LSE has had an active engagement with Asia since its inception. Beatrice and Sidney Webb, two of the founders of LSE, went on a tour of the world, including India, in 1898. They travelled through Asia again in 1911-12, visiting Japan, Korea, China, Malaya, Burma and India.
Substantive academic links between LSE and Asia have developed over this past century. Through its history LSE has had a special role and influence in the wider community in Asia. Several LSE alumni have gone on to become key leaders in their own countries. We have continuously engaged with policy-makers and the academic community in Asia.
The Asia Research Centre was established at the LSE in 1997. LSE has always pursued its objectives to understand and improve society through impartial study, on a global basis. The current and future importance of Asia with regard to the challenges and opportunities facing humanity in the 21st Century cannot be overstated.
The Centre was conceived by two former Directors of the School, Dr John Ashworth and Dr IG Patel in recognition of the growing engagement between LSE and Asia. Professor Michael Leifer was the first Director and the Asia Research Centre is currently chaired by Professor Lord Nicholas Stern, who was also involved with the Centre's creation. Sir Howard Davies, former director of LSE, has been actively involved with China and the Chinese banking system.
The key role of the Asia Research Centre is to be a central hub of the LSE to foster Asia related research and activities across the School. The Centre is inter-disciplinary and facilitates collaborative research between academics across the LSE with partners in Asia and beyond. The Centre works in developing and promoting intellectual engagement between academics, policy makers and businesses with an interest in Asia.
Summary provided by Michael Yahuda, Professor Emeritus, London School of Economics Visiting Scholar, Sigur Center of Asian Studies Elliott School for International Affairs George Washington University.
Founding Director Professor Michael Leifer
Professor Michael Leifer, the founder and first director of the LSE's Asia Research Centre, was one of the world's leading authorities on Asia and especially on Southeast Asia. He was a teacher of international repute and, in a career spanning more than forty years, he had taught and supervised many of the people who subsequently became leading figures in business, politics and contemporary scholarship throughout Southeast Asia. He had published and edited more than twenty books and innumerable scholarly articles and book chapters on all the themes of political importance in Southeast Asia. Leifer professed International Relations, but he was also an expert on the politics and social developments of the countries of the region. Professor Leifer brought to the Centre his enormous prestige as a scholar and a teacher.
Michael Leifer had a wide range of connections in Asia, the UK, Europe and the USA and he was able to draw on them in support of the Centre especially in its crucial early days. Possessed of great charm and a wonderfully sharp sense of humour, Michael Leifer was able to draw on the large range of expertise on Asia within the School, even though the experts were dispersed among the different academic disciplines. One of the features of his leadership was to persuade colleagues to offer seminars on themes of general interest, which he then collected and edited as books. The Centre also benefitted from Michael Leifer's great administrative skills and experience. He had served as Pro-Director of the School for four years - the highest office open to academics. Prior to that he had also been Convenor of the International Relations Department for three years.
The appeal of Michael Leifer spanned the generations and those tied to different schools of thought. Although he had his own well thought out approach to the study of Politics and International Relations, on which he would not waver, he was always willing to encourage students and junior colleagues who followed different schools of thought. At the same time he relished intellectual argument with the great and with his own students. Although he established the Centre in the last few years of his life, he was unstinting in his enthusiasm for it and in the work he put into making it an important Centre within the School and the wider world.