Martin Bernal was born in London in 1937. He studied at Kings College in Cambridge, and in 1959 attended Peking University. After taking his degree he did graduate work at Cambridge, the University of California, Berkeley, and Harvard. Returning to Kings, he was elected to be a research fellow and then tutor. Opposed to the Vietnam War, he spent some months in both North and South Vietnam. In 1972, Bernal joined the Department of Government at Cornell University, where he stayed until retiring in 2001. He is the author of Chinese Socialism to 1907 (Cornell University Press, 1976), the Black Athena trilogy (Rutgers University Press, 1987, 1991, and 2006), and Black Athena Writes Back: Martin Bernal Responds to His Critics (Duke University Press, 2001).

Last Updated: April 3, 2014

Traveling Light

Martin Bernal from New York Review of Books
With the exception of Joseph Kraft’s short work, all the books on China mentioned here have been padded. Barbara Tuchman includes a fascinating historical essay. Galbraith has animadversions on San Francisco, Paris, TWA, and many other matters, and...

Who’s Who in China

Martin Bernal from New York Review of Books
Written Chinese is extremely difficult. Before the revolutions of the twentieth century, the literary language was a barrier protecting the Confucian elite. Anyone who could jump over that barrier by passing the official examinations immediately...



North Vietnam and China: Reflections on a Visit

Martin Bernal
Early this year I went to Hanoi by way of China. After spending a week in Peking I went to North Vietnam for just over a month and then returned to China, where I stayed in Changsha and Canton for two weeks. Later I spent three and a half weeks in...

How Mao Won

Martin Bernal from New York Review of Books
In response to:Was Chinese Communism Inevitable? from the December 3, 1970 issueTo the Editors:Although pleased by Martin Bernal’s laudatory reference to my piece criticizing Chalmers Johnson’s thesis concerning the reasons for the Communist triumph...

Was Chinese Communism Inevitable?

Martin Bernal from New York Review of Books
It is likely that, even now, many people in America and Britain still hold to the simple formula that people are good and communism is evil. And, just as good cannot support evil, people cannot support communism. Therefore any political movement...

Mao and the Writers

Martin Bernal from New York Review of Books
By the 1930s the intolerable quality of life and the inefficiency, corruption, and conservatism of the Kuomintang had driven nearly every serious creative writer in China to the Left. Most turned toward some form of Marxism, which not only offered...

A Mao for All Seasons

Martin Bernal from New York Review of Books
{vertical_photo_right}A psychologist and an expert on the Far East, Mr. Lifton believes that the most fruitful way to look at Mao Tse-tung and the Cultural Revolution is to combine the investigation of psychological motives with historical analysis...


Martin Bernal from New York Review of Books
Mr. Pye is disarming and sensible in his description of his method. From the start he makes it clear that The Spirit of Chinese Politics is an “interpretive and largely speculative essay.” He refuses to cite specific examples to strengthen his case...

Puritanism Chinese-Style

Martin Bernal from New York Review of Books
Specialists in the USSR and East Europe have both helped and hindered modern Chinese studies. Many scholars such as Benjamin Schwartz came to the serious interpretation of Chinese Communism from Slavic studies. On the other hand, less sensitive East...

Chinese Checkers

Martin Bernal from New York Review of Books
In Response to:Contradictions from the July 7, 1966 issueTo the Editors:Martin Bernal in his review [July 7] describes Franz Schurmann’s brilliant new book Ideology and Organization in Communist China as “easily the most provocative work…yet seen on...


Martin Bernal from New York Review of Books
Professor Schurmann is not modest. Near the beginning of his book he writes: “translations from Chinese, Russian and Japanese are my own, and hundreds of articles had to be read in the original Chinese with precision and at the same time extensively...

Down There on a Visit

Martin Bernal from New York Review of Books
In many ways this is the book that everybody interested in China has been waiting for, a book describing what it feels like to be a peasant living through the Chinese Revolution. In the summer of 1962 Jan Myrdal, the thirty-year-old son of the...