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Rome and China: New Frontiers in Imperial History

Empires have held an abiding fascination for scholars across disciplines and for an equally wide public audience. Interest in explaining the causes for the rise of empires, notions of center and periphery within imperial societies, the impact of empire on social and political identities and the demise of empires continues to generate a steady flow of scholarship at the level of political, economic, cultural, and even environmental thinking. In the spirit of a comparative approach, the Department of History at CMC will place the ancient empires of Rome and China in dialogue through a colloquium featuring two of the most prominent scholars in the field of imperial history.

Mark Edward Lewis (Department of History, Stanford University), in his paper, “China: From Empire to Nation”, will draw from over twenty years of experience researching aspects of political authority and communal identity from periods of imperial China contemporary with the succession of empires in the ancient and medieval Mediterranean. His works include, among many other books and numerous articles, Sanctioned Violence in Early China (1990), Writing and Authority in Early China (2002) and China’s Cosmopolitan Empire: The Tang Dynasty (2009). Professor Lewis received his graduate degrees at the University of Chicago and currently holds the Kwoh-Ting Li Chair of Chinese Culture.

Walter Scheidel (Department of Classics, Stanford University) will present “The Rise and Demise of Universal Empire: Rome, Europe and China.” Professor Scheidel’s research examines a wide range of topics in social and economic history, with particular emphasis on ancient demography, slavery and state formation. His many important works include the recent edited volumes, Rome and China: Comparative Perspectives on Ancient World Empires (2009) and The Dynamics of Ancient Empires: State Power from Assyria to Byzantium (2009 with Ian Morris), and seminal works for the Journal of Roman Studies and the Journal of Roman Archaeology. Professor Scheidel received his graduate degrees at the Universities of Vienna and Graz and currently holds the Dickason Chair of Humanities.

This event has been generously funded by the Athenaeum, the Department of History at CMC and the Luce Fund.