Jonathan D. Spence, an expert on Chinese history and culture and a professor emeritus at Yale University, will deliver the 2010 Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Humanities announced on Monday.
The humanities endowment calls the annual lecture, which carries a $10,000 honorarium, "the most prestigious honor the federal government bestows for distinguished intellectual achievement in the humanities." Lecturers in recent years have included the writer John Updike, the bioethicist Leon R. Kass, and the political theorist Harvey C. Mansfield.
Mr. Spence will deliver his lecture, "When Minds Met: China and the West in the Seventeenth Century," on May 20 at the Warner Theatre, in Washington, D.C.
Mr. Spence has written a dozen books, such as The Search for Modern China, a 1990 work still used frequently in classrooms, and received numerous awards, including Guggenheim and MacArthur fellowships. He joined the faculty at Yale in 1966 and retired from full-time teaching in 2008.
"Jonathan Spence's scholarship has shaped the field of Chinese history," said Jim Leach, chairman of the humanities endowment, in a written statement. "In a world in which mutual understanding has never been more important, Spence has helped Americans understand the culture of one of the world's oldest and greatest civilizations."