Kenneth Pomeranz

University Professor of Modern Chinese History and in the College; Member of the Stevanovich Institute on the Formation of Knowledge
PhD 1988 Yale University

Social Science Research Building, room 218 – Office
(773) 834-4247 – Office telephone
(773) 702-7550 – Fax

Mailing Address

The University of Chicago
Department of History
1126 East 59th Street
Chicago, IL 60637


Field Specialties

Reciprocal influences of state, society, and economy in late Imperial and twentieth-century China; the origins of a world economy as the outcome of mutual influences among various regions; environmental history in China; comparative studies of labor, family organization, and economic change in Europe and East Asia; expansion of China to its present frontiers


—Publishes 4th edition (with Steven Topik) of The World that Trade Created (2017)
—Publishes Production, Destruction, and Connection, 1750–Present. Part 1: Structures, Spaces, and Boundary Making and Part 2: Shared Transformations?
—Leads Mellon Foundation Pilot Project on Professional Careers for Historian
—L'Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales selects The Great Divergence as one of the top 40 books of the last 40 years.
—Delivers the Schouler Lectures on "Why Is China So Big?" at Johns Hopkins University (2014)
—Speaks on "Property Rights and Community Membership in the Late Imperial and Twentieth-Century Yangzi Delta," Neubauer Collegium, University of Chicago (2014) [video, 47 minutes]
—Delivers the University of Chicago Harper Lecture on the "Unique Patterns of Chinese Economic Development" [video, 85 minutes]
—Serves as president of the American Historical Association


Kenneth Pomeranz is a University Professor of History and in the College; he previously taught at the University of California, Irvine. His work focuses mostly on China, though he is also very interested in comparative and world history. Most of his research is in social, economic, and environmental history, though he has also worked on state formation, imperialism, religion, gender, and other topics. His publications include The Great Divergence: China, Europe, and the Making of the Modern World Economy (2000), which won the John K. Fairbank Prize from the AHA, and shared the World History Association book prize; The Making of a Hinterland: State, Society and Economy in Inland North China, 1853–1937 (1993), which also won the Fairbank Prize; The World that Trade Created (with Steven Topik, first edition 1999, 3rd edition 2012), and a collection of his essays, recently published in France. He has also edited or co-edited five books, and was one of the founding editors of the Journal of Global History. He is 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, and other sources. His current projects include a history of Chinese political economy from the seventeenth century to the present, and a book called Why Is China So Big? which tries to explain, from various perspectives, how and why contemporary China's huge land mass and population have wound up forming a single political unit.


Coeditor with J. R. McNeill. Production, Destruction, and Connection, 1750–Present. Part 1: Structures, Spaces, and Boundary Making, The Cambridge World History, vol. VII (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015.

Coeditor with J. R. McNeill. Production, Destruction, and Connection, 1750–Present. Part 2: Shared Transformations? The Cambridge World History, vol. VII (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015.

Coeditor with Laura J. Mitchell and James B. Given. Worlds Together, Worlds Apart: A Companion Reader. New York: W.W. Norton, 2011. 

La Force de L’Empire: Révolution industrielle et écologie, ou pourquoi l’angleterre a fait mieux que la Chine. Edited, with an introduction, by Philippe Minard. Alfortville: Éditions ère, 2009.

The book collects various pieces of my work previously published in English, with some previously unpublished material added in Chapter II.

Editor, The Pacific in the Age of Early Industrialization. Farnham: Ashgate Publishing, 2009.

Coeditor with Kate Merkel-Hess and Jeffrey Wasserstrom. China in 2008: A Year of Great Significance. Washington, DC: Rowman and Littlefield, 2009.

"Introduction: the Environment and World History" and "The Transformation of China's Environment, 1500–2000." In The Environment and World History, 1500–2000. Coedited with Edmund T. Burke III, 3–32, 118–164. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009.

Coeditor with John McCusker, Stanley Engerman, David Hancock, and Lewis Cain. Encyclopedia of the History of World Trade. Farmington Hills, MI: Thomson Gale 2005. 

The Great Divergence: China, Europe and the Making of the Modern World Economy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000.

Coauthor with Steven Topik. The World that Trade Created: Society, Politics and an Emerging World Economy, Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1999; fourth edition, 2017.

The Making of a Hinterland: State, Society and Economy in Inland North China, 1853–1937. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993. 

Articles (selected)

"Repenser le changement économique de longue durée: La Chine, l’Europe, et l’historie comparée." In L'histoire économique en mouvement: entre héritages et renouvellements, edited by Jean Claude Daumas, 293–310. Villieneuve d’Ascq: Presses universitaires du Septentrion, 2012.

"Contemporary Development and Economic History: How Do We Know What Matters?" Economic History of Developing Regions, special issue for World Economic History Congress 27, no. 1 (2012): 134–145.

"The Great Divergence debate at 10—and at 250." Historically Speaking 12, no. 4 (September/October, 2011). Response to a forum on the tenth anniversary of the publication of The Great Divergence.

"Areas, Networks, and the Search for 'Early Modern' East Asia." In Comparative Early Modernities, edited by David L. Porter. London: Palgrave, 2012.

"Labor-Intensive Industrialization in the Yangzi Delta: Late Imperial Patterns and their Modern Fates." In Labor-Intensive Industrialization in Global History, edited by Kaoru Sugihara and G.M. Austin. London: Routledge, 2012.

Coauthor with Daniel Segal. "World History: Departures and Variations." In A Companion to World History, edited by Douglas Northrop. New York: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012.

"Advanced Agriculture." In The Oxford Handbook of World History, edited by Jerry H. Bentley, 246–266. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.

"Labeling and Analyzing Historical Phenomena: Some Preliminary Challenges." Cliodynamics: The Journal of Theoretical and Mathematical History 2, no. 1 (March 2011): 3–27.

"Commerce."  In The Oxford Concise Companion to World History, edited by U.C. Rublack, 105–128. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2011.

"Their Own Path to Crisis? Social Change, State-Building, and the Limits of Qing Expansion, ca. 1770–1840." In The Age of Revolutions in a Global Context, edited by David Armitage and Sanjay Subrahmanyam, 189–208. New York: Palgrave, 2010.

"Putting Modernity in Its Place(s): Reflections on Jack Goody's The Theft of History." Theory, Culture, and Society 26, no. 7/8 (December 2009): 32–51. 

"Shang xia Taishan—Zhongguo minjian xinyang zhengzhi zhong de Bixia yuanjun (yue gongyuan 1500 nian zhi 1949 nian." (Up and Down Mt. Tai—Bixia Yuanjun in the Politics of Chinese Popular Religion, ca 1500–1949) Xin shixue 20, no. 4 (December, 2009): 169–215.

"Le machinisme induit-il une discontinuité historique? Industrialisation, modernité précoce et formes du changement économique dans l’histoire globale." In Histoire globale, mondialisations, capitalisme, edited by P. Beaujard, L. Berger, and P. Norel, 335–373. Paris: La Découverte, 2009.

"Calamities Without Collapse: Environment, Economy and Society in China, ca. 1800–1949." In Questioning Collapse, edited by Patricia McAnany and Norman Yoffee. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

"The Great Himalayan Watershed: Agrarian Crisis, Mega-Dams, and the Environment." New Left Review 58 (July/August 2009): 5–39 (short version). Longer version published in The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus (July 27, 2009) Abridged version published in Engineering World (August/September 2009): 32–42.

"World History and Environmental History: Introducing an Agenda," and "China's State, Economy and Environment in Global Perspective, 1400–2000." In Environmental History and World History, edited by both in Edmund Burke III and Kenneth Pomeranz, 3–32, 118–164. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009.

"Introduction: What is 'Industrialization' and What Does it Have to Do with the 'Pacific World'?" In Industrialization in the Pacific World, edited by Kenneth Pomeranz, xiii–xlix. Farnham: Ashgate, 2009. 

"Rekishi wa gurobaru kenkyu ni dono yō na kōken ga de suru ka?" (What Does History Have to Offer to Global Studies?). In Gurobaru Hisutori no Chōsen (Challenges of Global History), edited by Mizushima Tsukasa, 46–55. Tokyo: Yamakawa Shuppansha, 2008.

"Land Markets in Late Imperial and Republican China." Continuity and Change 23, no. 1 (April 2008): 101–150.

"Chinese Development in Long-run Perspective." Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 152, no. 1 (March 2008): 83–100.

"Social History and World History: From Daily Life to Patterns of Change." Journal of World History 18, no. 1 (March 2007). Chinese translation, 2009

"Orthopraxy, Orthodoxy, and the Goddess(es) of Taishan." Modern China 33, no. 1 (January 2007): 22–46.

"Limian jingji: Zhonghua diguo wanqi de nongcun shouru, feiwendingxing yu xigbie guifan" (The Economics of Respectability: Rural Incomes, Instability, and Gender Roles in Late Imperial China). Jindai Zhongguo funu shi yanjiu (Research on Modern Chinese Women’s History) 14 (December 2006): 205–241. A revised and translated version of "Women's Work and the Economics of Respectability." In Gender in Motion, edited by Bryna Goodman and Wendy Larson. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2005.

"Without Coal? Colonies? Calculus? Europe, China, and the Industrial Revolution." In Unmaking the West: "What-If" scenarios that Rewrite World History, edited by Ned Lebow, Geoffrey Parker, and Philip Tetlock, 241–276. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2006.

"Imperialism, Development, and 'Civilizing' Missions, Past and Present." Daedalus (April 2005).

"Standards of Living in Eighteenth-Century China: Regional Differences, Temporal Trends, and Incomplete Evidence." In Standards of Living and Mortality in Pre-Industrial Times, edited by Robert Allen, Tommy Bengtsson, and Martin Dribe. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.

"Zhuanbian de diguo: Zhonghua diguo moqi de falu, shehui, shangyehua he guojia xingcheng" (An Empire in Transition: Law, Society, Commercialization, and State Formation in Late Imperial China). Zhongguo Xueshu 15 (Winter 2004).

"Shijie jingji shi zhong de jinshi Jiangnan: bijiao yu zonghe guancha" (Early Modern Jiangnan in Global Economic History: Comparative and Integrative Perspectives). Lishi yanjiu 284 (August 2003): 3–48.

"Women's Work, Family, and Economic Development in Europe and East Asia: Long-term Trajectories and Contemporary Comparisons." In The Resurgence of East Asia: 500, 150, and 50 Year Perspectives, edited by Giovanni Arrighi, Takeshi Hamashita, and Mark Selden, 124–172. London and New York: Routledge, 2003.

"Beyond the East-West Binary: Resituating Development Paths in the Eighteenth Century World." Journal of Asian Studies 61, no. 2 (May 2002): 539–590.

"Political Economy and Ecology on the Eve of Industrialization: Europe, China, and the Global Conjuncture." American Historical Review 107, no. 2 (April 2002): 425–446. Translated and reprinted in Globalgeschichte: Theoriean, Ansätze, Themen, vol. 1, edited by Sebastian Conrad, Andreas Eckert and Ulrike Freitag. Frankfurt: Campus Verlag, 2007. Also translated and reprinted in La Rivoluzione industriale tra l’Europa e il mondo, edited by Tommaso Detti  and Giovanni Gozzinni. Milan: Pearson Paravia Bruno Mondadori, 2009.

"Is there an East Asian Development Path? Long-Term Comparisons, Constraints, and Continuities." Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 44, no. 3 (2001): 322–362. Abridged and translated versions published in Japanese and German, 2003.

"Development, Disaggregation and Decline: Re-thinking the Chinese Economy, ca. 1730–1930." Itinerario (Winter 2001): 29–74. Translated version published in Chinese, 2010.

"Ritual Imitation and Political Identity in North China: The Late Imperial Legacy and the Chinese National State Revisited." Twentieth-Century China (formerly Republican China) 23, no. 1 (Fall 1997): 1–30.

"'Gentry Merchants' and Partnership Revisited: Family, Firm, and Financing in the History of the Yutang Enterprises of Jining, 1779–1956." Late Imperial China 18, no. 2 (June 1997): 1–38.

"Power, Gender, and Pluralism in the Cult of the Goddess of Taishan." In  Culture and State in Chinese History, edited by R. Bin Wong, Theodore Huters, and Pauline Yu. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997.

"Local Interest Story: State‑Making and Capital Markets in Shandong Province, 1900–1937." In Chinese History in Economic Perspective, edited by Thomas Rawski and Lillian Li, 295–318. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992.

"Water to Iron, Widows to Warlords: The Handan Rain Shrine in Modern Chinese History." Late Imperial China 12, no. 1 (June 1991).