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Introduction to the Issue

Marc Jason Gilbert


     This "themed" issue of World History Connected is devoted to taking Gunder Frank's call to re-conceptualize the place of Asia in world history in as many directions as possible. Craig Lockard's overview of the "resurgence" of Asia in World history seeks to establish a "new" normative view of Asia that urges us to re-examine cross-cultural connections between Asian societies as well as between Asia and other civilizations. Craig Patton's essay shows how Walt Disney Studio's anti-heroic film character, Captain Jack Sparrow, can be used to examine world piracy ("From Depp to Breadth") and Asia's unique place in it. Martha Chaiklin's examination of the use of animals in Asian trade and diplomacy ("The Merchant's Ark") takes us to the roots of what is often referred to today as "panda diplomacy." Ronald Chung-yam Po's study of the global vision of Qing historians and Yuen Ting's longitudinal study of the role of China's first woman writing history, shed new light on issues of common interest to most of world's societies by viewing historians as the keepers of the doors of perception of neighboring societies as well as one's own culture, respectively. Po's essay undermines or qualifies long held presumptions about Chinese views of their place in the "Middle Kingdom," while Yuen Ting illuminates the forces that have preserved as well as driven changes in the prevailing view of the place of women in Chinese society from ancient times to the present. Aiqun Hu, a representative of the coming generation of Chinese historians, broadens the horizon of the comparative study of China in world history by examining Chinese social insurance policies in world perspective.

     Each article in this issue and many of the nine book reviews it offers attempt to offer a fresh look at this issues' subject in scholarly terms, but also suggest their value as vehicles for exciting student interest in the field. Excelling at both is Steven Beunning's well-known but previously unpublished "Trial of Genghis Khan," popular among teachers for the quality of its content and its effectiveness as a classroom exercise. It is followed by a compilation of resources on teaching about Modern Asia in World History, which features material for the study of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), whose promotion of free trade and economic cooperation is both controversial and reflective of current trends in the history of the region. While some of the articles demand closer reading than others in terms of scholarly detail, all attempt to fulfill the dual mission of World History Connected by offering the best of world history scholarship in ways that translate into more effective teaching and learning.     

Marc Jason Gilbert is the National Endowment for the Humanities Endowed Chair in World History and Professor of History at Hawaii Pacific University.  He is also principal editor of World History Connected. He can be reached at


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