2021-09-26 18:16:48 Jonathan Mirsky, Journalist and Historian of China, Dies at 88

Jonathan Mirsky, Journalist and Historian of China, Dies at 88

Dr. Mirsky was able to dictate his article over the phone. The next morning, he cycled back to Tiananmen Square, where he saw soldiers shoot parents attempting to enter the square to look for missing children. He also claimed to have witnessed soldiers shooting doctors and nurses who had arrived on the scene to assist the injured. (Many Chinese scholars believe that the question of how many people were killed in the crackdown and where they died remains unresolved; estimates range from the hundreds to the thousands.)

On the day of the crackdown, “Tiananmen Square became a place of horror,” Dr. Mirsky wrote in his front-page article, “where tanks and troops fought with students and workers, where armored personnel carriers burned and blood lay in pools on the stones.”

Dr. Mirsky was named international reporter of the year at the 1989 British Press Awards for his coverage of the Tiananmen Square protests.

Jonathan Mirsky was born in Manhattan on November 14, 1932, to Alfred E. Mirsky, a prominent biochemist, and Reba Paeff Mirsky, a musician and children’s book author. He attended the Fieldston School in New York and graduated from Columbia University with a bachelor’s degree in history. He studied Mandarin at the University of Cambridge before moving to Taiwan with his wife, Betsy, in 1958 to study Chinese and Tang Dynasty history for four years.

After his first marriage ended in divorce, Dr. Mirsky married Rhona Pearson, a British neurobiologist, in 1963. He began teaching at Dartmouth College after receiving a Ph.D. in Chinese history from the University of Pennsylvania in 1966, where he was the co-director of the East Asia Language and Area Studies Center.

Dr. Mirsky was an active participant in the anti-Vietnam War protest movement as a professor. He visited Southeast Asia on several occasions and conducted lengthy interviews with North Vietnamese government officials. He took part in meetings and sit-ins, and in 1972, he and other Dartmouth faculty and students were arrested for blocking a bus carrying draftees.

Dr. Mirsky was denied tenure at Dartmouth. So he and his wife relocated to London in 1975, where he eventually became a journalist. In addition to serving as The Observer’s China correspondent, he has written for a variety of publications over the years, including The Independent and Literary Review.

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Jonathan Mirsky, Journalist and Historian of China, Dies at 88