Northern Illinois University

NIU Office of Public Affairs

Jonathan Spence
Jonathan Spence

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News Release

Contact: Tom Parisi, NIU Office of Public Affairs
(815) 753-3635

September 30, 2009

Yale historian of China to deliver
W. Bruce Lincoln Lecture

DeKalb, Ill. — Yale historian Jonathan Spence, among the world's leading authorities on the shaping of modern China, will visit Northern Illinois University to deliver the sixth annual W. Bruce Lincoln Lecture.

The lecture, titled “China and the West: A Seventeenth Century Chinese Pioneer,” will begin at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 19, in the Altgeld Hall Auditorium on the NIU campus. The event is free and open to all.

British born and educated at Cambridge and Yale, Spence has written more than 15 books, including “The Search for Modern China,” which has become one of the standard texts on the last several hundred years of Chinese history. Every edition of the book has been a bestseller. He has written about many leading figures in Chinese history, including Chairman Mao, but is known for exploring the past through the lives of everyday people.

His NIU lecture will be no exception.

“In the 17th century, it was already becoming moderately common for some Western missionaries, traders and diplomats to visit China,” Spence said. “This lecture looks at the other side of this story, to the fragments of evidence that let us study one of the first Chinese visitors to travel to England and France, and to examine what he experienced when he was there.”

Spence holds the title of Sterling Professor of History Emeritus at Yale University and has long been regarded as one of the most popular undergraduate lecturers at the university. He has been the recipient of both the MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship and the Guggenheim Fellowship and has received 10 honorary degrees. Other honors include the C.M.G. (Companion of the Order of St. Michael and St. George) from Queen Elizabeth II.

“Jonathan Spence is widely regarded as the preeminent American historian of China,” said David Kyvig, an NIU Distinguished Research Professor of History. “He is well known as an engaging speaker and possesses an amazing range of historical knowledge, from 16th century to the present day.”

Beginning in 2004, the W. Bruce Lincoln Endowed Lecture Series has brought such notable speakers to NIU as renowned religion scholar Martin Marty, journalist Mark Danner and prominent historians Walter LaFeber, Lizabeth Cohen and Matthew Connelly. The endowed lecture series is named in honor of the late W. Bruce Lincoln, a world-renowned historian of Russia who taught on the NIU faculty for more than three decades until his retirement in 1998.

Lincoln was among the first group of NIU faculty members awarded Presidential Research Professorships in 1982. The recipient of many grants and awards, Lincoln possessed a lifelong passion for learning and a gift for writing. He authored a dozen books that gained a wide audience among students, scholars and the general public alike.

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