Penn State Penn State: College of the Liberal Arts
David G. Atwill

David G. Atwill

Professor of History

202 Weaver Building

University Park, PA 16802

Phone: (814) 865-1218

Curriculum Vitae:


PhD, University of Hawai'i, 1999
MA, University of Hawai'i, 1994
BA, Whitman College, 1989
David G. Atwill Headshot



David G. Atwill is a Professor of History at Penn State University where he teaches a broad range of courses on China, Tibet and a popular introduction to World History to 1500.  Most recently, his research has focused on the Tibetan Muslims based on multi-lingual sources, archives and interviews across six countries and three continents. Atwill’s essays and articles on this topic have appeared in Journal of Asian StudiesCahiers d’Extrême Asie, and Himalaya. This research has culminated in the monograph, Islamic Shangri-la: Inter-Asian Relations and Lhasa’s Muslim Communities, 1600-1960 (University of California Press, 2018).

In addition, Atwill is also writing a short biography of Lin Zexu which is under contract with Oxford University Press. This work is part of a broader re-examination of China’s late imperial transnational ‘corridors of contact’ as seen through the eyes of Lin Zexu and other of that period’s imperial trouble-shooters posted to Tibet, Xinjiang and southwest China.

A firm believer that scholars must contribute more broadly to the relevance of history to the world we live in today, he served as a fellow in the National Committee of China-­United States Relations’ Public Intellectuals Programand co-authored with Yurong Yang Atwill, Sources in Chinese History: Diverse Perspectives from 1644 to the Present, (2009). Atwill’s early research largely centered on the ethno-religious identity of the Muslim Chinese (or Hui) in the southwestern Chinese province of Yunnan culminating in the publication of The Chinese Sultanate: Islam, Ethnicity and the Panthay Rebellion in Southwestern China, 1856-1873 (Stanford University Press, 2006).

Recent Publications:

Boundaries of Belonging: Sino-Indian Relations and the 1960 Tibetan Muslim Incident,” Journal of Asian Studies 75(3) August 2016: 595-620

A Tibetan By Any Other Name: The Case of Muslim Tibetans and Ambiguous Ethno-religious Identities” Cahiers d’Extrême Asie 23 (2014): 31-61.

Sources in Chinese History: Diverse Perspectives from 1644 to the Present (Co-edited with Yurong Y. Atwill), Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2009.

“Holy Culture Wars: Patterns of Ethno-Religious Violence in 19th and 20th Century China,” in Belief and Bloodshed: Religion and Violence Across Time and Traditions. Ed. James Wellman, Rowman & Littlefield, 2007: 115-130.

The Chinese Sultanate: Islam, Ethnicity and the Panthay Rebellion in Southwestern China, 1856-1873, Stanford University Press, 2006.

Blinkered Visions: Islamic Identity, Hui Ethnicity, and the Panthay Rebellion in Southwest China, 1856-1874,” Journal of Asian Studies 62(4), 2003: 1079-1108.

Personal Homepage:
Penn State Personal Home Page


Awards and Fellowships:

Senior Fellow, Association of Nepal and Himalayan Studies (2016)
Fellow, Public Intellectuals Program, National Committee of China-US Affairs (2014-2016)
NEH FPIRI Fellow (administered by American Institute of Indian Studies) (2015)
Participating scholar, European Research Council, Center for Himalayan Studies (CNRS). (2012-2015)
Supplemental New Direction Fellowship, Mellon Foundation (2011-2013)
Confucius Institute Workshop Grant, “China in Motion: Urban-Rural Migration in Modern China” (2011)
New Direction Fellowship, Mellon Foundation (2007-2010)
Fulbright Scholar Research Award, China (2007-2008)

Recent Courses:

HIST10 – World History to 1500
HIST175 – Modern East Asia
HIST188 – Tibet: People, Places & Spaces
HIST302W – Senior Seminar: Tibet 
HIST485Y – Nineteenth-Century China

HIST500 – Theory, Method and Practice of History (Graduate Seminar)
HIST581 – Late Imperial and Modern China (Graduate Seminar)
HIST588 – Ethnicity and Borderlands in Late Imperial China (Graduate Seminar)


Areas of Specialization: