Richard von Glahn

Fellow: Awarded 2013

Field of Study: East Asian Studies

Competition: US & Canada


Currently I am Professor of History at the University of California, Los Angeles. Trained in middle imperial (Tang-Song) Chinese history at UC Berkeley and Yale, I taught briefly at the University of Rochester and Connecticut College before joining the history faculty at UCLA in 1987, where I teach courses in Chinese history and world history and direct the program in world history.

My interests in China and in history were initially stimulated by my undergraduate teachers at Connecticut College, notably Charles Chu and Thomas R. H. Havens. After completing a B.A. in Chinese and History at Connecticut, I began graduate study in Chinese history at UC Berkeley, where I earned an M.A. degree, before continuing my Ph.D. studies at Yale. At Berkeley I had the good fortune to study with Robert M. Hartwell, whose pioneering research in the economic history of the Song dynasty (960–1276) has been a recurrent source of inspiration for my own scholarly work. While conducting dissertation research in Japan with the support of a Fulbright Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship, I benefited enormously from the tutelage of Shiba Yoshinobu, then at Osaka University and now director emeritus of the Toyo Bunko in Tokyo, a mentorship that has continued throughout my career. My dissertation, a study of frontier expansion and economic change in southwestern China during the Song dynasty, was awarded the John Addison Porter Prize by the Yale Graduate School and subsequently was published as The Country of Streams and Grottoes: Expansion, Settlement, and the Civilizing of the Sichuan Frontier in Song Times (Harvard, 1987).

Since arriving at UCLA my scholarly agenda has been shaped by my close association with UC colleagues. Through UCLA’s Von Gremp seminar in economic history—and especially thanks to the steady support and encouragement of my dear friend, the late Ken Sokoloff—and my long fellowship with the “California School” of economic history, I began to situate my study of Chinese monetary and economic history within broader theoretical and world-historical perspectives. Among the fruits of this research was my second monograph, Fountain of Fortune: Money and Monetary Policy in China, 1000–1700 (California, 1996), and the volume Monetary History in Global Perspective, 1470–1800 (Ashgate, 2003), co-edited with Dennis Flynn and Arturo Giráldez. Apart from my work in economic history, I have also pursued research on a wide range of issues in Chinese history with particular attention to the dynamics of long-term social, economic, and cultural change. This work has resulted in another monograph, The Sinister Way: The Divine and the Demonic in Chinese Religious Culture (California, 2004), and a volume of essays, The Song-Yuan-Ming Transition in Chinese History (Harvard, 2003), co-edited with Paul Jakov Smith.

I was a member of the inaugural group that launched the world history program at UCLA in 1995, and I have continued to teach world history as well as serving as the coordinator for UCLA’s world history program since 1999. During this time I was also actively involved in the creation of the University of California’s Multi-Campus Research Group in World History. This engagement with world history has borne fruit in the form of a recently published world history textbook, Crossroads and Cultures: A History of the World (Bedford/St. Martin’s Press, 2012), that I co-authored with Bonnie Smith, Marc van de Mieroop, and Kris Lane. I also have taken an active role in organizations such as the World Economic History Congress, the Asian Association of World History, and the Asian Historical Economics Congress.

I have received a number of major grants to support my research, including fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies (1988–1989), the Committee for Scholarly Communication with the People’s Republic of China of the National Academy of Sciences (1991–1992), and (twice) the National Endowment for the Humanities (1996–1997 and 2010–2011). During 2009–2011 I served as President of the Western Branch of the American Oriental Society.

During the tenure of my Guggenheim Fellowship I will complete my current book project, The Economic History of China from Antiquity to the Nineteenth Century, which will be the first comprehensive book-length analysis of Chinese economic history over the entire premodern era not only in English, but in any language.