Zachary Hershey joined the faculty of Kenyon' s History Department in 2022. His research focuses on the environmental, administrative, and economic history of Northeast Asian borderlands and the historical peoples who have occupied the region. Hershey has argued against the existence of a strict borderline between southern, sedentary agrarian polities and northern, nomadic pastoral polities by documenting the development of economies based on mixed land use. Hershey works to promote the incorporation of Serbi-Mongolic language sources in the writing of East Asian history.

Hershey’s courses draw on frontier narratives to explore interregional interactions to help contextualize narrow histories within the history of the region or world. His teaching often incorporates sources from multiple disciplines including art history, archaeology, linguistics and environmental sciences.

Prior to Kenyon, Hershey has taught East Asian history at Temple University and the University of Pennsylvania.

Areas of Expertise

Frontier history, East Asian environmental history, Serbi-Mongolic languages and linguistics


2021 — Doctor of Philosophy from University of Pennsylvania

2016 — Master of Arts from University of Pennsylvania

2014 — Bachelor of Arts from Univ. of California Berkeley

Courses Recently Taught

This course focuses on China, Korea and Japan before the rise of European maritime dominance (from the 16th century on), and the region's role in the early globalization of world exchange. East Asia emerged as a coherent cultural area in the first millennium CE, with the introduction and spread of Buddhism, a religion whose faith and associated practices profoundly stamped the physical and human landscape of the region. Significant shifts in the 12th to 18th centuries CE highlight the Confucianization of family, gender, politics and kingship during these later centuries. The Mongol and Manchu conquests of the 13th and 17th centuries mark key transition points in this process, as well as in shaping regional and global relationships of exchange. This counts toward the premodern requirement for the major and minor. No prerequisite. Offered every other year.

This course surveys Chinese society from the origins of empire at the turn of the first millennium to the 18th century, focusing on the later centuries (11th to 18th). We will explore; 1) the gradual Confucianization of Chinese society and the tensions between ethical ideals and social realities; 2) the economic, technological and demographic expansion which brought China increasingly into global exchange networks and challenged visions of the proper world order; and 3) how those changes shaped relationships between or among individuals, communities and the state. Along with core institutions of the imperial state (throne and bureaucracy), the agrarian economy and the family-centered ancestral lineage, we examine other social and cultural forms that flourished, often in tension or opposition to societal or state-defined ideals. This counts toward the premodern requirement for the major and minor. No prerequisite.

Long before Columbus crossed the Atlantic Ocean, peoples residing along the shores of the Indian Ocean had already established an extensive maritime network that linked the civilizations of India, China, Southeast Asia, the Middle East and East Africa. For centuries, the volume and wealth of Indian Ocean trade exceeded that of any other region, and it was in hopes of gaining access to this commercial zone that Europeans embarked on their voyages of "discovery." This seminar course treats the Indian Ocean region as a site of premodern globalization and explores the wide-ranging cultural and economic exchanges that occurred across it during successive eras of regional, Muslim, and European dominance from the 17th to the 19th centuries, before its decline. Towards the end of the course, we will explore recent historical scholarship, that focuses on modern networks of labor, pilgrimage, kinship, and ideas across the Indian Ocean, and questions whether this zone of exchange and interconnection did indeed decline in the era of 19th century European dominance. Recommended for sophomores and above. This counts toward the premodern requirement for the major and minor. Prerequisite: sophomore standing. Offered every two or three years.