Category: Uncategorized

NEW FACULTY BOOK: Chinese Translation of Matteo Ricci’s Diary

August 12th, 2014 in Uncategorized


Recently the Commercial Press of Shanghai, one of the largest publisher in China, published a Chinese version of Matteo Ricci’s Dell¹entrata della Compagnia di Giesù e Christianità nella Cina (On the entrance of the Society of Jesus and Christianity into China), translated and annotated by Professor Wen Zheng (Beijing Foreign Languages University, Department of Italian) in close collaboration with Professor Eugenio Menegon (BU History).

Li Madou, Yesuhui yu Tianzhujiao jinru Zhongguo shi – 利玛窦 – 耶稣会与天主教进入中国史 (Della entrata della Compagnia di Giesù  e della Christianità in Cina),  Wen Zheng 文铮 (translator); Eugenio Menegon 梅欧金 (collator). Shanghai: Commercial Press, 2014. 523 pages. ISBN: 9787100084529

Written in Italian in 1610 in Beijing, this account of the efforts of Ricci (1552-1610) and other Jesuits to win the Chinese elite’s approval and establish a mission in the Ming empire, is, together with Marco Polo’s account of Mongol China, the most important European eyewitness testimony on China ever penned. The book contains detailed descriptions of the Chinese empire, its government, customs, religions, and geography, besides the activities of the first China Jesuits and their converts.

The original manuscript is preserved in the Jesuit Archives in Rome, and it was published in a philological Italian edition in 1949 by Pasquale D¹Elia S.J. as the monumental 3-volume Fonti Ricciane.

This Chinese modern version with essential notes renders Ricci’s important unadulterated text in current and very readable style, and will hopefully become the reference edition in China for those who cannot access the original.  A second volume, containing translations of all Ricci’s extant letters, is forthcoming in 2015.

Microhistory in East Asia: A Lecture in Rome

August 11th, 2014 in Uncategorized


On June 17th, 2014, while a visiting scholar at the Pontifical Urbaniana University in Rome, Professor Eugenio Menegon gave a lecture for the Third Doctoral Seminar on “Europe and East Asia: Cultural and Linguistic Contacts” at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the University of Rome “La Sapienza.” The seminar was sponsored by the Confucius Institute in Rome.

The lecture was entitled “Microhistory:  An Italian Historiographical Tradition and Chinese-Western History.” An abstract below:

One of the challenges of the new global history is to bridge the particularities of individual lives and trajectories with the macro-historical patterns developing over space and time. The approach of Italian micro-history, particularly popular in the 1980s and 1990s, has been to excavate the life of small communities or individuals to test the findings of serial history and macro-historical approaches. Micro-history in the Anglophone world has instead focused more on narrative itself, and shown less interest for ampler historiographical conclusions. Francesca Trivellato recently suggested a need to “blend together social scientific analysis and narration… on the global stage” (“Is There a Future for Italian Microhistory in the Age of Global History?” California Italian Studies, 2011). Sino-Western interactions offer a particularly fruitful field of investigation of phenomena that are traceable in economic and statistical series, thanks to the survival of detailed records of East India Companies and missionary agencies regarding their activities in China. Recent scholarship has started to offer new conclusions, based on such Western records, and matching records in the Chinese historical archive.



For the original post, see:


For a detailed program, see:


“Economic Racism in Perspective: Past and Present in the US and Germany” – A November 2014 Event Series

August 8th, 2014 in Uncategorized

The Elie Wiesel Center for Judaic Studies at Boston University is pleased to present “Economic Racism in Perspective: Past and Present in the US and Germany,” a series of events scheduled for November 2014 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the passage of 1964 Civil Rights Act and consider more broadly the dangers of economic discrimination. By considering both the American and German examples, the Center aims at encouraging a wide-ranging discussion of the consequences of racism in commercial life.

Linking the events is “Final Sale. The End of Jewish Businesses in Nazi Berlin,” a historical exhibition on economic segregation in Nazi Berlin. Based on new research, the exhibition explores the fate of 16 small businesses, focusing on the entrepreneurs who built them and their struggle to survive in an increasingly segregated and racist business environment, from internationally renowned theater director Max Reinhardt to a family of egg wholesalers. “Final Sale” will be on display throughout the month of November at the Rubin-Frankel Gallery (213 Bay State Road, Boston, MA 02215).

To explore the connection between economic racism and political violence, an international scholarly conference, entitled “Dispossession. The Plundering of German Jewry, 1933-1945 and Beyond,” will take place from November 9-11, 2014. “Dispossession” brings together twenty-five scholars from different countries working on the financial history and cultural meanings of the Nazi theft of assets belonging to Jews. The panels will engage with the legal, financial, and cultural techniques used to exclude and expropriate German Jews as well as transitional justice in the immediate postwar period.

The American story of economic discrimination and its persistent effects will be considered by experts Robert Margo and Japonica Brown-Saracino, in two lectures that will focus on the insidious legacy of segregation in American commerce (Nov 13 and Nov 20).

Nov 6, 7pm: FINAL SALE opening reception

Rubin-Frankel Gallery, BU Hillel House.

Nov 9-11: DISPOSSESSION international conference

Program available on request.

Nov 9, 5pm:  Christoph Kreutzmüller: Key-note lecture on “Kristallnacht and the Destruction of Jewish Commercial Activity in Germany”

Dr. Christoph Kreutzmüller is Senior Researcher and Educator, Museum at the House of the Wannsee Conference.

Nov 13, 7pm: Robert A. Margo: “Obama, Katrina, and the Persistence of Racial Inequality”

Professor Robert Margo is the former chair of the BU Economics Department and incoming president of the Economic History Association.

Nov 20, 7pm: Japonica Brown-Saracino“The Last Store Standing: Commerce as Force, Symbol and Casualty in the Gentrifying American City”

Dr. Brown-Saracino is Associate Professor in the BU Sociology Department and author of the prize-winning book A Neighborhood That Never Changes: Gentrification, Social Preservation, and the Search for Authenticity (2009, University of Chicago Press).

Location: All events will take place at the Florence and Chafetz Hillel House at Boston University, 213 Bay State Road, Boston, MA 02215. For more information, go to, contact the Elie Wiesel Center at, or call 617.353.8096. All events, with the exception of the Dispossession conference, are free and open to the public.

Program Director: Professor Jonathan Zatlin, History Department

Sponsors: Eli Wiesel Center for Judaic Studies, German Historical Institute (Washington D.C.), BU Center for the Humanities, Florence and Chafetz Hillel House, BU History Department, Jewish Cultural Endowment, Arvind and Chandan Nandlal Kilachand Honors College, BU Alumni Association, Memorial Museum at the House of the Wannsee Conference (Berlin), Aktives Museum – Widerstand und Faschismus (Berlin), BU Law School, BU Economics Department, BU Sociology Department

Brownell Publishes Op-Ed About Nixon’s Surprising “Showbiz” Legacy on Reuters

August 8th, 2014 in Uncategorized

Former BU History grad student, Kate Brownell, published an op-ed this morning on Reuters.  The piece discusses President Richard Nixon, and his more surprising “showbiz” legacy.

Link to full text:

KU Leuven and Boston University Workshop “The Materiality of Chinese-Western Relations in the Ming-Qing periods: Methodological Approaches, Empirical Cases”

August 8th, 2014 in Uncategorized


Leuven (Belgium), May 26-27, 2014

Workshop Concept

This workshop built on recent scholarship and other workshops and conferences on the presence and role of Europeans (especially Catholic missionaries) at the imperial court and in the provinces in Ming-Qing China. It aimed to explore methodological issues and empirical case-studies that might help us re-focus some of our predominant concerns about texts and intellectual exchanges towards the material and sociological underpinnings of text production and circulation of knowledge.

Much recent research has focused on these topics:

  • Creation of epistolary and book-centered networks between Europe and China
  • Circulation of European-Chinese technical and scientific knowledge within China and with Europe
  • Artistic Circulation from Europe to China and viceversa, and related networks of patronage
  • Creation of religious networks (e.g. related to the Chinese Rites)

Most scholarship concentrates on the written texts (more rarely the physical objects) produced and circulated between Europe and China, and viceversa. We also have impressive prosopographies of different, sometimes overlapping networks, with a various degree of richness depending on periods and depth of existing research. Obviously, as historians, all we have are texts and material objects to rely on. Those texts and objects were produced by individuals or groups whom we can identify as authors; or the names and identities of those historical actors are simply mentioned within texts (letters, prefaces etc.) as participants in circulations and networks.

The objective of the workshop was to leverage existing research to explore the materiality of these circulations and prosopographies. Rather than an abstract comparison of similar systems in the European and Chinese contexts, the workshops focused on empirical cases of actual circulation and network-building in China, and between China and Europe. The workshop, while open to the entire Ming-Qing period, encouraged research on the eighteenth century, and especially the period between the Late Kangxi to Jiaqing reigns, as they are generally less studied periods.

These are some questions offered to presenters in order to focus on “materiality”:

  • How can we construct a comprehensive sociology of the networks we study, an aspect that we have been considering all along more as proxy to text/object circulation rather than on its own merits (indicator of material/financial support; friendship; enjoyment of common resources; social capital)? Are there methodological approaches we can take to go in this direction, inspired by appropriate disciplinary methods in anthropology, historical sociology, art history, history of science etc.?
  • How can we bring back to the fore the materiality of the networks and circulations we study, including topics such as travel from a location to another (via boat, cart, on foot, using local guides, Christians and non-Christians etc.); financial support; labor and gender relations etc.?
  • What does recovering the materiality of these phenomena contribute to historical knowledge? Does this focus on materiality change the way we see Sino-Western cultural relations?





Day 1 (Monday, May 26, 2014)


Panel “Circulations of Knowledge”

Chair:  Eugenio Menegon

 Discussant: Elisabetta Corsi, Professor, Department of History, Cultures, and Religions, University “La Sapienza,” Rome


Nicolas Standaert, Professor, Department of Sinology, University of Leuven: “Circulating Chinese Books: Jean-François Foucquet’s Contribution to the Establishment of Chinese Libraries in Europe.”

Wu Huiyi, Post-doctoral Fellow, Needham Research Institute, Cambridge, UK: “Knowledge in ‘Commercial’ Printings: The Jesuits’ Use of Daily-use Leishu

Chen Yanrong, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Sinology, University of Leuven: “Exploring the Tangibility of the Misa jingdian 彌撒經典

Final panel plenary discussion


Panel “Mapping Space and Networks”

Chair: Kristina Kleutghen

Discussant: Catherine Jami, Professor, Université Diderot and Research Director, CNRS, Paris 


Nadine Amsler, Ph.D. Candidate, Historical Institute, University of Bern: Fabrics of Devotion: Women’s Share in Chinese Christian Material Culture during the Seventeenth Century”

Mario Cams, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Sinology, University of Leuven: “Tracing Instruments and Maps in the Early Eighteenth-Century Cartographic Exchange between Europe and Qing China.”

Frederick Vermote, Assistant Professor, Department of History, California State University at Fresno: “Making and Losing Money Globally: The Financial Outcomes of Jesuit Trans-Imperial Networks” 

Final panel plenary discussion



Day 2 (Tuesday, May 27, 2014)


Panel “Travel & Diplomacy”

Chair: Nadine Amsler

Discussant: Dominic Sachsenmaier, Professor, Department of History, Jacobs University, Bremen


Gregory Afinogenov, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of History, Harvard University:  “Noble and Common. Ideas and Objects in the St. Petersburg-Beijing Correspondence”

Noël Golvers, Researcher, Ferdinand Verbiest Institute, University of Leuven: “Communication and Exchange of Knowledge between West and East (Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries):  The ‘Routes’, Illustrated by the Case of the Via Ostendana”

Henrietta Harrison, Professor of Modern Chinese Studies, Chinese Studies Institute, University of Oxford: “Chinese and British Diplomatic Gifts in the Macartney Embassy of 1793”


Panel “Luxury and Consumption”

Chair: Nicolas Standaert


Nicolas Standaert: paper by Marco Musillo

Elisabetta Corsi: paper by Kristina Kleutghen

Catherine Jami: paper by Eugenio Menegon


Marco Musillo, Research Associate in the Department of Chinese Art at the Museo delle Culture, Lugano, Switzerland:  Tangible Jesuits and Intangible Objects: Sino-Western Relations between Empiricism and Historiography”

Kristina Kleutghen, Assistant Professor, Department of Art History and Archaeology, Washington University in St. Louis: Magnification and the West: Lenses as Material Mediators of Cross-Cultural Contact in High Qing China”

Eugenio Menegon, Associate Professor, Department of History, Boston University: Sotto questa coperta, facciamo il fatto nostro: Court Missionaries and the Politics of Luxury Consumption during the Qianlong Reign”

Final panel plenary discussion


Final Workshop Roundtable



Link to Press Release:

Boston University in Belgium: A Workshop on Chinese-Western Cultural Relations in the Early Modern Era

August 8th, 2014 in Uncategorized


Picture participants Workshop.jpg

Participants and guests at the Leuven Workshop

A workshop jointly organized by Boston University and the University of Leuven on the history of Chinese-European relations was successfully held on May 26-27, 2014 in the historic university town of Leuven (Louvain), in Flanders, Belgium.

The workshop was coordinated by Professor Eugenio Menegon (Department of History, and Director of the BU center for the Study of Asia, Boston University) and Professor Nicolas Standaert (Department of Chinese Studies, University of Leuven, Belgium).

Supported by generous funding from the College of Arts and Sciences at BU, and the Department of Chinese Studies at KU Leuven, this gathering of scholars focused on the topic of “materiality” in the cultural exchange between China and Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries. Junior and senior scholars from Belgium, Switzerland, France, Italy, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States presented their ongoing research on the circulation of books and scientific instruments, the financial system sustaining that circulation, and the use of gifts, luxury objects, art, and technical skills in diplomacy and Christian proselytization.


For more information on the concept behind the workshop, as well as the event program:

Modern Intellectual History August 2014 Table of Contents

July 21st, 2014 in Uncategorized

MIH 11.2 ToC

Of Rights and Witches: Bentham’s Critique of the Declaration of Independence

July 8th, 2014 in Uncategorized

Posted on July 3, 2014by James Schmidt

It is not surprising that friends of the Enlightenment tend to assume that the Enlightenment was generally friendly towards the American Revolution. Richard Price had, after all, been an energetic supporter of the Colonial cause and, like Joseph Priestley, saw it as a link in the chain of “glorious revolutions” that stretched from 1688, through 1776, to 1789. Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais spent several crucial years figuring out ways of getting weapons to the American revolutionaries. There was also considerable interest in the revolution in German-speaking Europe. The Basel Aufklärer Isaak Iselin translated the Declaration of Independence for the October 1776 issue of his journalEphemeriden der Menschheit (a translation of a text by John Adams followed in a later issue). And, between 1787 and 1788 the Berlinische Monatsschrift devoted three articles to the recently enacted Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. For more, see

Professor Jim Johnson Awarded ACLS and Guggenheim Fellowships

June 18th, 2014 in Uncategorized

James Johnson

Professor Jim Johnson of the BU History Department was recently awarded the John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship for the Humanities, and the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) Fellowship.  During his ACLS and Guggenheim Fellowship terms, Professor Johnson will be working on Means of Concealment: French Identity and the Self, the follow-up book to Venice Incognito: Masks in the Serene Republic, published in 2011.  Both works examine the meanings of masks, both physical and figurative, and together will trace evolving ideas of the self and the rise of modern individualism through modes of concealment and its penetration.

Please join us in congratulating Professor Johnson for being selected for these prestigious awards.

Professor Siegel Publishes Article Discussing the Role of Religion in India’s Recent Elections

May 27th, 2014 in Uncategorized

Professor Benjamin Siegal, historian of South Asia and Professor of History at Boston University, had his article, “The Multiple Ideas of India: Narendra Modi and the Meaning of Indian Secularism,” published in Marginalia.

Link to article: