he joined the Lincolnshire regiment as a second lieutenant, and, by 1930, was attached to the Japanese army as a language officer. From 1936, he served in military intelligence in Hong Kong, and in December 1941, during the Japanese attack, he was wounded and captured. His knowledge of the language, and all things Japanese, earned him the respect of his captors.

Boxer resigned from the army with the rank of major in 1947 when offered the Camoens chair. With access to neglected Dutch and Portuguese colonial archives in the far-flung Asian outposts, he developed his interest in those histories. His range of themes, as exemplified in books such as Race Relations In The Portuguese Colonial Empire (1963) or Mary and Misogyny: Women In Iberian Expansion (1975), were early explorations of the themes of feminism and anti-racism, providing evidence of the relation between the past and the present.

Boxer's attachment to maritime and military history is shown in the variety of themes in dozens of articles, essays and monographs, such as The Anglo-Dutch Wars Of The 17th Century (1974), which followed The Tragic History Of The Sea (1959) and Fort Jesus And The Portuguese In Mombasa (1960). In his fluent and entertaining style, his vision travelled far and wide, both in chronology and geography. But it is in his writings on Brazil and its former empire that he rose above much academic erudition.

Despite lacking a university degree himself, Boxer held five successive chairs in Portuguese and maritime studies in as many universities in Britain and the US, as well as honorary doctorates and scholarships, and the highest national decoration from Portugal, among other countries. Some critics noted his conceited delight at these honours, but even they admitted that he had plenty to be conceited about.

As Boxer discovered, the secret of Portugal's longevity as an imperial power was a singular record of repressive and obscurantist rule, aided and abetted by its historic alliance with Britain. And, since the history of Portugal has become intertwined with that of other countries, and Portuguese is the language of Brazil, Angola, Mozambique, Guinea Bissau, Cape Verde and St Tome Island, Boxer's pioneering achievement in opening the "musty store-chests" has as much relevance for 180m Brazilians and Africans now rediscovering their past.

Boxer was a larger than life figure. His scholarship, both specialist and interdisciplinary, was gained by research and reading - he owned a library of institutional proportions - as well as by experience in his extensive travels.

He was also a man of great sensitivity. When I thanked him for some kind words he had written concerning my then somewhat lonely fight against the Salazar regime in Portugal, he just said he felt he was only doing a duty, adding, "I like action - moral courage is much less common than intelligence." He had once himself been declared persona non grata in Portugal, after his refutation of Dr Salazar's claim of the miracle of non-racialism in the empire.

In his later books, he made impressive links between early maritime and space exploits, not least by pointing out that the Portuguese invested decades of endeavour and resources without being sure what lay beyond the oceans. The analogies were used by American astronauts to plead for continued support for the Nasa space programme.

Boxer's second wife, Emily, whom he married in 1945, died in 1997. He is survived by his daughters Carola and Amanda.

Charles Ralph Boxer, historian, born March 8 1904; died April 27 2000

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Charles Boxer, 96, British Spy, Prominent Historian

May 7, 2000 | The New York Times

Charles R. Boxer, who was Britain's chief spy in Hong Kong in the tumultuous years leading up to World War II, died April 27 in a nursing home near his country residence northwest of London. He was 96.

Mr. Boxer also was a prominent historian of colonial empires, although he never earned a college degree, and a lead player in one of the most flamboyantly public love stories of the 1940s.

His achievements ranged from writing 330 books and articles about the origins and growth of the Dutch and Portuguese empires to holding professorial chairs at five universities on both sides of the Atlantic to collecting a celebrated library of rare books.

Always, he came at things his own way: As a boy, he taught himself Portuguese and Dutch in order to satisfy his curiosity about how Japan, his initial and principal fascination, was first affected by Europeans.

But it was Mr. Boxer's breathtakingly public romance with Emily Hahn, the author of 52 books and a longtime contributor to The New Yorker magazine, that accounts for most of the yellowing clips in newspaper morgues. He was married to Ursula Norah Anstice Tulloch, a woman commonly called the most beautiful in Hong Kong, when he met and had an affair with Hahn, The New Yorker's China correspondent, who herself was involved with one of China's leading intellectuals, Sinmay Zau.

Hahn made the new romance -- as well as her avid opium addiction -- a topic of discussion in her 1944 best seller, China to Me. She told how she fell for Mr. Boxer immediately, even though she was on friendly terms with his wife.

She wrote that he suggested having a child and offered to be legally responsible for the baby. A few weeks before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and World War II began, a daughter named Carola was born to the couple. After the Japanese took over Hong Kong, a British colony, Hahn convinced Japanese authorities she was Eurasian and stayed on to carry food parcels to starving prisoners of war. Fearing for her daughter's safety, though, she fled in 1943.

In March 1945, unconfirmed reports carried in American newspapers said the Japanese had executed Mr. Boxer. Hahn said she refused to believe the rumor. In truth, another British officer was executed, and Mr. Boxer was sentenced to a long term of hard labor as a result of being implicated in a secret radio-listening operation.

Upon his release at war's end, Mr. Boxer, by then divorced, told United Press that he intended to marry Hahn as soon as possible. "I'm going to make an honest woman of Mickey," he said, using her nickname. "It's high time, don't you think?"

Each step of his journey home was reported in the newspapers: a flight delay in San Francisco, Carola's excitement at spotting her father, and the couple's marriage by a justice of the peace in New Haven, Conn., after a judge granted a waiver of the standard five-day waiting period. Hahn died in 1997.

In addition to Carola Vecchio of Queens, New York, Mr. Boxer is survived by another daughter, Amanda Boxer of London, two granddaughters and two great-grandsons.

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Charles R. Boxer, historian's Timeline

March 8, 1904
April 27, 2000
Age 96
St Albans, Hertfordshire, UK