Pamela Kyle Crossley

Last updated

Pamela Kyle Crossley (born 18 November 1955) is a historian of modern China, northern Asia, and global history and holds the Charles and Elfriede Collis Professor of History, Dartmouth College. [1] She is a founding appointment of the Dartmouth Society of Fellows.


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 Lillian 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. 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 Levenson Book Prize for A Translucent Mirror. Dartmouth students have given her the Goldstein Prize for teaching. [2] Crossley resides in Norwich, Vermont. [3]


Most recently Crossley has published The Wobbling Pivot: China Since 1800, An Interpretive 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 London Review of Books, 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. [4] Unusually, Crossley maintains an errata page for her publications, including exchanges with translators. [5]

"Qing Studies," "New Qing History" and criticism by Chinese Academy of Social Sciences

Crossley is noted for her work in what has been called either New Qing History or Qing Studies, which has come under attack by Chinese scholars associated with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Crossley pointed out that Manchu language, religion, documents, and customs remained of great importance to the Qing until the middle nineteenth century. Her book Orphan Warriors was the first to develop a sustained critique of conventional assumptions of "sinicization." She agreed that assimilation and acculturation were part of China's history, but considered "sinicization" to be something that historians had imbued with a charismatic quality with no basis in fact. 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". [6]

Many historians such as Joanna Waley-Cohen have named Crossley as related to the "New Qing History" school. William T. Rowe of Johns Hopkins University describes Crossley as the "pioneer" of these new ways of thinking about Qing history." [7] 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, which he did not refer to as "New Qing History.". [8]

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 only a phase in Chinese history). She criticized the "Manchu-centered" school for romanticism and relying on disproved theories about "Altaic" language, culture and history. She also argued that the analyses used by the group called "New Qing Historians" by Waley-Cohen and later popular with Chinese historians were various and conflicting, and that "New Qing History" as a "school" could not reasonably be extended beyond the small group who actually called themselves writers of "New Qing History." On the other hand, she seems to have included herself in the Qing empire school, which she calls "Qing Studies." [9] She sees the Qing empire not as a Manchu empire but as a "simultaneous" system (like many other historical empires) in which the emperor is not subordinate to any single culture.

Of Crossley's books, only What is Global History? has been successfully translated and published in China. On April 20, 2015, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences published a criticism by historian Li Zhiting [10] of historians he called a "New Qing History" faction, accusing former Association for Asian Studies President Evelyn Rawski, Crossley, Mark C. Elliott and James A. Millward personally as being apologists for imperialism, producing fraudulent history and encouraging "splittism" in border areas. This followed Internet criticism by Chinese posters of Crossley's 2011 editorial in the Wall Street Journal, in which she contrasted the international foundations of the 1911 revolution in China with the narrow nationalism of the hundred-year celebration in 2011. Possibly Li Zhiting used some criticisms that Crossley herself had written in a 2008 essay [11] which was translated into both Korean and Chinese in 2009 and 2010. The criticisms by Li were followed by an interview with associate professor Zhong Han (Minzu University) in the same CASS online journal, severely attacking [12] both Crossley personally and her work. In a subsequent essay Zhong continued his attack on Crossley, citing errors in an article of hers that had been translated into Chinese. Crossley maintains a voluminous errata site linked to her faculty page since 1995; in a tweet, she pointed out that Zhong had missed the "good stuff" and recommended that he visit the page. Subsequently, Liu Wenpeng denounced the concept of "Inner Asia" as used by "New Qing" historians, apparently following Crossley's 2009 discussion of the history of the Inner Asian term. [9] Criticism of Crossley, Rawski and "New Qing" historians, particularly Elliott and Millward, continues in the Chinese press, possibly reinforcing campaigns against "Western culture" encouraged by the current Chinese government. Crossley was quoted in Kyodo New Service as saying, "We are not the targets," and that Chinese historians using non-Chinese documents and dealing with the history of Qing empire conquests were the real targets. [13]

Global history

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

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.

Related Research Articles

Qing dynasty Former empire in Eastern Asia, last imperial regime of China

The Qing dynasty, officially the Great Qing, was the last imperial dynasty of China. It was established in 1636, and ruled China proper from 1644 to 1912. It was preceded by the Ming dynasty and succeeded by the Republic of China. The multiethnic Qing empire lasted for almost three centuries and formed the territorial base for modern China. It was the fourth largest empire in world history in terms of territorial size.

The Manchu are an ethnic minority in China and the people from whom Manchuria derives its name. They are sometimes called "red-tasseled Manchus", a reference to the ornamentation on traditional Manchu hats. The Later Jin (1616–1636) and Qing dynasty (1636–1912) were established and ruled by Manchus, who are descended from the Jurchen people who earlier established the Jin dynasty (1115–1234) in China.

Manchu is a critically endangered East Asian Tungusic language native to the historical region of Manchuria in Northeast China. As the traditional native language of the Manchus, it was one of the official languages of the Qing dynasty (1636–1912) of China and in Inner Asia, though today the vast majority of Manchus now speak only Mandarin Chinese. Now, several thousand can speak Manchu as a second language through governmental primary education or free classes for adults in classrooms or online.

Sinicization, sinofication, sinification, or sinonization is the process by which non-Chinese societies come under the influence of Chinese culture, particularly Han-Chinese culture, language, societal norms, and ethnic identity.

Aisin Gioro

Aisin Gioro was the Manchu ruling clan of the Later Jin dynasty (1616–1636), the Qing dynasty (1636–1912) and nominally Manchukuo (1932–1945). The House of Aisin Gioro ruled China proper from 1644 to the Xinhai Revolution (1911–1912), which established a republican government in its place. The term comes from aisin, which means "gold" in the Manchu language, and gioro, which is the surname/family-clan name of the Aisin Gioro's ancestral home in present-day Yilan, Heilongjiang Province. In Manchu traditions, families are identified first by their hala (哈拉), which is their family or clan name, and then by mukūn (穆昆) which is the more detailed classification and typically refers to individual families. In the case of Aisin Gioro, Aisin is the mukūn, and Gioro is the hala. Other members of the Gioro clan include Irgen Gioro (伊爾根覺羅), Šušu Gioro (舒舒覺羅) and Sirin Gioro (西林覺羅).

The Jianzhou Jurchens were one of the three major groups of Jurchens as identified by the Ming dynasty. Although the geographic location of the Jianzhou Jurchens has changed throughout history, during the 14th century they were located south of the Wild Jurchens and the Haixi Jurchens, inhabiting modern-day Liaoning province and Jilin province in China. The Jianzhou Jurchens were known to possess an abundant supply of natural resources. They also possessed industrial secrets, particularly in processing ginseng and the dyeing of cloth. They were powerful due to their proximity to Ming trading towns such as Fushun, Kaiyuan, and Tieling in Liaodong, and to Manpojin camp on the Korean border.

Joanna Waley-Cohen is the Provost for New York University Shanghai and Silver Professor of History at New York University, where she has taught Chinese history since 1992. As Provost, she serves as NYU Shanghai's chief academic officer, setting the university's academic strategy and priorities, and overseeing academic appointments, research, and faculty affairs.

Nian Rebellion Armed rebellion in Northern China from 1851 to 1868

The Nian Rebellion was an armed uprising that took place in northern China from 1851 to 1868, contemporaneously with Taiping Rebellion (1851–1864) in South China. The rebellion failed to topple the Qing dynasty, but caused immense economic devastation and loss of life that became major long-term factors in the collapse of the Qing regime in the early 20th century.

Hūlun was a powerful alliance of Jurchen tribes in the late 16th century, based primarily in what is today Jilin province of China.

De-Sinicization is the elimination of Chinese cultural elements or identity, in contrast to the assimilation process of Sinicization.

A conquest dynasty in the history of imperial China refers to a dynasty established by non-Han peoples that ruled parts or all of the China proper, most notably the Mongol-founded Yuan dynasty and the Manchu-founded Qing dynasty.

Ping-ti Ho or Bingdi He, who also wrote under the name P.T. Ho, was a Chinese-American historian. He wrote widely on China's history, including works on demography, plant history, ancient archaeology, and contemporary events. He taught at University of Chicago for most of his career, and was President of the Association for Asian Studies in 1975, the first scholar of Asian descent to have that honor.

Mark C. Elliott is the Mark Schwartz Professor of Chinese and Inner Asian History at Harvard University, where he is Vice Provost for International Affairs. He is also one of the scholars who form part of the school called the New Qing History.

Shamanism was the dominant religion of the Jurchen people of northeast Asia and of their descendants, the Manchu people. As early as the Jin dynasty (1111–1234), the Jurchens conducted shamanic ceremonies at shrines called tangse. There were two kinds of shamans: those who entered in a trance and let themselves be possessed by the spirits, and those who conducted regular sacrifices to heaven, to a clan's ancestors, or to the clan's protective spirits.

Military of the Qing dynasty Historical military force

The Qing dynasty (1636–1912) was established by conquest and maintained by armed force. The founding emperors personally organized and led the armies, and the continued cultural and political legitimacy of the dynasty depended on the ability to defend the country from invasion and expand its territory. Therefore, military institutions, leadership, and finance were fundamental to the dynasty's initial success and ultimate decay. The early military system centered on the Eight Banners, a hybrid institution that also played social, economic, and political roles. The Banner system was developed on an informal basis as early as 1601, and formally established in 1615 by Jurchen leader Nurhaci (1559–1626), the retrospectively recognized founder of the Qing. His son Hong Taiji (1592–1643), who renamed the Jurchens "Manchus," created eight Mongol banners to mirror the Manchu ones and eight "Han-martial" banners manned by Chinese who surrendered to the Qing before the full-fledged conquest of China proper began in 1644. After 1644, the Ming Chinese troops that surrendered to the Qing were integrated into the Green Standard Army, a corps that eventually outnumbered the Banners by three to one.

Dzungar genocide

The Dzungar genocide was the mass extermination of the Mongol Dzungar people, at the hands of the Qing dynasty. The Qianlong Emperor ordered the genocide due to the rebellion in 1755 by Dzungar leader Amursana against Qing rule, after the dynasty first conquered the Dzungar Khanate with Amursana's support. The genocide was perpetrated by Manchu generals of the Qing army sent to crush the Dzungars, supported by Uyghur allies and vassals due to the Uyghur revolt against Dzungar rule.

Anti-Mongolian sentiment has been prevalent throughout history, often perceiving the Mongols to be a barbaric and uncivilized people.

The New Qing History is a historiographical school that gained prominence in the United States in the mid-1990s by offering a wide-ranging revision of history of the Manchu Qing dynasty. Earlier historians had emphasized the power of Han Chinese to “sinicize” their conquerors, that is, to assimilate and make them Chinese in their thought and institutions. In the 1980s and early 1990s, American scholars began to learn Manchu and took advantage of newly opened Chinese- and Manchu-language archives. This research found that the Manchu rulers were savvy in manipulating their subjects and from the 1630s through at least the 18th century, emperors developed a sense of Manchu identity and used Central Asian models of rule as much as they did Confucian ones. According to some scholars, at the height of their power, the Qing regarded "China" as only a part, although a very important part, of a much wider empire that extended into the Inner Asian territories of Mongolia, Tibet, the Northeast and Xinjiang, or Chinese (Eastern) Turkestan.

Evelyn Sakakida Rawski is Distinguished University Professor in the Department of History of the University of Pittsburgh and a scholar in Chinese and Inner Asian history. She was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, United States of Japanese-American ancestry. She served as president of the Association for Asian Studies in 1995–1996.

Xinjiang under Qing rule Historical period

The Qing dynasty ruled over Xinjiang from the late 1750s to 1912. In the history of Xinjiang, the Qing rule was established in the final phase of the Dzungar–Qing Wars when the Dzungar Khanate was conquered by the Manchu-led Qing dynasty of China, and lasted until the fall of the Qing dynasty in 1912. The post of General of Ili was established to govern the whole of Xinjiang and reported to the Lifan Yuan, a Qing government agency that oversaw the empire's frontier regions. Xinjiang was turned into a province in 1884.


Who's Who in America

  1. Pamela Crossley Department of History, Dartmouth College.
  2. "Curriculum Vitae" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-10-06. Retrieved 2014-10-05.
  3. "Kenneth C. Crossley Obituary". The Morning Call. Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania. July 18, 2006. Retrieved 2011-12-24.
  4. The Faculty Project
  5. "Crossley ERRATA".
  6. Orphan Warriors: Three Manchu Generations and the End of the Qing World, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990, p.267.
  7. Rowe, William T. (2009). China's Last Empire: The Great Qing. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. ISBN   9780674036123., p. 195.
  8. Charles Horner, "China and the Historians" The National Interest, Spring 2001
  9. 1 2 Crossley, Pamela Kyle, The Influence of Altaicism on East Asian Studies," Proceedings of the 20098 Berkelley-KU Forum on East Asian Cultural Studies: Toward A New Paradigm in East Asian Cultural Studies, June 24–29, Seoul, South Korea,
  10. Li Zhiting criticism of "New Qing History"'
  11. "The Influence of Altaicism," above.
  12. ""新清史"学派的着力点在于话语构建-中国社会科学网".
  13. "U.S. Scholars in Crosshairs over Interpretation of China History"