Pacific Affairs through War and Peace

Pacific Affairs has its origins as a monthly news bulletin for the Institute of Pacific Relations (IPR).

The IPR was established in Honolulu, Hawaii in 1925 as a private non-partisan forum for the promotion of mutual understanding among nations of Asia and the Pacific Rim through discussion, research, and education.

The founding ethos of the IPR was the fostering of international integration and understanding in the wider Pacific region. It was to be “a body of men and women deeply interested in the Pacific area, who meet and work, not as representatives of their Governments, or of any other organizations, but as individuals in order to promote the well-being of the peoples concerned…”[1] 

In both its populist and internationalist outlook the IPR was a trailblazing organization. The American Council on Foreign Relations in New York, a natural choice to adopt a Pacific vision, “…was absorbed in the aftermath of World War I and so Eurocentric in the tradition of the American eastern seaboard, that it proved quite incapable of lifting its sights to the far Pacific.”[2]

The IPR was headed by an International Secretariat based in Honolulu, but it had different national or regional Councils throughout the world, with the number of these Councils growing over the first decade of the IPR’s existence.

The IPR’s activities included programs of conferences, research projects, and publications. These various activities soon necessitated an organizational mouthpiece. Under the editorial guidance of Elizabeth Green, the International Secretariat of the IPR began publication of its monthly News Bulletin in May 1926.[3] In May 1928, the News Bulletin, still under the editorship of Elizabeth Green, changed its title to Pacific Affairs. Like the organization that founded it, Pacific Affairs would become a pioneering effort.

In 1933, Pacific Affairs transitioned to a quarterly, a schedule it has maintained to this day, and first began to refer to itself as a journal. (It was also around this time—in 1932—that the American Council of the IPR began publishing its own journal, titled Far Eastern Survey, which came to be considered the “sister publication” of Pacific Affairs.) Though in its early days under its editor Elizabeth Green Pacific Affairs followed the format of the News Bulletin, providing updates on IPR activities and correspondence from its various councils, the publication grew to become one of the first academic journals dedicated to contemporary events in the Asia-Pacific region and its scholarly output in the years that followed contributed greatly to the establishment and then expansion of the field of Asian Studies.

As noted, the IPR, which conducted its affairs through autonomous national councils, had its International Secretariat based in Honolulu, Hawaii. With the growth of IPR activities through the 1930s, voices began to be raised regarding a move to a “less provincial” location than Honolulu, with New York City proposed as the most likely new home. The idea of moving IPR headquarters to New York was not without controversy, and revealed some dissension within the ranks between what one might term a “Pacific faction” and an “East Coast faction,” the latter led by then secretary-general of the IPR (and future editor of Pacific Affairs), Edward C. Carter. In the end the East Coasters won out and Carter moved IPR headquarters to New York in 1934.

Around this time Edward C. Carter, secretary-general of the IPR, recruited the well-known explorer and sinologist Owen Lattimore to take over from the Hawaii-based Elizabeth Green as the editor of Pacific Affairs. Lattimore too was of the opinion that the journal should be located more towards the centre of political and academic activities, and actually moved Pacific Affairs to New York in 1933 (a year before the IPR move), setting up shop at 129 East Fifty-Second Street. It would change addresses twice in New York City before relocating to Vancouver, Canada in 1961.

Sidestory: Pacific Affairs in New York City

Upon relocating from Honolulu to New York City in 1933, Pacific Affairs took up residence at 129 East Fifty-Second Street, an address it maintained until 1944. In that year, its offices moved—along with those of the IPR—two blocks west and into the rather posh Aeolian Building at 1 East Fifty-Fourth Street, just purchased by Elizabeth Arden, which still stands today. “Employed” (he refused to take a salary) by the IPR at this time was Frederick Vanderbilt Field (1905–2000), great-great-grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt. Field was born, raised, and continued to reside in, a city residence two blocks down Fifth Avenue from the IPR’s new home. As Field was a major donor to the IPR at this time, it’s possible he had some voice in its move.

The Aeolian Building would be Pacific Affairs’ home until 1956, when the loss of its tax-exempt status drove it to cheaper lodgings on lower Sixth Avenue in Greenwich Village. This was to a relatively small, triangular building of a dozen floors known officially as the Varitype Building, but more colloquially as the “little flatiron.” The building as it was in the early 1960s was described as “shabby, and most of it occupied by manufacturers, including the premises of an accordion maker and various garment firms. But it was also the site of a number of the country’s most interesting publishing houses: New Directions, Pellegrini, and Cuddahy…” as well as “…the left-wing journal the Nation and the Marxist Monthly Review.”[4] 

Considering the recent investigations into Pacific Affairs and the IPR, it was now in good company! In 1961, Pacific Affairs would depart the United States entirely for the campus of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, where it became a cornerstone of the newly established Department of Asian Studies.

Image sources (left to right): Archives of the City of New York; Robert Torchia, “John Sloan/Cornelia Street/1920,” WikiArt,, (accessed April 20, 2023); Wikicommons.

Though the journal was now in New York, during his early tenure Lattimore actually managed his editorial duties largely from Beijing, a challenging task in the days before international air travel and electronic communications! Lattimore’s residence in Beijing at this time would help fuel later accusations against him.

Under Lattimore’s editorial guidance, Pacific Affairs saw its definitive transformation from a newsletter and only semi-scholarly journal into “a lively and frequently controversial academic quarterly which gained quick acceptance among those with scholarly interests in the Asia and the Pacific.”[5]

A Writer is Born

The June 1935 issue included an article on Russo-Japanese fisheries negotiations written by a young woman fresh out of Radcliffe named Barbara Wertheim.[6] Bill Holland recalled years later how this author told him how surprised she had been to receive $40 for her article, recounting it was “the first time it ever occurred to her that one could earn money by writing and that it really started her on her literary career.”[7] This young author later became more widely known by her married name, Barbara Tuchman.

The 1930s was a busy time for both the IPR and Pacific Affairs. This decade has often been portrayed as a dark and lugubrious period of rising pessimism, and there were indeed many international developments, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region, that seemed to directly challenge the IPR’s aim of fostering dialogue and understanding. Japanese expansionism and then invasion of Manchuria was one such development. Others included the ongoing civil war in China, tightening Japanese control over Korea, and the rise of Stalinism in the Soviet Union and Fascism in Europe. As a journal covering world events, Pacific Affairs could not help but be affected but these developments, and as a scholarly journal during these years faced a moral dilemma, one that became more acute as the world drifted toward total war. While it wished to maintain scholarly objectivity, it became increasingly clear that it would find itself between the vice grips of impartial scholarship and political and nationalistic forces that demanded sides be taken. This is well illustrated by an exchange between the journalist Walter Lippmann and Edward C. Carter (secretary-general of the IPR) in the eventful summer of 1940. Lippmann proposed that Pacific Affairs should make itself more useful toward the war effort and securing a just peace. Ultimately, however, Pacific Affairs‘ editor Owen Lattimore insisted that as the mouthpiece of the IPR,  Pacific Affairs should remain committed to non-factional scholarship and open debate. As the anthropologist David Harvey later wrote of Lattimore during this time:

There was, of course, no end of controversy and while independent scholarship was overtly stressed there was no way to avoid the collision of national interests. To keep scholars from the Soviet Union and the United States participating in dialogue was just as difficult as keeping the Japanese and Chinese together during a period of intense geopolitical conflict and open warfare […] Lattimore was faced with a delicate and difficult task during a period of extraordinary political convulsion and geopolitical tension. But he evidently relished it and sought to keep Pacific Affairs an open forum which meant, quite simply, making complex compromises with the different national councils and groups. The decisions to publish articles, though based on scholarship, had in some cases to be political decisions as well. The price of continued Soviet participation in IPR, for example, was acceptance of articles that expressed the Soviet line. Lattimore later justified their publication on the grounds that the ‘line’ deserved expression as part and parcel of the controversy.”[8]

Letter in full from the journalist Walter Lippmann (WJL) to Edward C. Carter (ECC) on the future direction of Pacific Affairs (June 10, 1940). On the day this letter was written Italy declared war on France and Great Britain, and Norway capitulated to Germany.

It was Pacific Affairs’ coverage of events in the Soviet Union and China during these years that opened it up to later accusations of being a communist fifth column. For instance, Harold Isaacs’ article, “Perspectives of the Chinese Revolution: A Marxist View” (vol. 8, no. 3, September 1935) came to be cited as evidence of the journal’s pro-Marxist-Stalinist agenda. Such views were not limited to the halls of the FBI. The academic eyes of Prof. William McGovern of Northwestern University (whom some think was the inspiration for Indiana Jones), saw very clear evidence that Pacific Affairs “was trying to advocate a Stalinist approach.”[9] 

The fact that the IPR had a branch in the Soviet Union, and actively recruited articles for Pacific Affairs from members of that branch (even using Soviet ambassador to the USA Andrei Gromyko as a conduit), did not bode well once the “red scare” began in earnest from 1950, when the journal faced accusations of being a de facto mouthpiece for the Soviet communists.

Noblesse Oblige

For his part, Frederick Vanderbilt Field, the great-great-grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt and sometimes touted as “the Reds’ pet blue-blood,”[10] who had worked for the Institute of Pacific Relations in New York since 1929 and rose to become the National Secretary of the American Council of the IPR, felt that Pacific Affairs lacked a moral voice in condemning Japanese aggression and promoting populist and socialist causes, and went off to start, with Philip Jaffe, the more opinionated and agenda-driven Amerasia in 1937. At one point in the early 1940s there was talk of consolidating Pacific AffairsFar Eastern Survey, and Amerasia into a single publication, though this never materialized. Amerasia was short-lived and extant copies are extremely rare. Anticipating Wikileaks, it became the center of a major spy scandal in the immediate post-war years when it published verbatim a classified British document on plans for India. A raid on its offices by the FBI discovered a cache of hundreds of classified US government documents.[11]

Lattimore returned to live in the United States in 1937, when it became too difficult to reside in Beijing due to the Second Sino-Japanese War, and continued to edit Pacific Affairs until he was named personal emissary by President Roosevelt to Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek in 1941. Edward C. Carter then took over as editor.

With the entrance of the United States into World War II in 1941, the IPR entered upon a troubled relationship with the US Government that would not end well for the Institute. In the early days of that war the IPR came under investigation (and along with it, its journal Pacific Affairs) for its coverage of events in Japan and China and its perceived attitude to communism in general. One FBI report, for instance, noted the IPR’s ties to Nitobe Inazō (1862–1933). The FBI noted that Nitobe was, among other things, “advisor to the Supreme War Council,” and that as head of the Japanese Council of the IPR, he had initiated a poll of American academics, seeking their opinions on such issues as the Japanese invasion of Manchuria. The editor of Pacific Affairs for a period during World War II, Edward C. Carter, also came under scrutiny by the FBI for his putative ties to Soviet communists.

A 1946 memorandum from FBI director J. Edgar Hoover reveals the close scrutiny the IPR was under in the post-war years, to include Pacific Affairs and two of its former editors, Owen Lattimore and Edward Carter.

William “Bill” Holland’s long association with the IPR and Pacific Affairs dates back to the earliest years of the IPR in Honolulu. In 1929, Holland became a principal aide to John Bell Condliffe, a highly esteemed economist and fellow New Zealander under whom Holland had studied at Canterbury University. In 1926, Condliffe had been named a Research Secretary of the IPR in Honolulu and brought the young Bill Holland with him. In his capacity as aide, Holland undertook extensive travel, research, and administrative duties on the part of the IPR in China and Japan, before going on to take a Masters degree at King’s College, Cambridge in economics, studying under John Maynard Keynes. During these early years he even published a few studies in Pacific Affairs.

When Condliffe resigned from the IPR to take a position with the League of Nations in 1931, Holland took his place. Not long after this, Holland was also named an associate editor of Pacific Affairs.

In 1944, Holland became an American citizen, so that he could become acting director of the Office of War Information (later the U.S. Information Service) in Chungking, China. From 1945, Holland took nearly a ten-year long hiatus from the editorship of Pacific Affairs.

The end of the war did not bring an end to the American government’s scrutiny of the IPR, indeed it soon intensified. In 1950, Senator Joseph McCarthy fired the opening salvo of a renewed assault on the IPR when he named Owen Lattimore (editor of Pacific Affairs from 1934–1941) the “top Soviet agent in North America.” These were the heady days of anti-communism and a sense of panic had gripped Washington after the fall of China to communist forces and then Chinese intervention on the side of North Korea during the Korean War (1950–1953). Taking up the thrust of McCarthy’s accusations against Lattimore, Senator Patrick McCarran (D-Nevada) went so far as to claim, “had it not been for the IPR, the U.S. would not have lost China”!

It was during this difficult time that Holland returned to the editorial duties at Pacific Affairs.

The United States Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee to Investigate the Administration of the Internal Security Act and Other Internal Security Laws (the McCarran Subcommittee) soon alleged that the IPR was open to communist influences and Owen Lattimore was ultimately indicted for perjury in an appearance before that subcommittee. Although neither of the charges was substantiated, the surrounding negative publicity seriously impaired the operations of the Institute.

Lattimore naturally and fiercely denied the charge of being under the influence of communists, both before the McCarran Subcommittee, and in a contemporaneous rebuttal that took the form of a book, Ordeal by Slander (1950):

“Pacific Affairs, gentlemen, is the quarterly journal published by the international secretariat of the Institute of Pacific Relations. Since it is an international journal, it has always tried to present a variety of authors of different nationality and different points of view. I make no apology for the fact that under my editorship the magazine carried a few contributions by writers who were then or subsequently regarded as leftist…[but] Pacific Affairs never promoted either Chinese or Russian communism…”[12]

Bill Holland also strongly refuted such allegations. Called before the McCarran Subcommittee in 1951, he termed “palpably absurd” the claims that the IPR was a “captive organization” of the communists, or indeed that it ever took a partisan approach to the many issues it had examined in its many publications and academic conferences.

“What do you know about John Foster Dulles?”

In one of his reminiscences, Bill Holland recalled an amusing episode that happened in the early 1950s, when the United States was entering the deep freeze of the Cold War. The humour of the account is better appreciated if one knows that John Foster Dulles was already a well-known senator from New York at this time: “During these years [1950s] FBI agents used to come to my office [at the IPR] asking questions about people being considered for jobs in Washington with the federal government. This was for the purposes of security clearances, and they had a standard set of questions they asked. One day a young FBI agent appeared and said he would like some information on a man called—he took out his book to check—John Foster Dulles. I swallowed hard and said, ‘Yes, I know Mr. Dulles.’ He said, ‘Was he a member of your organization?’ I said, ‘Yes, for about five years.’ He asked, ‘Did he contribute money?’ I said, ‘Well, I’ll look in the books.’ I did so and said, ‘Yes, he contributed about $50 a year.’ […] He wrote all this down and, to my amazement, at the end of the interview said, ‘Well, Mr. Holland, from your knowledge of this man, would you consider him suitable for employment by the federal government?’ This was a unique opportunity, but I decided I should be patriotic so I said, ‘Yes, I think Mr. Dulles would be suitable for a government position.’ As you know, he became Secretary of State under Eisenhower, but I have often wondered what would have happened if I had said no.”[13]

But beyond the offices of the IPR and Pacific Affairs the Cold War had reached its most frigid lows. Suspicion was tantamount to condemnation and one result of the government investigation was that the IPR lost its tax-exempt status as an educational body. It waged a five-year battle to have it restored. Though the final judgment in 1959 affirmed that, contrary to the allegations of the Commissioner of Internal Revenue in 1955, the Institute had not engaged in the dissemination of controversial and partisan propaganda, and had not attempted to influence the policies or opinions of any government or government officials, the legal costs of defending itself plus the loss of much foundation funding left the Institute depleted of funds, and it dissolved in 1960. Remarkably, both Pacific Affairs and Far Eastern Survey continued to be published continuously through the various periods of turmoil. In the wake of the IPR’s demise, in 1961 the Far Eastern Survey became Asian Survey, with its editorial office relocating to Berkeley (it is still published by UC Press).

Bill Holland enjoyed personal and professional relationships with many of the top names in the field of Asian Studies across many disciplines. One such person was Ronald Dore, the distinguished British sociologist whose primary focus was Japan and whose first book Land Reform in Japan (1959) had been published as a joint project of the IPR and the Royal Institute (Chatham House). Dore had spent some time early in his career as a lecturer at the University of British Columbia. Holland later recounted how, “he [Ronald Dore] more than any other person, is responsible for my going to Vancouver. He talked to Norman MacKenzie [the President of UBC at the time]…and told him that, because of the situation, he thought I could be persuaded to go to Vancouver if Pacific Affairs could somehow be saved.” President MacKenzie, eager to institute a Department of Asian Studies, was quick to make the offer, and Holland to accept it. Thus did Pacific Affairs survive the demise of the IPR and find a new home at The University of British Columbia (UBC).[14]

The Globe & Mail (Toronto) details Bill Holland’s recent move to Vancouver, Canada (1961)

At UBC, Holland became head of that university’s newly created Department of Asian Studies, bringing Pacific Affairs with him as promised (with him he also brought the IPR’s rather extensive collection of books on Asia, which formed a core of the Asia collection at UBC today).[15]

Though the IPR had folded, Pacific Affairs did not miss an issue.

Through his leadership and discernment Bill Holland not only helped build UBC into a Canadian centre for research on Asia, but a global leader in the field. The first article in Pacific Affairs from its new Vancouver base was “Canada and the Pacific Area.”[16]

Bill Holland stepped down as head of the UBC’s Department of Asian Studies in 1968 and retired from teaching in 1973, but continued to edit Pacific Affairs until 1978 when the mantle was passed to Heath Chamberlain. In 1989, UBC awarded Holland an honorary Doctor of Laws.

Bill Holland at UBC around 1973

Sidestory: The Iconic Cover

Though the PA cover may seem to be unchanging, for the first two decades of its existence it experimented with various covers. But even after the now iconic cover first appeared in the late 1940s, small changes continued to occur over time (besides the four colour themes, one for each of its quarterly issues). Can you spot them? (click images to view details)

Pacific Affairs has passed through a steady series of editorial hands since Bill Holland. All of its editors have been based at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, though they did not all hail from academia. Ian Slater (editor, 1987–1999) was, and is, an author of potboiler novels.

As with other journals, with the new century Pacific Affairs made the arduous transition to the electronic world. In the case of PA, the change began with the creation of a homepage in the late 1990s. The heavier work of migration to digital format commenced in 2001 with the formation of a Committee on Electronic Access. By 2002, the bulk of the work was done and the journal began handling most of its correspondence and all of its editing electronically, publishing electronic versions of its journal, and making it accessible through an on-line provider.

The earliest homepage of Pacific Affairs (2000).

In 2003, the Editorial Board was restructured from a dual board/advisory board to a single Editorial Board of approximately fifty scholars with an Executive Committee of eleven members.

The journal has maintained a regular presence at the Association of Asian Studies since the 1990s.

Since its arrival in Vancouver in 1961, Pacific Affairs has endured and thrived because it has served the important and necessary purpose of exploring the issues in Asia and the Pacific at a depth that goes beyond the usual headlines. The journal continues to be committed to informing scholars and policy makers about social, economic, and historical developments in a manner that combines specialized area knowledge, original empirical research, and contemporary relevance.

In the end, however, we owe our existence and our longevity to our contributors—not only the authors of our many articles, but the anonymous manuscript reviewers in the peer-review process and the legion of scholars who have taken the time and effort to keep our considerable number of book reviews going. To all of you we extend our sincere appreciation and gratitude.


[1] Paul F. Hooper, “The Institute of Pacific Relations and the Origins of Asian and Pacific Studies,” Pacific Affairs 61, no. 1 (Spring 1988), 100.

[2] John K. Fairbank, “William L. Holland and the IPR in Historical Perspective,” Pacific Affairs 52, no. 4 (1979): 588.

[3] News Bulletin: Institute of Pacific Relations, No. 1  (May 20, 1926).

[4] André Schiffrin, The Business of Books: How International Conglomerates Took Over Publishing and Changed the Way We Read ( ), 33–34.

[5] Hooper, “The Institute of Pacific Relations,” 108.

[6] Barbara Wertheim, “The Russo-Japanese Fisheries Controversy,” Pacific Affairs 8, no. 2 (June 1935): 185–198.

[7] William L. Holland, “The Institute of Pacific Relations and I,” The Journal of Shibusawa Studies 11 (October 1998), 46. Holland mistakenly recollects Far Eastern Survey, Pacific Affairs’ sister publication, as the home for Wertheim’s work.

[8] David Harvey, “Owen Lattimore: A Memoire,” Antipode 15, no. 3 (December 1983): 4.

[9] From the McCarran committee docs. Do a search to find citation.

[10] “Frederick Vanderbilt Field, wealthy leftist, dies at 94,” New York Times, February 7, 2000.

[11] See Harvey Klehr and Ronald Radosh. The Amerasia Spy Case: Prelude to McCarthyism (Chapel Hill: University of North Caroline Press, 2009).

[12] Owen Lattimore, Ordeal by Slander (New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, 1950), 179–180.

[13] (Holland 1998, 52)

[14] William L. Holland, “The Institute of Pacific Relations and I,” The Journal of Shibusawa Studies 11 (October 1998): 49.

[15] E.G. Pulleybank, “William L. Holland’s Contributions to Asian Studies in Canada and at the University of British Columbia,” Pacific Affairs 52, no. 4 (1979–80), 593.

[16] Howard Green, “Canada and the Pacific Area,” Pacific Affairs 34, no. 1 (Spring 1961): 3–4.