Michael Murdock’s interest in Asia began ordinarily enough as an extension of his mission to Taiwan. While at BYU, Murdock double-majored in Chinese and Asian Studies. The real turning point in his academic career took place while he pursued a master’s in international and area studies at the Kennedy Center. While there, he was offered a unique opportunity to study modern Chinese history at Cheng-chi University in Taipei; his son was born during that study period in China.
Murdock asserted, “That experience at Chen-chi paved the way” to his doctoral studies in history at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. “Studying history at a Chinese university and my Kennedy Center MA set me apart from other applicants and got me accepted into graduate school. Without my Kennedy Center experience, my academic career would have definitely gone a completely different direction. It also gave me a first-rate chance to work closely with wonderful, committed mentors in Paul and Eric Hyer, Valerie Hudson, and Samuel Chao (no longer at the university). Those relationships continue today,” Murdock added.
After teaching stints at Bowling Green State in Ohio, Michigan State in Lansing, and the Dearborn campus of the University of Michigan, Murdock accepted an opportunity to return to BYU in the history department. Rating his job satisfaction as high, he also admitted the pressure to publish is extraordinary, but he appreciates the challenge.
He said it helps that he knew coming in that the expectations were high. “BYU is pushing to accelerate its scholarly contribution; because we are all under the same pressure to publish, solidarity develops, especially among the newer faculty.”
In August 2000, Murdock brought back a stack of materials on the Nationalist Revolution, missionary institutions, and the rise of nationalism in China from government archives in Taiwan. “During the 1920s, missionary educators in Christian schools taught China’s youth to appreciate liberal democracy, sympathy for the West, and Christian values. China’s revolutionaries felt threatened by this agenda, because it competed with their own vision of close Russian ties, strong centralized authority, and an anti-imperialist (or anti-West) China.
“As a result, they worked to turn Chinese students in Christian schools against their missionary teachers and administrators. Since the missionaries refused to suppress their own students, they had no choice but to submit to the revolutionary government. Significantly, the revolutionary tactic worked against Christians but not other foreign educators. For example, when revolutionaries incited students to demonstrate against Japanese schools in the north, Japanese and warlord troops crushed the demonstrators. Missionary schools proved a perfect revolutionary target because they refused to employ force. Therefore, in a few years most Christian schools had become subject to revolutionary control,” he elaborated.
Murdock’s research will culminate in a book.