Jerry H. Bentley (1949–2012)

We were deeply saddened to learn that Jerry H. Bentley (University of Hawai’i at Manoa), a distinguished scholar and leader in the field of world history and long-time friend of the AHA, passed away on July 15.

Bentley is best known for his role in the field of world history. Former AHA Teaching Division vice president Patrick Manning (Univ. of Pittsburgh) recalled him as the “founder and editor of the Journal of World History, recognized by the American Library Association as the best new journal for 1990.” Under his guidance the history department at the University of Hawai’i was also one of the first to offer doctoral-level studies in world history. Manning added that “His active presence in building scholarship and teaching in world history, notably through the World History Association and the AHA, gained him wide respect and admiration.”

Bentley was the author, among other books, of Old World Encounters: Cross-Cultural Contacts and Exchanges in Pre-Modern Times, and was the editor of many anthologies and well-received global histories

Peter N. Stearns, a former AHA vice president for Teaching and now provost of George Mason University, observed that “Jerry was a tireless proponent of world history, one of the key sources of the field’s rapid growth over the past two decades. He offered fresh research, teaching guidance, graduate training and a journal outlet–really a complete package. He will be sorely missed.”

Research Division vice president John McNeill (Georgetown Univ.) also remembered him “as one of the kindest people in our profession. Through his work as editor of the Journal of World History, his textbook, and his ubiquity at world history conferences, Jerry left a strong imprint on the way world history is understood and taught in this country and, to a growing extent, overseas.   World history has long struggled for intellectual coherence, and for legitimacy within the historical profession, and in the last 20 years Jerry probably did more than anyone else to advance its cause.  As will so many others, I will miss him as a friend, and miss him as a scholar.”

In addition to his role in the world history field, Bentley selflessly served the Association as chair of the AHA’s Schmitt Grant committee from 1998 to 2001, a member of the Committee on Committees from 2001 to 2004, and co-chair of the 2009 Program Committee.

The University of Hawai’i Press commemorated Professor Bentley on its blog, and an obituary appears on the website of the Global History Center, Capital Normal University, Beijing. Both notices request that condolences for the Bentley family be sent via Dr. Sun Yue at suny_wood@yahoo.com.

We will have a more detailed “In Memoriam” essay marking his life and work in a fall issue if Perspectives on History.

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