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John Sanford, News Service (650) 736-2151; e-mail:

Jeffrey Mass, a leading authority on Japanese medieval history, dead at 60

Jeffrey P. Mass, one of the world's leading authorities on Japanese medieval history, died of cancer March 30 at the Stanford Medical Center. He was 60.

"He was a person of intense convictions and thorough integrity, and it's really a loss to our department that he's no longer with us," said Peter Duus, the William H. Bonsall Professor of History.

A native of New York City, Mass earned his bachelor's degree in history from Hamilton College in 1961 and a master's degree in history from New York University in 1965. He received his doctorate in history from Yale in 1971 and joined the Stanford faculty in 1973. He later was appointed the Yamato Ichihashi Professor of Japanese History and Civilization, an endowed chair he held until his death. He lived in Palo Alto.

"Jeff virtually created the field of early Japanese history single-handedly," said Professor Carolyn Lougee Chappell, chair of the History Department.

Mass's research interests included the founding of Japan's first warrior government, the shogunate, in the 12th and 13th centuries; law and justice in Japan's early medieval era; and the evolution of inheritance and kinship practices during that period.

"He was clearly the leading historian of medieval Japan in the Western world," Duus said. "His work was innovative, and sometimes controversial, but always thoroughly grounded in documentation and deep, deep research."

Mass had published more books on pre-17th-century Japan a total of 10 than any other Western scholar. And in the United States, Mass has trained more doctoral students in the field of medieval Japanese history than anybody else, said Rosa Mass, his wife of 18 years.

"I get a lot of letters from students who felt he was a great mentor," Rosa said.

In 1987, Jeffrey Mass was appointed a visiting professor at Hertford College, Oxford University, where he spent the late spring and summer of each year. He was recently made a fellow at the college.

Mass also received a Fulbright Research Fellowship, a Mellon Fellowship and a Guggenheim Fellowship, among other fellowships.

He was also a numismatist, and his last book (scheduled to be published by Oxford University Press) is about coins and mints of 12th- and 13th-century England.

In addition to Rosa, Mass is survived by a sister, Meredith dePaulo of New Jersey; daughters Karen and Tara of New York; and stepsons Joshua Waltzer of New York and Ben Waltzer of San Francisco.

A memorial service is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Monday, April 16, in Memorial Church. Flowers in Mass’s memory may be sent to Memorial Church, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305.

A symposium in Mass's honor, "Reconstructing Medieval Japan," is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. May 5 at the Institute for International Studies in Encina Hall. For more information, call Connie Chin at the Center for East Asian Studies at (650) 723-3362.


By John Sanford

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