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Arthur Waldron

Arthur Waldron
File:Arthur Waldron.jpg
Photograph of Professor Waldron taken by Richard Greenly in 2014
Born Arthur Nelson Waldron
(1948-12-13) 13 December 1948 (age 67)
Boston, United States
Residence Gladwyne, Pennsylvania
Nationality American
Fields Chinese history, comparative nationalism, integrative history, military history, international relations, Russian history
Institutions University of Pennsylvania
Naval War College
Alma mater Harvard
Doctoral advisor Template:If empty
Other academic advisors Yingshih Yü, Frederick Mote, Richard Pipes
Notable students Luo Zhitian (Peking University)
Known for The Great Wall of China: From History to Myth
Spouse Xiaowei Yu (1988-present)

Arthur Waldron (born December 13, 1948) is an American historian. Since 1997 he has been the Lauder Professor of International Relations in the Department of History at the University of Pennsylvania. He works chiefly on Asia, China in particular, often with a focus on the origins and development of nationalism, and the study of war and violence in general. He has published numerous scholarly papers and reviews, and written, edited, or contributed to more than twenty books, including two in Chinese only.

Early life

Waldron was born in Boston on December 13, 1948. Waldron studied at the Taft School in Watertown, Connecticut and Winchester College in England. He attended Harvard College from which he graduated summa cum laude in 1971, receiving the Sophia Freund Prize, given to the student ranked academically highest in his class. In 1981 he received a Ph.D. in history, also from Harvard.[1]


Waldron is a founder and vice president of the International Assessment and Strategy Center in Washington DC.[2] He is a former director of Asian studies with the American Enterprise Institute,[3] a director of the American Association of Chinese Studies,[4] a member of the Board of the Jamestown Foundation, Washington, D.C.,[5] and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.[2] Prior to arriving at the University of Pennsylvania, Waldron taught at, the U.S. Naval War College, and Princeton University, and as adjunct professor of East Asian Studies at Brown University.[1] In 2003-2004 he was Visiting Professor of History,at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium.

Waldron has lived and studied in China, Japan, Taiwan, France, England, and the former Soviet Union, where he earned a certificate in Russian language proficiency.[1] He occasionally consults for the U.S. government, and was a founding member of the Congressional US-China Economic and Security Review Commission (2000-)[2] as well as one of twelve outside experts on the top-secret Tilelli Commission (2000-2001) which evaluated the CIA’s China operations.[6] He has represented the United States in “track two” meetings with Korea, Taiwan, China, Japan and Russia.[1]


Waldron studied Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) history at Harvard, during which he focused on why the relationship between the sedentary Ming and the nomadic Mongols who lived to the north often turned hostile. This led him to study the two debates over the recovery of the northwest loop of the Yellow River, known as the Ordos Loop. The debates are called in Chinese fu tao yi (復套議) and were the topic of his Ph.D dissertation.[7] After additional research, mostly undertaken at Princeton, this thesis culminated in his first book, The Great Wall of China: From History to Myth, which drew upon extensive documentary research to show that although multiple walls had been built at various times, the Ming Wall had given rise to the idea of the "Great Wall"—which turned out to be a constantly evolving compound of fact and myth, as well in recent times as a potent patriotic symbol.[8] According to Waldron's book, actual wall building was best understood as an aspect of larger frontier strategy, never a single grand project in itself.[9]

Also while at Princeton Waldron began working on the history and diplomacy of the early Republican (pre-Nationalist) period in China. A major source was the papers of John Van Antwerp MacMurray, who served as U.S. minister to China in the 1920s until his 1929 resignation against the wishes of President Franklin Roosevelt, who failed to persuade him to resume the post.[10] In 1992, Waldron published MacMurray's memorandum of 1935, which foresaw the coming of conflict between the United States and Japan and was greatly esteemed by such later diplomats as George F. Kennan, with introduction and notes.[11]

Parallel research on China during the same period—that of the "Warlords" or junfa (軍閥), a term often taken as indigenous but that Waldron has demonstrated is borrowed from Japanese Marxist writings —produced his third book, From War to Nationalism, in 1995.[12] This presents a novel argument showing how the large-scale but almost entirely unstudied Second Zhili-Fengtian War of 1924 (his was the first book in any language, Chinese included, to analyze the conflict)[13] so utterly disrupted the existing political and power structures of China as to create a vacuum, along with the conditions for the emergence, in the following year, of the radical nationalist May Thirtieth Movement. That war brought the demise of much that had been standard in Chinese politics and international relations, often since the nineteenth century, while opening the way for the mass, strongly leftist, and nationalist politics (the phrase "Chinese nationalism" dramatically enters the English vocabulary in 1925) that becomes increasingly strong thereafter, ultimately bringing Communist rule in 1949.

Building on his War College experience, Waldron has continued at the University of Pennsylvania to research and teach comparative warfare and strategic analysis, ranging the world and recorded history, while also, in keeping with Sinological training, offering seemingly more conventional courses on Asian and Chinese history and culture, often dealing with the complex webs of causes that produce nationalism and related phenomena. His most recent publications have dealt with issues of Chinese patriotism, national identity, and military tactics in the Second World War. Waldron's current research interests include twentieth century Chinese history, China's polices toward and conflicts with her neighbors, and Asian international relations.

Personal life

In 1988, Waldron married Xiaowei Yu; he and his wife have two sons.[1][14]


  • The Great Wall of China: from History to Myth (1989)
  • The Modernization of Inner Asia (Ed.)(1991)
  • Zhong-Xi wenhua yu jiaohui daxue 中西文化與教會大學 [Chinese and Western Culture and Denominational Colleges in China] (Ed.) (1991)
  • How the Peace Was Lost: The 1935 Memorandum “Developments Affecting American Policy in the Far East” (1992)
  • From War to Nationalism: China’s Turning Point 1924-1925 (1995)
  • Zhongguo jiaohui daxue shi luncong 中國教會大學史論叢 [Essays on the History of Denominational Colleges in China](Ed.)(1995)
  • The People in Arms: Military Myth and National Mobilization since the French Revolution (Ed.) (2003)
  • The Chinese (forthcoming)


  1. ^ a b c d e "Arthur Waldron". University of Pennsylvania Department of History. Retrieved 10 January 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c "Arthur Waldron, Ph.D". International Assessment and Strategy Center. 2004. Retrieved 10 January 2015. 
  3. ^ "AEI Expands Asian Studies Program". American Enterprise Institute. 1 October 1997. Retrieved 10 January 2015. 
  4. ^ "About the AACS". American Association of Chinese Studies. Retrieved 10 January 2015. 
  5. ^ "Board Members". The Jamestown Foundation. Retrieved 10 January 2015. 
  6. ^ "Panel finds CIA soft on China". Washington Times. 6 July 2001. Retrieved 10 January 2015. 
  7. ^ “The Recovery of the Ordos: A Ming Strategic Debate” Harvard University, 1981.
  8. ^ "The Great Wall of China: Tangible, Intangible and Destructible", China Heritage Newsletter, The Australian National University, No. 1 (March 2005).
  9. ^ Arthur Waldron, "The Great Wall of China: From History to Myth," (Cambridge University Press, 1992), ISBN 978-0521427074
  10. ^ Helene Van Rossum, Escape to the Diamond Mountains in Korea, 1928, Princeton University, Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library blog (21 September 2010).
  11. ^ John Van Antwerp MacMurray, “How the Peace was Lost: The 1935 Memorandum, Developments Affecting American Policy in the Far East”, Arthur Waldron (ed.), (Stanford, CA: Hoover Press, 1992), ISBN 0-8179-9151-4, p. 9.
  12. ^ Arthur Waldron, "From War to Nationalism: China's Turning Point, 1924-1925", (Cambridge University Press, 2003), ISBN 978-0521523325
  13. ^ "Chinese Miliary History Society Suggested Readings". Kansas State University. Retrieved 19 February 2015. 
  14. ^ "Xiaowei Yu, a Student, Weds Arthur Waldron". New York Times. 26 June 1988. Retrieved 10 January 2015.