News & Events

Current Location: Home» News & Events

WHA President Alfred J. Andrea comments on the 20th WHA Conference Hosted by CNU in Beijing

As Alfred J.Andrea, WHA President, Sees It:

Twentieth-Annual World History Conference in Beijing

By Alfred J. Andrea


The WHA held its Twentieth Annual Conference at the Global History Center of Capital Normal University (CNU),Beijing,Chinafrom Thursday afternoon, 7 July 2011, through the early afternoon of Sunday, 11 July. The conference themes, “Chinain World History” and “World History from the Center and the Periphery,” drew 600 conferees from 36 nations, including 200 scholars and teachers from the People’s Republic ofChina. English and Chinese were the official languages of the conference, with English translation provided for papers delivered in Chinese. Simultaneous translation service over wireless headsets was provided for the conference’s three plenary sessions, namely the Opening Ceremonies and the two Keynote Addresses.

Four sets of pre-conference tours to sites of historical interest in and nearBeijingwere offered to conferees, Monday through Thursday afternoon, as well as various cultural events on the evenings of Monday through Wednesday. The conference began Thursday afternoon with a three-hour meeting of the WHA’s Executive Council, the distribution of conference badges and packets (all in a handsome tote bag provided by CNU), a conference orientation for first-time attendees (made possible by the generous contribution of time and effort by numerous conference mentors) and a gala opening reception of two and one-half hours at the nearby Jinshancheng that was co-hosted by ABC-Clio Publishing of Santa Barbara, California and the WHA. The reception’s foods, beer, wine, and soft drink was sufficient dinner for most attendees. On this first day, conferees had the delightful experience of meeting and being assisted by the conference’s 60 volunteer ambassadors—all bilingual students at CNU—each attired in a handsome t-shirt emblazoned with the conference logo—a logo that also graced the conference tote bags.


Jackie Wah, the WHA’s Administrative Assistant, with Student Ambassadors “Spring” and Dai Lisha

Opening Ceremonies on Friday morning consisted of addresses by Professor Emeritus of History Qi Shirong, past-president ofCapitalNormalUniversityand founder of CNU’sGlobalHistoryCenter, the Honorable Hao Ping, and the PRC’s Deputy Minister of Education, and Alfred J. Andrea, president of the WHA.

In his opening address, President Andrea noted that:

A short distance from this meeting hall stands a stone inscribed withCapitalNormalUniversity’s 8-character motto. I am told it means “As a teacher, learning for learning’s sake; seeking truth and innovation.”? These are wonderful words and a magnificent sentiment. Each part of that motto inspires us, but allow me to focus on the latter part: “seeking truth and innovation.”

This, the 20th Annual World History Association Conference, so generously hosted byCapitalNormalUniversity, is dedicated to seeking truth and fostering innovation within the context of world history studies. As we all know, the New World History, or Global History as it is called inChina, is itself an innovation that reflects the perspectives and realities of the 21st century.

The truths and innovations that we will share over the next two and one-half days have great moral and civic, as well as intellectual, value. As scholars, teachers, and students—and each of us is all three wrapped into one—we seek to learn how we might more fully make the study of history relevant to this age of global interaction.? When we bring into the global history classroom what we have shared and learned during this conference, we will be participating in a noble enterprise, namely helping our students to prepare to assume their places as informed citizens in an age of global interconnectedness.? I cannot think of any greater calling.

He then presented a memorial plaque to President Liu with the words:

On this? plaque, which expresses the deep gratitude of the World History Association, are engraved the logo of this conference, which was designed here at CNU, and four Chinese characters that one of CNU’s graduate students, Ms. Tian Jing, wrote in classical calligraphy:


For truly, as long as larch trees grace the slopes of Wutai Shan,CapitalNormalUniversityand the WHA will be locked in a bond of true friendship.

President Andrea then informed President Liu that henceforward and forever, the faculty and students of CNU’s Global History Center would enjoy life-membership in the World History Association.

After a short break, President Liu Xincheng offered the conference’s initial keynote address, “Global History inChina.” Inasmuch as Dr. Liu’s talk was the first William H. McNeill Keynote Address to be given at a WHA conference, Karen Christiansen, CEO of Berkshire Publishing Co, the sponsor of the address, spoke briefly about the distinguished career of Professor McNeill, a pioneer of world history. Following her brief remarks, Jerry Bentley of theUniversityofHawai’iat Manoa and a Distinguished Visiting Professor at CNU, introduced President Liu, whose address focused on the manner in which global history is becoming part of the educational curriculum inChina.

The keynote address was followed by a refreshment break (plentiful food and drink are necessary components of any successful conference), which in turn was followed by the first of the 8 sessions dedicated over the next several days to panels and roundtables. In all 103 panels, consisting of the contributions of more than 500 persons, were offered from within the compass of 2 ? days. A sample of just five panels suggests the range: “The Internationalization of Chinese Art”; “China and the World Trade System in Historical Perspective”; “Using Primary Sources to Teach China in the Twentieth Century”;? “Silver, Silk and Things: Connecting Commodities beyond Centers and Peripheries”; and “Beyond the Edge of Empires: Locating Edges and Centres in Eastern Eurasia.” One of the more exciting elements in the program was a series of several roundtable discussions at which US and Chinese teachers exchanged views on world history pedagogy. The entire program, with abstracts of the papers, is available at the WHA’s electronic site

After a long day of academic and pedagogical discourse, conferees enjoyed another gala reception that turned into a second dinner for all, three hours of food and drink sponsored byCapitalNormalUniversityand held at the restaurant in CNU’sInternationalCulturalPlaza.

Saturday began with more of the same—stimulating panels interspersed with refreshment breaks—and it ended with three treats. In a plenary session, the WHA recognized two “Pioneers of World History” for their long-standing contributions to world history scholarship and pedagogy. Liu Xincheng was honored for his pioneering work in promoting and serving as an exemplar of first-rate global history studies inChina, and Jerry Bentley was recognized for his 21-years as editor of the Journal of World History, the WHA’s flagship academic publication that under Bentley has become recognized as the leading journal in the field.? Following this brief ceremony, Craig Benjamin ofGrandValleyStateUniversityinMichigan,USA, presented the second keynote address: “Considerable Hordes of Nomads Were Approaching: The Conquest of Greco-Bactria—The First `Event’ in World History.” Following this academic repast, conferees walked to the Golden Mountain Restaurant where they enjoyed a third dinner masquerading as a reception, this time hosted solely by the WHA. Conferees were again offered more than the normal person can eat or drink.

Sunday morning’s final two sessions were followed by farewells but also by the start of several different post-conference tours of historical and cultural sites inChinaarranged by the WHA for conferees who wanted more. The most popular of the tours was a Silk Road excursion that included trips toXi’anand Dunhuang’s Mogaoku.

The next Annual WHA Conference will be held in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Wednesday, 27 June through Saturday 30 June. Its dual themes will be “Frontiers and Borders in World History” and “Indigenous Peoples in World History.” Further information regarding this conference can be found at the WHA website