A specialist in premodern Chinese history, Ruth W. Dunnell came to Kenyon in 1989 as the second holder of the James P. Storer Professorship in Asian History. She helped to launch the interdisciplinary Asian Studies Program in 1991. Dunnell has moved to expand coverage of Korea in her East Asian history courses and also teaches courses on family in East Asia, Tibet, Vietnam, and the Mongol empire.

After publishing a book on the rise of a Buddhist state between Tibet and China in the eleventh century (the Tangut Xia, conquered by the Mongols in 1227),  she turned her attention to the Mongol conquests and their legacies in East Asia, published a biography of Chinggis Khan in 2009, and has contributed chapters to a forthcoming Cambridge History of the Mongol Empire. Her current research explores social history of the class of foreign experts (Tanguts, Uighurs, and Central Asian Muslims, mainly) recruited to help the Mongols govern China in the 13th and 14th centuries. Dunnell also plans to undertake a new English translation of a travel diary kept by Li Zhichang, the disciple who accompanied the Daoist master Changchun on a visit to Chinggis Qan's camp in Afghanistan in ca. 1221-23, during Mongol campaigns in Central Asia.   

In 1999-2000 she served as the resident director of the Oregon University System study abroad program in Beijing, and travels to East Asia every now and then. 

Areas of Expertise

Chinese and inner-Asian history, comparative history of north Asia 11th-14th centuries, Mongol empire.


1983 — Doctor of Philosophy from Princeton University

1975 — Master of Arts from University of Washington

1972 — Bachelor of Arts from Middlebury College