Professor Willard Peterson Transfers to Emeritus Status
Photo by Adena Stevens
Ten Princeton University faculty members, including Willard Peterson, were transferred to emeritus status in recent action by the Board of Trustees. Transfers are effective July 1, 2020, except where noted.
Willard Peterson is the Gordon Wu '58 Professor of Chinese Studies, and Professor of East Asian Studies and History. Peterson is one of the world's foremost experts in 17th-century Chinese history.
Peterson joined the Princeton faculty in 1971 and began his 49 years of teaching at the University, helping shape the Department of East Asian Studies from a new department into a robust intellectual community. He was the department's longest-serving chair (1988-1999), taught courses ranging from the annually team-taught "History of East Asia to 1800," "Intellectual History of China to the Fifth Century" and "Intellectual History of China from the Ninth to the 19th Century." He served as main or second Ph.D. dissertation adviser for dozens of students over the years, across an extremely wide range in terms of both time period (some 2,500 years from antiquity through the 19th century) and historical disciplines.
Peterson's career has been inextricably linked to one of the grandest of all projects in Chinese studies, the multi-volume "Cambridge History of China," an enterprise initiated by his mentor Denis Twitchett at Princeton. Today, after some 30 years of his involvement and authorial contributions of hundreds of pages, the entire "Cambridge History" is now finally nearing completion, having been sustained over time by a succession of grants and an influx of new authors and volume editors.
He also published on philosophy and intellectual history of Chinese antiquity, to encompass the entire time span of premodern China.