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Bertram, James M. (1910-1993)



  • Existence: 1910 - 1993


James Munro Bertram (August 11, 1910-August 24, 1993) was a New Zealand Rhodes scholar, journalist, writer, relief worker, prisoner of war, and university professor. He married Jean Ellen Stevenson, an editor with the New Zealand Listener, in 1949.

Bertram's journalism career began in January 1936, when he arrived in what is now Beijing on a Rhodes Trust travelling fellowship. He studied Chinese at Yenching University and met international journalist Edgar Snow, a journalism instructor at the university. He would later co-found the English language journal Democracy with Snow in Beijing.

From 1936 to 1940, Bertram reported on the Xi'an Incident and the North China Front, and interviewed Mao Zedong at Mao's home base in Yan'an. He carried out aid work from Hong Kong with the China Defence League under Madame Sun Yat-sen Soong Ching-ling.

Bertram spent two years in Hong Kong as a prisoner-of-war after being captured by the Japanese as a volunteer gunner in December 1941. He had assisted Madame Sun Yat-sen and her sister evacuate Hong Kong hours before it fell to the Japanese. He then spent two more years at a prisoner-of-war camp in the Omori camp in Tokyo Bay. He would be released after the Japanese surrender in 1945. He would later return to the Omori camp in 1946, with the Far Eastern Commission, to participate in the camp's demolition. He would write about his experience during the Second World War and Japanese prisoner-of-war camps in his book The Shadow of a War: a New Zealander in the Far East, 1939-1946.

Post-world-war, Bertram obtained a senior lectureship in English at Victoria University College, Wellington, where he taught until his retirement in 1975. He advocated for Asian Studies and strongly supported New Zealand literature. He would return to China to visit in 1956 and 1986.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

James Bertram Papers

Identifier: KC-19-39
Scope and Contents This material was donated by James Bertram through Robert Farnsworth in November 1987.The first folder consists of correspondence between James Bertram and Edgar Snow, and correspondence between Edgar and Lois Snow and Bertram, discussing Snow's immediate family; current and future publications; Chinese, U.S., and world issues; travel to China; and Snow's BBC film. The correspondence includes a leaflet for the film. The second folder consists of correspondence between Bertram and...
Dates: 1952-1975, 1988