Denis Twitchett: 80, Scholar Who Created 'History of China', Is Dead

Historians in the News

Denis Twitchett, a scholar of imperial China best known for his role in conceiving and creating "The Cambridge History of China," a monumental 15-volume study widely regarded as the most comprehensive history of China in the English language, died on Feb. 24 in Cambridge, England. He was 80.

His death was announced by Princeton University, where he retired in 1994 as Gordon Wu Professor of Chinese Studies, the first academic to be appointed to that chair. His landmark work, published by Cambridge University Press, ranges from antiquity to the People's Republic. Dr. Twitchett conceived of the project with a colleague, John K. Fairbank, of Harvard, then contributed to the writing, guided its progress and edited some of the volumes.

Before that work, English-language scholarship and historiography of China had focused mainly on the often chaotic events that gave rise to the Middle Kingdom and on the more recent past, stitched together from diplomatic correspondence, travelers' accounts and the like. Dr. Twitchett, with Professor Fairbank and their contributors, filled the gap with a systematic study of the social, economic and political developments that have shaped the country since its formation.

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