Prof. Kenneth POMERANZ

When China opened up to the world at the end of the 1970s, scholars worldwide began to focus on her role in the future and anticipate how this country was going to emerge as a global economic power. Prof. Kenneth POMERANZ, however, turned to look into China’s past, trying to trace the long-running patterns of economic development, environmental change, state formation, and social structure in China – particularly rural China.

Trained and practiced as a historian all his life, Prof. Pomeranz’ passion for Chinese history was developed by coincidence when he randomly enrolled in a Chinese history course at Cornell University, where he received his Bachelor’s degree in history in 1980. He was inspired by the lectures of a professor who gave him 15 books on China to read over the summer before letting him decide if he would still be interested in the subject. This led to a PhD at Yale University in 1988, where he studied under the pre-eminent historian Jonathan SPENCE. He spent the 1985–86 school year in China, half of it in Jinan, Shandong Province. This series of unplanned events paved the way for him to study the reciprocal influences of state, society and economy in late Imperial and 20th-century China.

Prof. Pomeranz spent the first 24 years of his career teaching at the University of California, Irvine before joining the University of Chicago as University Professor of Modern Chinese History in 2012, making him the 18th person ever to hold a University Professorship title there.

Prof. Pomeranz’s work goes far beyond history and intersects a number of different fields, such as economics, political science, sociology, and environmental studies. His seminal book The Great Divergence: China, Europe and the Making of the Modern World Economy, which is a comparative history of China and Europe circa 1800, redefined how scholars explain the rise of industrial Europe compared to that of China. The work fundamentally altered the nature of the discussion concerning global history, economic development, and the nature of historical change.

This thought-provoking book, published in 2000, was highly praised by reviewers as “a tour de force” and “so rich that fresh insights emerge from virtually every page”. It won the 2001 John K. Fairbank Prize of the American Historical Association, one of the most important honors for a scholar of Asian studies, and was a co-winner of the 2001 World History Association Book Prize. The French School of Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences also selected the book as one of the top 40 books of the last 40 years.

Prof. Pomeranz’s first book, Making a Hinterland: State, Society and Economy in Inland North China, 1853-1937, also received the John K. Fairbank Prize in 1994, making him the only two-time winner in the 44-year history of the Prize.

Early this year, Prof. Pomeranz has been awarded the prestigious Dan David Prize for his studies of macro history focusing on East Asia, acknowledging the value of taking a broad view of historical period or events and demonstrating that he has a gift for comparing economic structures and processes over long stretches of time and space.

In addition to receiving numerous book prizes, Prof. Pomeranz has also received many honors and fellowships. He is a corresponding fellow of the British Academy and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the American Philosophical Society, American Council of Learned Societies, the Institute for Advanced Studies, the National Endowment for the Humanities, just to name a few.

In addition to his extensive research in history, Prof. Pomeranz is dedicated to editing books and brings pedagogical attention to his editorial work. He was a founding editor of The Journal of Global History, and has served on the editorial boards of both the University of California Press and the University of Chicago Press, and a number of journal editorial boards. Editors know him for his unusually detailed reviews where, as in intellectual discussions, Prof. Pomeranz focuses on the ideas at hand and on strengthening and improving them.

Prof. Pomeranz’s profound knowledge in history has benefited HKUST, especially the School of Humanities and Social Science (SHSS). Prof. Pomeranz co-published special journal issues as well as conference collected papers with SHSS faculty such as Cameron CAMPBELL and James LEE. His many involvements with HKUST include having served on the advisory committee of SHSS and as a senior reader for SHSS’ junior faculty in 2010. He also participated in the HKUST 20th Anniversary Lecture Series in 2011.

Council Chairman, on behalf of the Council of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, I have the high honor of presenting to you, Prof. Kenneth Pomeranz, University Professor of Modern Chinese History at the University of Chicago, for the award of Doctor of Humanities honoris causa, for his unique insight into world history and being at the forefront of seeking to go beyond world systems to think more synthetically about global phenomena. We are also deeply grateful to his contributions to teaching and working together with the faculty of HKUST and other universities around the world.

中國於1970年代末改革開放之初,全球學者莫不聚焦神州未來,預測其蛻變為世界經濟強國的走勢。在一片向前看的洪流中,彭慕蘭教授卻選擇推本溯源,嘗試從經濟發展、環境變遷、國家形構及社會結構方面探索中國 — 尤其是農村地區由來已久的發展模式。

彭教授終生醉心研究史學。他1980年畢業於美國康奈爾大學,取得歷史學學士學位。修業期間,他無心插柳下選修了一個中國歷史課程,對此科目的濃厚興趣油然而生。任教該課程的教授給了他15 本有關中國的書籍,囑咐小伙子善用暑假先行細讀,弄清自己的真正志趣,才決定是否潛心研究中國歷史。真心喜愛歷史的他其後入讀耶魯大學進修,師承歷史學大師史景遷教授。他於1985至86學年前往中國,當中一半時間留居山東濟南,最終於1988年獲授博士學位。這些歷練為他奠定良好根基,有助其日後研究中國在晚清和二十世紀時期,國家、社會及經濟三者如何相互影響。



此書發人深省,在2000年面世後好評如潮,被譽為「空前巨著」及「真知灼見、俯拾皆是」,並於 2001 年獲美國歷史學會頒發「費正清獎」,一舉摘下亞洲研究領域裡其中一項最重要的學術榮譽,同年亦榮膺「世界歷史學會圖書獎」。另外,法國社會科學高等學院亦將此書評為近40年來最傑出的40本佳作之一。


今年初,彭教授再憑研究東亞宏觀歷史榮獲「丹。大衛獎 」,既充分證明宏觀史學的價值,亦肯定了他擅長比較歷史長河裡不同經濟結構及發展的過人才華。