Asia stretches from the Arctic to the tropics and from the Mediterranean to the Pacific. Home to half the world’s population, it is also the site of some of its largest contemporary economies as well as extraordinary global circulation of people, ideas, goods, science, and culture around today’s world. Asia’s huge territory includes an immense number of diverse states and cultures. By one count, more than two thousand languages are spoken there. The connections that Asian peoples have made to one another and to other world regions for centuries - by land and by sea, through trade and immigration, war and diplomacy, epidemic and exchange - have shaped their own societies and those of the entire world.
Asia includes some of the world’s longest lived political, economic, and cultural institutions, for which documentary records extend over two millennia. Asian conquest and trade have created diverse societies characterized by both pluralism and coercion. Asians practice all the world’s religions, and the continent is the birthplace of many of them, including Islam, Buddhism, and Daoism. Relating the histories of Asia’s interconnected regions to Asia’s contemporary geopolitical prominence raises important questions that are fundamental to comprehending the formation of today’s complex world.
Asia specialists in the Department of History cover the long historical span of Asian history in their teaching, and range in geographic focus from Western and Central Asia to East Asia, in particular China and Japan. They also work closely with other colleagues in interdisciplinary programs, training PhDs in art history, anthropology, archaeology, economics, religious studies, music, and political science. Pitt's Asian Studies Center, with initiatives in South Asia and Southeast Asia as well as China, Japan, and Korea Studies, is a crucial resource. Pitt’s East Asian Library, with a dedicated Asianist staff, holds the fourteenth largest collection of East Asian books in the United States.