Christopher Atwood

[image of this person]
Graduate Chair
Professor, Mongolian and Chinese Frontier & Ethnic History
Contact Information
Office Address: 
850 Williams Hall
Office Hours: 
Fall 2017: Monday 3:00PM to 4:00PM; Tuesday 12:00PM to 1:00PM
Email Address: 



PhD, Indiana University-Bloomington, 1994

Research and Teaching Interests: 

My research has centered on the relation of culture (especially history writing and religion) and the formation of political power in the Mongolia-Chinese border area.

My first major research project was on 20th century Mongolian nationalism in Inner Mongolia and its interaction with Chinese state-building in the late Qing and Republican period. My current major projects include: 1) the multi-ethnic and multi-lingual historiography of the Mongol Yuan dynasty; 2) the Mongol empire, its religious and personnel policy, and the “early modern.”

Other topics I have written on and continue to work on include the social history of mobile pastoralism with a focus on Mongolia in the Qing period, and using philological methods to read “against the grain” of Chinese sources and shed light on the institutional history of pre-Mongol and pre-Turkic Inner Asia.

Recent Courses: 

Courses for the '16-17 academic year at Penn will include: Great Wall of China; Mongol Century; Introduction to Inner Asian Civilization; Historiography of the Mongol Yuan Empire. Other courses I have taught include: Social History of Inner Asian Nomadism; Religion and Ethnicity in Inner Asia; Ordos Documents.

Brief Biography: 

After getting by A.B. from Harvard University (1986), where I was introduced to Mongolian and Chinese studies by Joseph Fletcher and Francis W. Cleaves, I spent two years in Inner Mongolia, traveling and taking classes in the Mongolian language and literature department at Höhhot’s Inner Mongolia Normal University.

I received my Ph.D. from Indiana University’s Central Eurasian Studies Department, where I worked with György Kara, Lynn Struve, Elliot Sperling, and Jeff Wasserstrom. Before coming to Penn, I taught for two decades at Indiana University, serving as department chair and interim director of the Center for Languages of the Central Asian Region.

Other Professional Activity: 

I have been visiting scholar at the Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton), Peking University, Minpaku, Inner Mongolia University, and Inner Mongolia Normal University, and served as academic consultant for the History Department of Mongolia National University.

Another major area of interest is developing materials for academic and popular teaching about Inner Asia and Mongolia. Publications in this area includes the Encyclopedia of Mongolia and the Mongol Empire, and the translation of Chinese and Mongolian source for class use. I also hope to complete a Source of Mongolian Tradition reader (with Johan Elverskog) and a new translation of the Secret History of the Mongols.

Curriculum vitae: