When I joined the faculty of the history department at Duke University in 1971, one of my tasks was to teach in a course, already in place, titled “From Tradition to Modernity.” It was a team-taught, two-semester course that covered China, Japan, South Asia (India), Africa, and Latin America, more or less corresponding to the “areas” of area studies. The fi rst semester was devoted to traditions, the second to modernity. In the fi rst semester, following an introductory lecture on Talcott Parsons’s “pattern-variables,” we each took three-week turns to discuss tradition in our respective societies, in the order of religion, social, and political structures.1 We followed the same pattern the second semester, although we had more to say to one another as the various societies we covered seemed now to have more in common with one another.