MacArthur Fellows Program

Christopher Beckwith

Philologist | Class of 1986

Bloomington, Indiana
41 at time of award
Published August 1, 1986

About Crhistopher's Work

Christopher Beckwith is a philologist with interests in history and linguistics.

Beckwith’s work in history has focused on international relations in early medieval Central Asia.  Using Chinese, Arabic, and Old Tibetan materials, he has pioneered a unified history of East and West by studying the conflicting interests of the early-medieval empires.  His work in linguistics centers on Inner-Asian languages, and on the typology of noun classification.  He is the author of The Tibetan Empire in Central Asia: A History of the Struggle for Great Power among Tibetans, Arabs, Turks, and Chinese during the Early Middle Ages (1987), Medieval Tibeto-Burman Languages (2002), and Koguryo: The Language of Japan’s Continental Relatives (2004).  He is completing a new book and beginning a project on the culture of Japanese-Koguryoic peoples.


Beckwith is a professor in the Department of Central Eurasian Studies at Indiana University.  In addition to other activities, he organized the T’ang Studies Society in 1982.

Beckwith received a B.A. (1968) from Ohio State University, and an M.A. (1974) and Ph.D. (1977) from Indiana University.

Recent News

Currently, Christopher Beckwith is Distinguished Professor of Central Eurasian Studies in the Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies at Indiana University. His recent publications include Phoronyms: Classifiers, Class Nouns, and the Pseudopartitive Construction (2007), Empires of the Silk Road: A History of Central Eurasia from the Bronze Age to the Present (2009), Warriors of the Cloisters: The Central Asian Origins of Science in the Medieval World (2012), and Greek Buddha: Pyrrho’s Encounter with Early Buddhism, is in press (forthcoming 2015). He founded the Medieval Tibeto-Burman Languages Symposium (in 2000), for which he also edited the first three volumes of papers (2002, 2006, 2008).

Updated July 2015

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