Valerie Hansen

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Valerie Hansen
Alma materHarvard University
University of Pennsylvania
OccupationProfessor, historian, author

Valerie Hansen is an American professor, historian and author.[1] She is the author of the book The Silk Road: A New History, published in 2012; and she currently teaches Chinese and world history at Yale University, where she is professor of history.

Career and books[edit]

After graduating from Harvard University in 1979 and receiving her doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania in 1987, she joined Yale University in 1988 as assistant professor and became a professor in 1998. Hansen spent one year in Shanghai on a Fulbright grant from 2005–06; 2008–09 and 2011–12, teaching at Yale's joint undergraduate program with Peking University; and fall semester 2015 teaching at Yale-NUS college in Singapore.[2] Her current research examines the interconnected world of the year 1000. At Yale, she teaches History of Traditional China, The History of World History, and seminars on Silk Road history.[3]

Hansen's first book was Changing Gods in Medieval China, 1127-1279, which was published in 1990. Her second book, Negotiating Daily Life in Traditional China, 600-1400, appeared in 1995. In 2000, she published, The Open Empire. A second edition of the book was published in 2015. The book argues, contrary to the widespread view that no outsiders ever influenced traditional China, that Indian Buddhists and northern nomadic peoples shaped traditional China throughout its long history.[4]

In 2012, Hansen wrote the book, The Silk Road: A New History, which weighs archeologically excavated documents and artifacts to argue that the Silk Road trade was small-scale and usually involved local goods.[5] The book received positive reviews from critics with Library Journal writing that it is “an impressively well-researched book exploring the documentation of many different cultures and people along the many routes known as the Silk Road.”[6] The New York Journal of Books wrote that “the Silk Road is part geographical mystery tour, village economic base reconstruction, invention and innovation history...”[7] and Publishers Weekly wrote that the book “presents an erudite, scholarly look at artifacts as diverse as Buddhist sutras, ancient bills of sale, and even petrified dumplings, placing each in its proper context and building a detailed historical record drawing heavily on primary sources”.[8]

In April 2020, Simon & Schuster published The Year 1000: When Explorers Connected the World—and Globalization Began.


  • Changing Gods in Medieval China, 1127-1279 (1990) ISBN 978-0691608631
  • Negotiating Daily Life in Traditional China (1995) ISBN 978-0300060638
  • The Silk Road: A New History (2012) ISBN 978-0190218423
  • The Open Empire: A History of China to 1600 (2000) ISBN 978-1111352332
  • Voyages in World History (co-authored with Kenneth R. Curtis)
    • First Edition (2005)
    • Second Edition (2008)
    • Third Edition (2015)
  • The Year 1000: When Explorers Connected the World—and Globalization Began (2020)

Awards and honors[edit]

  • 2013 - Gustav Ranis International Book Prize, co-winner, for the best book on an international subject by a member of the Yale University faculty[9]
  • 2013 - International Convention of Asia Scholars Book Prize Reading Committee Accolade for the best teaching tool in the Humanities[10]