Letter from the Editor

The Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Asian History is a dynamic, innovative, comprehensive, self-reflexive online research encyclopedia, which provides access to state-of-the-art research and also links readers to the full range of internet resources for research and teaching, including audio, visual, video materials, digitized archives, and other primary sources.

Contributors to the ORE are professional historians, independent scholars as well as faculty at institutions around the world. Their essays provide a comprehensive overview of each subject and a brief historiography that will indicate how scholarship has been developing and locate their own contribution. Authors will update their entries in response to feedback from readers and new developments in the field.

The ORE is therefore not only a guide to scholarly work. It is an organized, interactive, ongoing, effort to advance scholarship in the internet age, when historical understandings of Asia are changing dramatically. By collecting scholarship on all dimensions of Asian History, the ORE seeks to overcome the anachronistic, disorderly, territorial and disciplinary fragmentation of Asian History.

In standard school-book geography, Asia is a continent connected to Europe that includes Russia east of the Urals, the Caucasus, and Middle East. But in international affairs and world area studies, including History, it is a changing collection of states and cultural regions east of Iran, excluding the Caucasus and Middle East, and in some recent versions also all of Russia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and even Afghanistan and Pakistan. In popular discourse, Asia always excludes Russia, the Caucasus, and Middle East. In Europe and the UK, Asia commonly centers on India, but in the United States, it centers on China. In the US, being Asian usually means having traits typical in East Asia, but in Europe and the UK, most Asians are from South Asia.

This confusing mixture of territorial definitions is an intellectual legacy of Asian Studies from the days of imperialism, nationalism, orientalism, and Cold War; now it is certainly archaic, as are disciplinary separations of History from social sciences and the isolation of histories of science, art, technology, architecture, archaeology, music, health, medicine, environment, and other subjects. The internet allows disparate fields and approaches to be interconnected as never before; it can foster new conversations and collaborations. The ORE can connect specialists in new ways, forming new intellectual spaces, for example, among area specialists separated by oceans and continents. The ORE provides a way to overcome the current disconnect of Asian History from processes of globalization and worldwide Asian migrations.

The ORE in Asian History seeks to improve the future as well as appreciate the past and present of historical studies. Articles will provide a careful selection of the most influential and useful primary and secondary materials, so that readers will gain a solid understanding of a given topic, learn to navigate thickets of specialization, and entertain new perspectives and approaches. Every article will be reviewed for accuracy and usefulness by peer reviewers, as well as by a fifteen-member editorial board of distinguished scholars. Authors will be able to revise and enlarge ORE essays as new sources and methods change the way history can be written.

As it evolves, the ORE of Asian History will cover the entire sweep of Asian History in its broadest definition, from prehistory to the present and into the future. By offering students and scholars a dynamic, engaging, self-reflexive, and expanding reference work, we strive to make the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Asian History a model for encyclopedias in the digital age.

David Ludden
Editor in Chief