Cover of Contract and Property in Early Modern China by Edited by Madeleine Zelin, Jonathan K. Ocko, and Robert Gardella
Contract and Property in Early Modern China
Edited by Madeleine Zelin, Jonathan K. Ocko, and Robert Gardella


408 pages.

Hardcover ISBN: 9780804746397
Ebook ISBN: 9780804766944


Excerpts and More

The role of contract in early modern Chinese economic life, when acknowledged at all, is usually presented as a minor one. This volume demonstrates that contract actually played a critical role in the everyday structure of many kinds of relationships and transactions; contracts are, moreover, of enormous value to present-day scholars as transcriptions of the fine details of day-to-day economic activity.

Offering a new perspective on economic and legal institutions, particularly the closely related institutions of contract and property, in Qing and Republican China, the papers in this volume spell out how these institutions worked in specific social contexts. Drawing on recent research in far-flung archives, the contributors take as givens both the embeddedness of contract in Chinese social and economic discourse and its role in the spread of commodification. Two papers deal with broad issues: Zelin's argues for a distinctively Chinese heritage of strong property rights, and Ocko's examines the usefulness of American legal scholarship as a comparative analytic framework.

About the authors

Madeleine Zelin is Professor of History and East Asian Languages and Cultures at Columbia University. Jonathan K. Ocko is Professor and Head of the Department of History at North Carolina State University, and an Adjunct Professor of Chinese Legal History at Duke Law School. Robert Gardella is professor in the Humanities Department at the United States Merchant Marine Academy.

“...the eleven papers in this volume present a fascinating range of case studies and historical details on the role of contracts and property rights in Chinese conomic transactions...”— EH.NET

“This book is essential reading for scholars and graduate students interested in Chinese legal, social, and economic history.”—History: Reviews of New Books

"...this volume in its detailed study of contracts in early modern China is a timely contribution for anyone interested in China's policy and economic development today."

—Canadian Journal of Law and Society