Prof. Jerry H. Bentley (1949-2012) and the Bentley World History Funds

Above: Jerry Bentley (left), and with his wife, Carol Mon Lee (right)

Emeritus Professor of History at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Jerry H. Bentley was a globally influential historian and teacher. Trained in the history of Renaissance Europe, he was widely admired for his pioneering approaches to the emerging field of World History. He established the flagship Journal of World History and wrote an influential textbook, Traditions and Encounters, which is still used by World History classes at UHM and throughout the US.

In commemoration of Jerry’s extraordinary scholarly gifts and personal commitment to World History research and teaching, his wife Carol Mon Lee has generously established several endowed funds to support faculty and student excellence in the field of World History.

Biography and Legacy

Born the oldest of three sons in Birmingham, Alabama, Jerry Harrell Bentley (December 12, 1949 – July 15, 2012) was raised in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where he attended public high school and earned a BA in History from the University of Tennessee Knoxville. He finished his MA (1974) and PhD (1976) at the University of Minnesota, and came to the University of Hawaiʻi in 1976 where he remained until his retirement in 2012.

Although his early research focused on Renaissance humanist scholarship of the Bible, in Hawaiʻi Jerry emerged as an international leader in World History scholarship and teaching. His inclusive and humanist appreciation for cross-cultural and transnational interactions, dynamics, and connections, from ancient times to the present, was elegantly and persuasively articulated. World History offers a path beyond a narrow nationalist approach, he wrote, by focusing on “comparisons, connections, networks, and systems rather than the experiences of individual communities or discrete societies” (“The Task of World History,” 2011). World History also provides powerful tools to challenge assumptions and biases about the historical rise of Europe in comparison with other global societies and cultures. Jerry’s later scholarship was also significantly influenced by Indigenous historiography as well as themes raised by Pacific and maritime history.

It is an indication of Jerry’s influence, and also his success in amplifying the work of emerging World History scholars in the US and around the world, that transnational and comparative approaches are now widely adopted across virtually all History subdisciplines.

Jerry was also known for his generosity and success in helping to promote World History both nationally and internationally. He helped develop content and curriculum standards for high school and undergraduate World History classes. In addition to establishing a flourishing PhD program in World History at UHM, he also fostered a World History program at Capital Normal University in Beijing.

Awards in Jerry’s honor include The Bentley Book Prize (est. 2012) of the World History Association, and the Jerry Bentley Prize in World History of the American Historical Association (est. 2014).

For more information on the Bentley funds at UHM, please contact histch@hawaii.edu.

The Bentley Funds at UHM History

Award Winners:

Jerry H. Bentley Faculty Award

2022      Monica LaBriola, John Rosa

2021      Monica LaBriola, Frank Zelko

2019      Vina Lanzona, Wensheng Wang

2018      Marcus Daniel

2017      Suzanna Reiss, Vina Lanzona

2016      Ned Bertz

2015      Yuma Totani, Kieko Matteson

Jerry H. Bentley Student Scholarship

2022-23          Carissa Chew, Jaehyung Kim

2021-22          Adrian Alarilla, Terri-Lee Bixby, and Wonkeun Lee

2016-17           Tomoko Fukushima

2015-16           Brandon Tachco

2012-13           Michael Johnson

2013-14           Robert Findlay

2014-15          William Matthew Cavert

Select Works by Jerry Bentley

Architects of World History: Researching the Global Past, with K.R. Curtis, eds (Wiley-Blackwell, 2014)

Europeanization of the World or Globalization of Europe?Religions 3 (2012): 441-454

The Task of World History,” Oxford Handbook of World History (2011)

Why Study World History?” World History Connected, 2008

Early Modern Europe and the Early Modern World”, in J. H. Bentley and C. H. Parker, eds. Between the Middle Ages and Modernity: Individual and Community in the Early Modern World (Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 2007): 13-31

Seascapes: Maritime Histories, Littoral Cultures, and Transoceanic Exchanges, ed. Jerry H. Bentley, Renate Bridenthal, Kären Wigen (University of Hawai`i Press Perspectives on the Global Past series, 2007)

“Beyond Modernocentrism: Toward Fresh Visions of the Global Past” in Victor H. Mair, ed., Contact and Exchange in the Ancient World (Honolulu: University of Hawai`i Press, 2006): 17-29

Interactions: Transregional Perspectives on World History, edited by Jerry H. Bentley, Renate Bridenthal, and Anand A. Yang (University of Hawai`i Press Perspectives on the Global Past series, 2005)

“Myths, Wagers, and Some Moral Implications of World History,” Journal of World History 16:1 (March 2005): 51– 82

(with Herbert F. Ziegler) Traditions and Encounters: A Global Perspective on the Past (Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2000); second edition (Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2003)

“World History and Grand Narrative,” in Benedikt Stuchtey, ed., Writing World History, 1800–2000 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003): 47-66

“The New World History,” in Lloyd Kramer and Sarah Maza, eds., A Companion to Western Historical Thought (Oxford: Blackwell, 2002): 393–416

“From National History Toward World History” in Matthias Middell, ed., Vom Brasilienvertrag zur Globalgeschichte: In Erinnerung an Manfred Kossok anlässlich seines 70. Geburtstages (Leipzig: Leipziger Universitätsverlag, 2002): 169-82. Translated into German: “Von der Nationalgeschichte zur Weltgeschichte,” Comparativ 12 (2002): 57-70

“Shapes of World History in Twentieth-Century Scholarship,” in Michael P. Adas, ed., Agricultural and Pastoral Societies in Ancient and Classical History (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2001): 3–35

Asia in World History,” Association for Asian Studies Education About Asia 04:1 (Spring 1999): 5-9

“Sea and Ocean Basins as Frameworks of Historical Analysis,” The Geographical Review 89 (1999): 215–24.

“World History,” in D.R. Woolf, ed., Making History: A Global Encyclopedia of Historical Writing (New York: Garland, 1998): 968–70

“A Tale of Two Analogues: Learning at a Distance from the Ancient Greeks and Mayans and the Problem of Deciphering Extraterrestrial Radio Transmissions,” with Ben Finney. Acta Astronautica 42 (1998): 691-96

“Hemispheric Integration, 500–1500 CE,” Journal of World History 9 (1998): 237–54

“Revisiting the Expansion of Europe: A Review Article,” Sixteenth Century Journal 28 (1997): 503-10

“Cross-Cultural Interaction and Periodization in World History,” American Historical Review 101 (1996): 749-70

Shapes of World History in Twentieth-Century Scholarship (American Historical Association pamphlet, 1996)

Old World Encounters: Cross-Cultural Contacts and Exchanges in Pre-Modern Times (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993)

“Graduate Education and Research in World History” World History Bulletin (5.2, Spring/Summer 1988). Translated into Chinese:  “Meiguo de shijieshi yanjiu yu yanjiusheng jiaoyu,” Jinan xuebao 3 (1988): 78-84, 113, translated by Liang Zhihong

Politics and Culture in Renaissance Naples (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987)

Humanists and Holy Writ: New Testament Scholarship in the Renaissance (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1983)

“Erasmus, Jean Le Clerc, and the Principle of the Harder Reading,” Renaissance Quarterly 31:3 (Autumn, 1978): 309–321

More About Jerry:

Encounters Old and New in World History: Essays Inspired by Jerry H. Bentley, edited by Alan Karras and Laura J. Mitchell (University of Hawai`i Press, Perspectives on the Global Past Series, 2017)

Encounters, Old and New, in World History: A Celebration of Jerry Bentley,” California + Northwest World History Association Joint Meeting, February 28 – March 2, 2014

Special Issue in Honor of Jerry H. Bentley, Journal of World History 25:4 (December 2014)

Robert B. Townsend, American Historical Association President, “Jerry H. Bentley (1949–2012),” July 19, 2012

Karen L. Jolly, “In Memoriam: Jerry H. Bentley (December 9, 1949 – July 15, 2012),” Journal of World History 23:3 (September 2012): vi-xi

Middell, M., & Naumann, K., “Globalizing History and Historicizing Globalization: In Memoriam of Jerry H. Bentley (1949–2012).” Comparativ 22:6 (2012): 7–10. https://doi.org/10.26014/j.comp.2012.06.01