lørdag 8. januar 2022

Li Weihua: Drinks with the Grand Historian: Remembering Jonathan D. Spence

On Dec. 25, 2021, the eminent historian Jonathan D. Spence died at the age of 85. One of the most influential sinologists of his generation, Spence was the author of 14 books on Chinese history, including classics like “The Search for Modern China” and “The Death of Woman Wang.” His work showcased a talent for crafting vivid narratives and historical reconstructions from small details, earning him readers far beyond the confines of academic history. As the MacArthur Foundation put it when it awarded Spence one of its prestigious fellowships in 1988: “His work integrates literary storytelling with original historical perspectives, creating a detailed and colorful narrative that seems to allow historical figures to speak with their own voices.”

Spence wasn’t just an academic; he was also an extraordinarily kind and generous mentor to generations of Chinese scholars. For 13 years, from 2005 to 2017, he — together with his wife, fellow historian Annping Chin — organized and oversaw an exchange program between Peking University and Yale University that brought dozens of doctoral students from Beijing to New Haven.