James Millward


James A. Millward is Professor of Inter-societal History at the Walsh School of Foreign Service and Department of History, Georgetown University.  He received his bachelor's degree in East Asian Languages and Civilizations from Harvard in 1983, his MA in East Asian Studies from the School of Oriental and African Studies (University of London) in 1985, and his Ph.D. in history from Stanford in 1993.  He teaches a variety of classes on Chinese, Central Asian and world history at undergraduate and graduate levels.  His research interests focus on China and Central Eurasia including Mongolia, Tibet and especially Xinjiang, as well as the silk road more generally.  He is currently researching cross-cultural musical exchanges on the silk road in preparation for a book on the lute across Eurasia.  He has served on the China and Inner Asia Council of the Association for Asian Studies (AAS), as well as on the Executive Board of the Central Eurasian Studies Society (CESS).  He was president of CESS in 2010.  

His most recent book, The Silk Road: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2013), is both an introduction to, and provocative argument about, the nature and significance of trans-Eurasian exchanges in world history.  Its chapters examine biological, technological and artistic exchanges against the background of Central Eurasian history, the impact of nomad empires, and continuing resonances of the silk road in international relations and popular culture.  The lively style and handy format of the Very Short Introduction series makes them ideal traveling companions.  

Millward's general survey history of the Xinjiang region from ancient to recent times is aimed at scholarly and general audiences looking for an accessible and reliable introduction to the long and diverse history of this Central Asian Chinese region at the hub of the silk road:  Eurasian Crossroads: A History of Xinjiang (Columbia University Press, 2008).

Beyond the Pass:  Economy, Ethnicity and Empire in Qing Central Asia, 1759-1864 (Stanford, 1998) is a study of China's administration of Xinjiang in the 18th and 19th century, based on wide reading in Chinese sources and the archives of the Qing dynasty in Beijing.  It has been published in Chinese (嘉峪关外:1759-1864 年新疆的经济,民族和清帝国) by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences as part of the PRC national project on Qing history. 

When not busy with teaching and research projects, Millward enjoys playing a variety of stringed instruments (he performs in the Washington DC area with the band By & By) and spending time with his wife, the journalist Madhulika Sikka, and two daughters in Washington, D.C.

Areas of Expertise: China, Central Eurasia, Silk Road, World History, Xinjiang, Uyghurs, guitar history, chordophone history, lute history

  • Ph.D. (1993) Stanford, History
  • MA (1985) School of Oriental and African Studies,
  • BA (1983) Harvard University, East Asian Languages and Civilizations



The Silk Road:  A Very Short Introduction.  Oxford University Press, 2013.

Millward, James, Shinmen Yasushi and Sugawara Jun, eds.  Studies on Xinjiang Historical Sources in the 17th-20th Centuries.  Tokyo:  Toyobunko, 2010.

Eurasian Crossroads:  A History of Xinjiang.  New York:  Columbia University Press; London: C. Hurst Co., 2007.

New Qing Imperial History:  The Making of Inner Asian Empire at Qing Chengde.  London and New York: RoutledgeCurzon, 2004. (Chief editor; with assistance from Ruth Dunnell, Mark Elliott and Philippe Forêt)

Beyond the Pass: Economy, Ethnicity and Empire in Qing Xinjiang, 1759-1864.  Stanford University Press, 1998.

Scholarly articles and chapters

"Bao-yu's Education."  In Andrew Schonebaum and Tina Lu, eds., Approaches to Teaching The Story of the Stone (Dream of the Red Chamber), pp. 159-63.  New York:  The Modern Language Association of America, 2012.  

"Shredding for the Motherland:  The Guitar in China."  In Jeffrey Wasserstrom and Angilee Shah, eds.  Chinese Characters.  University of California Press, 2012.  

"Chordophone Culture in Two Early Modern Societies:  a Pipa-Vihuela Duet."  Journal of World History 23:2 (June 2012), 237-278.

"Spatial and Political Metamorphosis of Chinese Central Asia:  Xinjiang in the 19th and 20th Centuries."  In John Schoeberlein, ed.  Historical Atlas of Central Eurasia.  Cambridge:  Harvard University Press, forthcoming.

"The Pipa: How a Barbarian Lute Became a National Symbol."  In Danwei: a Web Magazine about China.  http://www.danwei.com/the-pipa-how-a-barbarian-lute-became-a-national-symbol/   10 June 2011.

"Towards a Xinjiang Environmental History:  Evidence from Space, the Ground and in Between."  In New Historical Sources on Xinjiang.  James Millward and Yasushi Shinmen, eds.  Tokyo:  Toyo Bunko, 2010.  

Guest editor:  "Special Issue:  The Uyghurs in China—Questioning the Past and Understanding the Present.  Central Asian Survey 28:4 (Dec. 2009).

"Introduction:  Does the 2009 Urumchi violence mark a turning point?"  In Central Asian Survey 28:4 (Dec. 2009): 347-360.

"Positioning Xinjiang in Eurasian and Chinese History: Differing Visions of the "'Silk Road.'"  In Michael Clarke and Colin Mackerras, eds.  China, Xinjiang and Central Asia:  History, Transition and Future Prospects into the 21st Century.  London:  Routledge, 2009. 

"Eastern Central Asia (Xinjiang): 1300-1800."   The Cambridge History of Inner Asia:  the Chinggisid Age.  Edited by Nicola Di Cosmo, Allen Frank and Peter Golden.  Cambridge, England:  Cambridge University Press, 2009.

Millward, James and Laura Newby.  "The Qing and Islam on the Western Frontier."  In Pamela Kyle Crossley, Helen Siu and Donald Sutton, eds.  Empire at the Margins:  Culture, Ethnicity and Frontier in Early Modern China.  Berkeley:  University of California Press, 2006.

"Uyghur Art Music and Chinese Silk Roadism."  The Silk Road (online and print journal of the Silk Road Foundation) 3:1 (June 2005): 9-15.

"The Advent of Modern Education on the Sino-Central Asian Frontier:  Xinxue vs. usul-i jadid."  In Bradley J. Parker and Lars Rodseth, eds., Untaming the Frontier in Archaeology, Anthropology and History.  Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2005. 

Violent Separatism in Xinjiang:   A Critical Assessment.  Policy Studies # 6.  Washington:  East-West Center, 2004.

"Contextualizing the Qing:  the Return of the Torghuts and the End of History in Central Eurasia."  In Lynn Struve, ed., The Qing Formation and World Time.  Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004.

"Political and Cultural History of the Xinjiang Region through the late 19th Century"  (with Peter Perdue).  In Frederick Starr, ed.  Xinjiang:  China's Muslim Frontier.  M. E. Sharpe, 2004.  

"Political History and Strategies of Control, 1884-1978"  (with Nabijan Tursun).  In Frederick Starr, ed.  Xinjiang:  China's Muslim Frontier.  M. E. Sharpe, 2004.

Review essay:  Mark Elliott, The Manchu Way, in Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 62:2 (Dec. 2002): 468-79.

"Not just China: Qing Dynasty Expansion and Eclecticism."  International Chinese Snuff Bottle Society Journal,  Spring 2001.

"Historical Perspectives on Contemporary Xinjiang."  Inner Asia 2 (2000): 121-135.

”Coming onto the Map:  "Western Regions" Geography and Cartographic Nomenclature in the Making of Chinese Empire in Xinjiang."  Late Imperial China 20, no.2 (Dec 1999): 61-98.

“An Historical Perspective on the Crisis in Chinese Turkestan: The Forgotten Legacy of the Qing Dynasty.”  Woodrow Wilson International Center, Asia Program Occasional Papers #79, February 25, 1998.

"New Perspectives on the Qing Frontier."  In Gail Hershatter, Emily Honig, Jonathan N. Lipman and Randall Stross, eds.  Remapping China.  Stanford University Press, 1996.

"1759-1860 nian Xinjiang baiyin shengmingxian" [Xinjiang's silver lifeline between 1759 and 1860], in Ma Dazheng et. al, eds.,  Xiyu kaocha yu yanjiu [Exploration and research on the "Western Regions"].  Urumchi:  Xinjiang renmin chubanshe, 1994.

"A Uyghur Muslim in Qianlong's Court:  The Meanings of the Fragrant Concubine."  Journal of Asian Studies 53:2 (May 1994).

"The Qing Trade with the Kazakhs in Yili and Tarbagatai, 1759-1852."  Central and Inner Asian Studies Vol VII (1992).

"1880-1930 nian Huizu shangren yu Zhongguo bianjiang diqu de yangmao maoyi"  [Hui merchants and wool trade in China's border regions, 1880-1930], Gansu minzu yanjiu [Researches on Gansu Minorities], No. 4, 1989.

Reviews and research notes

Review of Scott Levi, India and Central Asia:  Commerce and Culture, 1500-1800.  In Central Asia Survey 27:2 (June 2008): 209

Review of David Bello, Opium and the Limits of Empire.  In Journal of Asian Studies 66: 1 (Feb. 2007), 219-221.

"International Workshop on Xinjiang Historical Sources."  With Jun Sugawara and Yasushi Shinmen.  Central Eurasian Studies Review 5:1 (Winter 2006): 58-60.

Review of L. J. Newby,  The Empire and the Khanate:  A Political History of Qing Relations with Khoqand c. 1760-1860.  In Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 69: 3 (Oct. 2006): 488-490.

Review of Peter Perdue, China Marches West: The Qing Conquest of Central Eurasia.  In International Journal of Asian Studies (Institute of Oriental Culture, Tokyo University / Cambridge University Press) 3.6 (July 2006).

Review of John Larner.  Marco Polo and the Discovery of the World.  In American Historical Review,  Feb. 2002, pp. 271-272.

"Introduction."  In Abu Bakr Amir-uddin Nadwi, Tibet and Tibetan Muslims.  Trans. from Urdu by Parmananda Sharma.  Dharamsala:  Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, 2004.

Review of Pamela Kyle Crossley, A Translucent Mirror.  In American Historical Review, June, 2001, pp. 953-954.

Review of Joanna Waley-Cohen, The Sextants of Beijing.   ChinaNow, 23 September 1999 (www.ChinaNow.com).

Review of Elizabeth Wayland Barber, The Mummies of Ürümchi, in Central Asia Monitor 1999:2:18-20.

Review of Linda Benson and Ingvar Svanberg, China’s Last Nomads: the History and Culture of China’s Kazaks.  M.E. Sharpe, 1998.  In Journal of Asian Studies 58:1 (Feb. 1999).

Review of Colin Mackerras, China’s Minority Cultures: Identities and Integration since 1912.  In Journal of Asian Studies 56:4 (Nov. 1997).

Review of  Robert A. Bickers, ed., Ritual and diplomacy:  The Macartney Mission to China, 1792-1794.  In Etudes Chinoises  (1995).

Review of Doak Barnett, China's Far West:  Four Decades of Change.  In The Australian Journal of Chinese Affairs, 1994.

"Commerce and Qing Colonial Xinjiang."  Chinese Business History 5:1 (Fall 1994).

Review of Burton Pasternak and Janet W. Salaff, Cowboys and Cultivators:  The Chinese of Inner Mongolia.  In Contemporary Sociology 23:4 (July 1994). 

"The Gansu Provincial Library: a Key Resource for Xibei Studies."  China Exchange News, Autumn 1991.

Press, media and other publications

"China's two problems with the Uyghurs."  Los Angeles Review of Books, 28 May 2014.  https://lareviewofbooks.org/essay/chinas-two-problems-uyghurs

"Hipster in the Vanguard."  Letter to the editor, The New York Times, p. A14, 20 September 2013.

"Being Banned from China, and What Can be Learned from It."  The China Beat 24 August 2011.

"The Urumchi Unrest Revisited"  The China Beat,  29 July 2009.   

"China's Story:  Putting the PR into the PRC"  OpenDemocracy (online), 18 April 2008.

"Statement to the Congressional Executive Committee on China" regarding the Chinese sense of insecutiry in Xinjiang and the history of foreign involvement in the region, 16 Nov. 2005.  http://www.cecc.gov/pages/roundtables/111605/Millward.php

 "Chiles on the Silk Road."  Chile Pepper Magazine, December 1993.

"Special Report:  Spotlight on the Silk Road."  Archaeology, July/August 1993.

"Why Islam Troubles China Too," (with Madhulika Sikka).  World Monitor Magazine, April 1991.

"Setting William Buckley Straight on China." Opinion, The Providence Journal, 5 January 1985.

"Greece" and "Turkey" sections in Let's Go Europe and Let's Go Greece.  New York: Saint Martin's Press, 1985 editions.