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Linderman Library Rotunda stained glass dome
Shellen Xiao Wu portrait

Shellen Xiao Wu

Associate Professor

L.H. Gipson Chair in Transnational History

Room 341 - Maginnes Hall

Ph.D., Princeton University, 2010

B.A., History & Literature, Harvard College, 2002

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Additional Interests

  • Modern China
  • History of science
  • Global history

Research Statement

In her new book, Shellen Wu traces the global history of the frontier in the twentieth century, with an emphasis on China. The global history approach provides a new perspective on the continuities and evolution of the construction of Chinese territoriality from the late nineteenth century to the People’s Republic of China after 1949, as well as the intellectual influence of geographical and geopolitical discourse from around the world. To trace the network of connections between individuals whose ideas on frontiers and development crossed from academic debates to policy changes, she adapted insights from network and mushroom science to a historical approach to break away from a purely chronological narrative of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. 

In a separate project, Wu is collaborating with geographers to evaluate the impact of changes in increased physical and virtual mobility for women in the sciences by combining traditional historical methodologies using archival records with new innovations from Geographic Information Science (GIScience) to study the human dynamics of knowledge creation in a space-time context.



Shellen Wu was born in Shanghai, China and grew up on Long Island. She arrived at Lehigh University in 2023 as the inaugural L.H.Gipson Chair in Transnational History. She is the chair of the East and Inner Asia Council of the Association of Asian Studies (2022-2024) and president of the Historical Society for Twentieth Century China (2022-2024). She is a fan of murder mysteries, science fiction, dogs, and birdwatching, not necessarily in that order. She collects Asian Americana and looks forward to building an Asian American community at Lehigh.

Select Recent Publications: 

The Page 99 Test: Birth of the Geopolitical Age: Global Frontiers and the Making of Modern China by Shellen Xiao Wu.

Birth of the Geopolitical Age: Global Frontiers and the Making of Modern China, (Stanford University Press, 2023).

Empires of Coal: Fueling China’s Entry into the Modern World Order, 1860-1919 (Weatherhead East Asian Institute Publication series, Stanford University Press, 2015). 

“Focus: Using Chinese Gazetteers for History of Science,” ISIS, Vol. 113, No. 4, December 2022, “Introduction: Redrawing the Map of Science in Modern China,” and “Using LoGart to Uncover a New Spatiality of Science in China,” 797-804 and 805-815.

“Ding Shan and the Resilience of Chinese Historical Geography,” 思想史 (Intellectual History)Vol. 10 (2021), 391-431. 

“On Science and Civilisation in China,”

“Saving China through Science,” Nature, part of essay series for the 150th anniversary celebration of Nature’s founding, October 1, 2019. (

With Fa-ti Fan, “Modern Science in China” Chapter in Cambridge History of Science, Vol. 8, Modern Science in National, Transnational, and Global Context (Cambridge University Press, 2020), 521-554.

“The Search for Coal in the Age of Empires: Ferdinand von Richthofen’s Odyssey in China, 1860-1920,” The American Historical Review, Vol. 119, No. 2 (April 2014), 339-362

Select Recent Presentations:

Mar. 2023 “Birth of the Geopolitical Age,” virtual book talk at NYU Shanghai, Center for Global Asia.

Mar. 2021 Invited lecture for Harvard Science and Technology in Asia Spring 2021 Seminar Series, “Mapping Science in a Global Age: The Human Dynamics of Scientific Knowledge.”

Jul. 2019 “全球视野下的屯垦,” (paper delivered in Chinese) for 近代中国的民众、民生与民风暨第八届中国近代社会史国际学术研讨会, Taiyuan, Shanxi, China. 


Shellen Xiao Wu interview with New Books in Chinese Studies: Birth of the Geopolitical Age: Global Frontiers and the Making of Modern China, (Stanford University Press, 2023).


HIST/GS 107 Science and Technology in the Making of the Modern World
HIST 076 Modern Chinese History
HIST 403 Transnational Asian History
HIST 401 Historical Methods