Open to the Public
Harold L. Kahn, Professor Emeritus of History died at home of natural causes on December 11, 2018. Kahn, a specialist in Late Imperial Chinese history taught at Stanford for over 40 years.
Born in 1930 in Poughkeepsie, New York, Kahn earned a B.A. from Williams College, and completed his M.A. and Ph.D degrees at Harvard University. Kahn originally had signed up for a PhD program in political science, however, after spending a Fulbright year in Sweden, he switched to Chinese history at the invitation of John King Fairbank. Professor Fairbank, made the recommendation to Kahn by observing that he already had learned a tonal language (Swedish).
He will be remembered for his relevant work on the Qianlong emperor in his book, Monarchy in the Emperor's Eyes:Image and Reality in the Ch'ien-lung Reign (Harvard University Press, 1971) that won the Commonwealth Club First Book Prize.
Kahn received the Dean's Award for Distinguished Teaching and was known for his humorous and illuminating lectures. He taught his students the importance of writing well, and insisted they find their own scholarly voices . Along with his contemporaries at Stanford in Chinese history Lyman Van Slyke and Al Dien, Kahn mentored and trained many of the best historians of late imperial and modern China. He gently engineered connections amoung his former students, creating a network of friends and scholarly influences. It was not unusual for Kahn to include students at his family Thanksgiving dinners and hiking trips to Mt. Tamalpais and the California Coast.
At his retirement the History Department created the Kahn-Van Slyke Award for Graduate Mentorship and the Harold Kahn Reading Room.
Harold is survived by his daughters Annika and Stanya Kahn, and partner Maureen McClain.
Stanford History Department and Center for East Asian Studies will host a memorial service for Harold Kahn on Saturday, February 9, 2019, from 10AM-12:00PM at the Stanford Humanities Center, Levinthal Hall.