Humanities and Arts

Contact Information

Salisbury Laboratories, 107
Phone: +1-508-831-5481
Fax: +1-508-831-5932

Peter H. Hansen

The "discovery" and "first ascents" of Mont Ventoux, Mont Blanc, the Matterhorn, and Mount Everest illustrate a peculiar way of seeing "modern man" alone on the summit autonomous from other men and dominant over nature. Hansen’s forthcoming book examines the controversies over "who was first" on these peaks to explain the emergence of mountaineering and illuminate the history of modernity. He has previously published widely on colonialism, cross-cultural encounters, documentary films, and western encounters with Tibet. Currently, he is also working on a cultural history of Everest in the 20th century and historical perspectives on climate change and the "Anthropocene."

Hansen has been a visiting fellow at Clare Hall, Cambridge University, the Australian National University, and Harvard University, and is a past president of the Northeast Conference on British Studies. His work has reached wider audiences as a lecturer at public libraries and as a commentator and consultant for television programs on Everest and the Matterhorn by the British Broadcasting Corporation.

He enjoys teaching history and international studies at WPI, and advising students applying for nationally competitive fellowships. Small undergraduate seminars on the history of sports and empires in history are great opportunities to work closely with students in his areas of research. He has also collaborated with students on solving real-world problems in WPI’s project centers at Bangkok, London, Morocco, Washington, DC, and in Worcester.

Research Interests

  • Modern European and Global History
  • International Studies
  • Imperial and Postcolonial Studies
  • Modernity


  • BA, Carleton College, 1984
  • MA, Harvard University, 1986
  • PhD, Harvard University, 1991

Featured Publications

  • The Summits of Modern Man: Mountaineering after the Enlightenment (Harvard University Press, 2013). Publisher's description. Additional resources.
  • "Founders of the Alpine Club (act. 1857-1863)," Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online, ed. Lawrence Goldman, (Oxford University Press, 2007). Also contributor of 24 articles to the print/electronic edition published in 2004.
  • "Georges Mallory et la masculinité," in Deux siècles d'alpinismes européens, origines et mutations des activités de grimpe, ed. Olivier Hoibian and Jacques Defrance, (L'Harmattan, 2002), pp. 135-46.
  • "Tibetan Horizon: Tibet and the Cinema in the Early Twentieth Century," in Imagining Tibet: Perceptions, Projections, and Fantasies, ed. Thierry Dodin and Heinz Räther (Wisdom Publications, 2001), pp. 91-110.
  • "Partners: Guides and Sherpas in the Alps and Himalayas, 1850s-1950s," in Voyages and Visions: Towards a Cultural History of Travel ed. Jas Elsner and Joan-Pau Rubiés, (Reaktion, 1999), pp. 210-231.

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