George Sansom

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  • Born: 1883
  • Died: 1965
  • Titles: Order of St Michael and St George

Sir George Bailey Sansom KCMG was a historian of pre-modern Japan particularly noted for his historical surveys and attention to Japanese society.

Born in Kent, England and educated in France, he first served in Japan as an advisor and representative of the United Kingdom in 1904, and continued in similar positions for roughly 44 years hence. Knighted in 1935, he served as a member of the staff of the British consulate in Japan from 1939-1941. He was sent to Washington, D.C. and then to Singapore as war approached in 1941, and spoke with some of the top officials of the British Royal Navy the day before the sinking of the HMS Repulse and HMS Prince of Wales, events which mark the beginning of the Pacific War for the UK. Returning to Washington, D.C. and remaining there throughout World War II, Sansom later taught at Columbia University (1947-1953) and retired in Palo Alto, California.

As a scholar of Japanese history and society, he was closely associated with a number of other scholars, including Helen Craig McCullough, the faculty of Stanford University and the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, and many others.

Widely regarded as expert at keeping his own opinions absent from his historical writings, his opinions and character were revealed in a memoir published by his wife, Katharine Sansom, in 1972. Consisting primarily of letters and papers written by Sir George, and remembrances on the part of his wife, these memoirs illustrate much of his biographical story, particularly illuminating his experiences in Japan prior to World War II.


  • The Tsuredzure Gusa of Yoshida No Kaneyoshi. Being the meditations of a recluse in the 14th Century (1911)
  • An Historical Grammar of Japanese (1923) (ASIN B0007ITUYC)
  • Japan: a Short Cultural History (1931) (ISBN 0-2142-0217-8)
  • Trade conditions in the Philippine Islands: Report (1933)(ASIN B0008D0H5W)
  • Postwar Relations with Japan (Secretariat paper, 1942)(ASIN B0007ETL9K)
  • The Western World and Japan (1951) (ISBN 0-8048-1510-0)
  • A History of Japan to 1334 (1958) (ISBN 0-8047-0523-2)
  • A History of Japan, 1334-1615 (1961) (ISBN 0-8047-0525-9)
  • A History of Japan, 1615-1867 (1963)(ISBN 0-8047-0527-5)
  • Japan in World History (ASIN B0007IZ02I)
  • The Reminiscences of Sir George Sansom (ASIN B0007J22K0)


  • Frederic, Louis (2002). "Japan Encyclopedia." Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
  • Howes, John F. (1975) Sir George Sansom and Japan, Review of. Pacific Affairs. University of British Columbia.

See also

  • Sansom, Katharine (1972). Sir George Sansom and Japan: A Memoir Tallahassee, Florida: The Diplomatic Press Inc.