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Sidney DeVere Brown Papers

Identifier: COU:253

Scope and Contents

The Sidney D. Brown Collection is divided into two series, containing Brown’s papers and some textbooks.

I. PAPERS contains correspondence written by Brown about his time at the Japanese Language School, with both excerpts from letters to his family written during his studies from 1944 to 1946, and a letter written in 2000 reminiscing about his experiences; draft book chapters from his memoirs; his curriculum vitae as of May 2000; and handouts and readers he used to learn Japanese.

II. BOOKS contains some of Brown’s textbooks from the JLS.


  • Creation: 1944 - 2000

Biographical Note

Sidney DeVere Brown was born on January 29, 1925, near Douglass, Kansas. Born and raised a farm boy, he grew up on a wheat and cattle farm before graduating from Augusta High School in 1941. Although he began undergraduate education at private liberal arts school Southwestern College in Winfield, World War II interrupted his efforts, and he entered the US Navy in 1943.

He was assigned to the U.S. Naval Oriental Languages School in October of 1944, and was placed in the Japanese program despite initially expressing a preference for Russian. He would later remark in a letter that he would have never considered Japanese history had he not gone to the JLS, but his time there set the course for a distinguished academic career. After his naval service ended in 1946, he received an A.B. in history from Southwestern College in 1947 and continued on to graduate education at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He received his history in 1952.

From 1952 to 1971, Brown was a professor of history at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, before moving to Norman to an appointment at the history department of the University of Oklahoma. He retired in 1995, when he was named Professor Emeritus. He taught many courses in East Asian history, including the full year course in Japanese history, and special courses on China, Korea, and Southeast Asia. He was among the first to write about the Meiji Restoration of 1868, and the leading American expert on reform leaders Kido Takayoshi and Okubo Toshimichi. He was a three-time research fellow at Tokyo University, lectured at Harvard and Princeton, and had year-long visiting professorships and shorter teaching engagements at a number of other American universities. Additionally, he took part in symposiums at the Iwakura Mission Society in Tokyo, the University of Sheffield, and Hokkaido University.

In 1986, the Japan Translators Association in Tokyo awarded him the Japan Cultural Translation Prize for his three-volume biography and translation of the diary of Kido Takayoshi. In 2000 he was elected to the Oklahoma Higher Education Hall of Fame, and Southwestern College admitted him to its Scholars Hall of Fame in 2004. In 1999, he received the Jackson and Caroline Bailey Public Service Award of the Midwest Conference on Asian Affairs.

Brown married Ruth Esther Murray in 1948, and their four children all grew up to earn doctorates. He enjoyed jazz music, Will Rogers, and OU sports, and was a member of the Lions Club and the Norman Singers.

On December 8, 2010, Brown died at his home in Norman after a long illness.


.75 linear feet (2 boxes)

Language of Materials



This collection contains materials from Dr. Sidney D. Brown (1925-2010), a graduate of the U.S. Navy Japanese/Oriental Languages School and WWII Navy Japanese Language Officer, as well as a professor of Japanese history at the University of Oklahoma. The collection contains correspondence about his time at the USN JLS/OLS, draft copies of book chapters he wrote, and some of his USN JLS/OLS educational materials.


This collection is arranged into the following series: I. CORRESPONDENCE AND MANUSCRIPTS II. PUBLICATIONS

Physical Location

A46 E7

Samantha Audsley, May 2012
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Colorado Boulder Libraries, Rare and Distinctive Collections Repository

1720 Pleasant Street
184 UCB
Boulder Colorado 80503 United States