Valerie Hansen

Professor of History


To view Valerie Hansen's full profile, please visit her Bio at the History Department here.


Voyages In World History (with Ken Curtis, Houghton Mifflin, 2009) is an introductory textbook. The readers of our book will embark on thirty different journeys — starting with Kennewick man's walk to the New World some 8400 years ago and ending with Nelson Mandela's travels around the world. In between, students will travel to Mesopotamia with Gilgamesh, to Africa and Arabia with a Muslim on the Haj, to Peru with a cross-dressing nun, and to the New World with the slave Equiano. Each chapter will cover the varied effects of increasing contact among civilizations, the changing political structures of empire, the world's religions, and social structure in the different societies of the world.

Changing Gods in Medieval China, 1127-1276 (Princeton University Press, 1990) argues that social and economic developments underlay the religious changes of the Southern Song. In 1100, nearly all people in south China worshiped gods who had been local residents prior to their deaths. The increasing mobility of cultivators in the lowland, rice-growing regions resulted in the adoption of gods from other places. Cults in isolated mountain regions showed considerably less change.

Negotiating Daily Life in Traditional China: How Ordinary People Used Contracts, 600-1400 (Yale University Press, 1995) analyzes the contracts used to buy, sell, rent, exchange, and borrow all commodities, whether land, money, goods, livestock, or people. Land contracts were also placed in tombs to give the dead title to their grave plots as well as to prevent them from being sued in the courts of the underworld. Because contracts were so widely used for all transactions, in this world and the next, this study concludes, they allow a rare glimpse of how ordinary people understood the law.

The Open Empire: A History of China to 1600 (W. W. Norton & Company, 2000) links the major political events of pre-modern China with social and cultural change. This textbook draws on unconventional sources — archeological sites, paintings, and fiction — to argue that China remained open to outside influences throughout its long history.

Courses Taught

Contact Information
Hall of Graduate Studies
Room 207
(203) 432-0480 (Office)