Robert Marks

Robert Marks
Professor Emeritus
Department of History

562.907.4200, ext. 4966

Academic History

B.A., M.A., Ph.D., University of Wisconsin, Madison

Academic Focus

  • History of environment of East Asia
  • Chinese history
  • World History
  • Environmental History

Professional Interests

Late imperial and modern Chinese history, East Asian history, environmental history, social and economic history 


Professor Emeritus Robert Marks taught Chinese, Japanese, East Asian, and world history examining the historical relations between humans and the environment. His most recent book, The Origins of the Modern World — A Global and Ecological Narrative from the Fifteenth Century to the Twenty-first Century, draws upon new scholarship on Asia, Africa and the new world to present a narrative of the origins of the modern worlds from 1400 to the present. Marks' previous book, Tigers, Rice, Silk and Silt: Environment and Economy in Late Imperial South China, was featured in New York Historical Society's "Books That Matter" campaign in 2008. He has published numerous articles in scholarly journals, and has been invited to lecture and present papers at colleges and universities around the world, including Harvard, Yale, Cambridge, Bergen (Norway), the University of California, Berkeley, Pomona College, and Illinois Wesleyan.

In 2002, Marks was named the Richard and Billie Deihl Professor of History, a year after he received the Harry Nerhood Teaching Excellence Award. Like many professors at Whittier College, Marks helped engage students in research for his various books and articles, including, Origins of the Modern World. Students were given the opportunity to critique Marks' work and suggest additional materials. Marks served on the AP World History Development Committee and as director for the California World History Association; he serves on the editorial board of the journals Environment and History, Nature and Culture, and Oecologie.

Marks is fluent in Chinese and taught at Whittier College from 1978 to 2019.

Professional Activity


China: Its Environment and History. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2012

The Origins of the Modern World: A Global and Ecological Narrative from the Fifteenth to the Twenty- first Century. 2nd enlarged edition. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2007. Translated into Nowegian (2007); Spanish (2007).

Tigers, Rice, Silk, and Silt: Environment and Economy in Late Imperial China. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998. Paperback edition published in 2006. Being translated into Chinese.

The Making of the Modern World: Connected Histories, Divergent Paths, 1500 to the Present. Co-author with Robert Strayer et al. New York: St. Martin's Press, revised and expanded second edition, 1994.

Rural Revolution in South China: Peasants and the Making of History in Haifeng County, 1570-1930. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1984

Current Projects

An Environmental History of the Early Modern World

"Cycles of Waste and Soil Fertility in 19th-century China"