Pamela Kyle Crossley

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Pamela Kyle Crossley (born 18 November 1955) is an historian of modern China, northern Asia, and global history. She is author of The Wobbling Pivot: China since 1800: An Interpretive History (2010), as well as influential studies of the Qing dynasty (1644–1911) and leading textbooks in global history. Crossley is known for an interpretation of the source of twentieth-century identities. In her view overland conquest by the great empires of early modern Eurasia produced a special form of rulership which gave high priority to the institutionalization of cultural identity. Crossley suggests that these concepts were encoded in political practice and academic discourse on "nationalism," and prevailed till the end of the twentieth century.


Crossley was born in Lima, Ohio, and attended high school in Emmaus, Pennsylvania. After leaving high school she worked as an editorial assistant and writer on environmental subjects for Rodale Press. In 1977 she graduated from Swarthmore College, where she was editor-in-chief of The Phoenix; her fellow students included David C. Page, Robert Zoellick, Ben Brantley, Wing Thye Woo, Robert P. George, Jacqueline Carey and David G. Bradley. At Swarthmore she was a student of Lilliam M. Li and Bruce Cumings, and as an undergraduate began graduate study at the University of Pennsylvania with Hilary Conroy. She later entered Yale University, where she was a student of Yu Ying-shih and Parker Po-fei Huang, and wrote a dissertation under the direction of Jonathan D. Spence. She joined the Dartmouth College faculty in Hanover, New Hampshire, in 1985. She holds the Robert 1932 and Barbara Black chair in Asian Studies and is a Professor of History in the Department of History. After David Farquhar, Gertraude Roth Li, and Beatrice S. Bartlett, Crossley was among the first scholars writing in English to use Manchu-language documents to research the history of the Qing Empire. More specialists subsequently adopted this practice. Crossley is a Guggenheim fellow, an NEH fellow (2011–2012) and a recipient of the Association for Asian Studies Joseph R. Levenson Prize for A Translucent Mirror. Dartmouth students have given her the Goldstein Prize for teaching. [1] Crossley resides in Norwich, Vermont.[2]


Most recently Crossley has published The Wobbling Pivot: China Since 1800, An Intrepretive History which takes the resilience and coherence of local communities in China as a theme for interpreting the transition from the late imperial to the modern era. Crossley's previous books are What is Global History? (Polity Press, 2008), an examination of narrative strategies in global history that joins a new series of short introductory books inspired by E.H. Carr's What is History?. Crossley's books on Chinese history include Orphan Warriors: Three Manchu Generations and the End of the Qing World (Princeton University Press, 1990); The Manchus (Blackwells Publishers, 1997); A Translucent Mirror: History and Identity in Qing Imperial Ideology (University of California Press, 1999). She is also a co-author of the best-selling global history textbooks, The Earth and its Peoples (Houghton Mifflin, 5th edition, 2009) and Global Society: The World since 1900 (Houghton Mifflin, 2nd edition, 2007). Her work has appeared in two separate series of the Cambridge histories. She is widely published both in academic journals and in periodicals such as Wall Street Journal, The New York Times Literary Supplement, The New Republic, Royal Academy Magazine, Far Eastern Economic Review, Calliope, and in the online editorial spaces of the BBC. She has participated in A&E's "In Search of..." series ("The Forbidden City"). In January 2012 the new educational platform The Faculty Project announced that Crossley would produce a video course on Modern China for their site.[3] Unusually, Crossley maintains an errata page for her publications, including exchanges with translators.[4]

"Qing Studies" and "New Qing History"[edit]

Crossley is noted for her work in what has been called either New Qing History or Qing Studies, which argue that the Qing empire was not "sinicized," but combined Chinese values with those of Northeast Asia and Mongolia. She pointed out that Manchu language, religion, documents, and customs remained of great importance to the Qing until the middle nineteenth century. She disagreed with earlier scholars that Manchus had been" sinicized," but she did not argue that Manchu culture in modern China was the traditional culture of Manchuria. Rather, it was a new culture of individual Manchu communities in China, what she called "the sense of difference that has no outward sign"[5]

Crossley's book Orphan Warriors was the first book to present a revisionist interpretation of the history of the Manchus under the Qing dynasty. Many historians such as Joanna Waley-Cohen have named Crossley as related to the "New Qing History" school. In publications in Korea and China since 2008 Crossley has written that there are two trends that are often conflated, one a "Manchu-centered" school and another group who view the Qing empire as a "historical object" in its own right (not a phase in Chinese history). She criticized the "Manchu-centered" school for romanticism and a reliance upon disproved theories about "Altaic" language and history. On the other hand she seems to have included herself in the Qing empire school, which she calls "Qing Studies."[6] She sees the Qing empire not as a Manchu empire but as a "simultaneous" system in which the rulership is not subordinate to any single culture, not even Chinese. William T. Rowe's book China's Last Empire: The Great Qing'' (2009) describes Crossley as the "pioneer" of these new ways of thinking about Qing history. Earlier, political commentator Charles Horner pointed to Crossley as one of the most important current historians in the reconceptualization of the Qing period and its significance.[7]

Global history[edit]

Crossley was a co-author of The Earth and its Peoples, which was a revolutionary text in 1997. She was invited to write What is Global History? in a Polity Press series of short texts introducing historical genres to undergraduates. It is a study of "narrative strategies" used by historians from many cultures, over history, to attempt to tell "a story without a center," which Crossley regards as the defining quality of "global history." In her own research work in the field of world or global history Crossley is known primarily for arguing, in agreement with a certain number of other historians of China, that not only material but also cultural and political trends produced an "early modern" period across Eurasia from about 1500 to about 1800. She has commented that while a Eurasian chronology that could be used for teaching is possible (as in the example of early modernity), it is not "global" since it would bring together Chinese and European history but isolate the histories of Africa, Australia, and North and South America.

Software development[edit]

Crossley is a software author, and has created applications for use by teachers, professors, community organizers to manage web pages. The free applications are specially designed for display of all "horizontally-written" scripts, and integrate functions needed for instant web page management. A widely used app aids students in study and memorization of the Chinese classic Daxue 大學. Other software makes this famous reference work Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period used by students who do not know the Wade–Giles system accessible, and also integrates to Harvard University GIS database. It is available to the public (link) both as a web interface and as a desktop internet application.


  1. ^ Curriculum Vitae
  2. ^ "Kenneth C. Crossley". The Morning Call (Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania). July 18, 2006. Retrieved 2011-12-24.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  3. ^ The Faculty Project
  4. ^
  5. ^ Orphan Warriors: Three Manchu Generations and the End of the Qing World, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990, p.267.
  6. ^ “A Reserved View of the New Qing History,” see above.
  7. ^ Charles Horner, "China and the Historians" in The National Interest, Spring 2001

External links[edit]