Li Chen

Li Chen

Associate Professor
Department Chair
History / Global Asia Studies
(416) 287-7128


Professor Chen is currently Associate Professor of History, Global Asia Studies, and Sociolegal Studies at the University of Toronto. He is also President of the International Society for Chinese Law and History (2014-2017) and member of the Editorial Board of the Law and History Review and of the Publications Committee of the American Society for Legal History.

His research and teaching interests include late Imperial and modern China (15th-20th centuries), Chinese law and society, Sino-Western relations, international law and history, empire and postcolonial studies. He presented his research at various institutions, including Harvard University, Columbia University, University of Chicago, Duke University, University of Hong Kong, Tsinghua University, College de France, and University of Helsinki.

His recent publications include:

“Law, Empire, and Historiography of Modern Sino-Western Relations: A Case Study of the Lady Hughes Controversy in 1784,” Law & History Review 27.1 (2009): 1-53 (won honorable mention for the Law and Society Association’s 2011 Article Prize, and translated into Chinese as “法律、帝国与近代中西关系历史学,” 北大法律评论 (Peking University Law Review) 12.2 (Sept. 2011): 437-81);

“Universalism and Equal Sovereignty as Contested Myths of International Law in the Sino-Western Encounter,” Journal of the History of International Law 13.1 (2011):75-116 (translated into Chinese by 法律史译评 (Legal History Studies: Translation and Critiques);

“Legal Specialists and Judicial Administration in Late Imperial China, 1651-1911,” Late Imperial China 33.1 (June 2012): 1-54 (translated into Chinese as “清代的法律专家与地方司法运作 (1651-1911),” 法制史研究 (Journal for Legal History Studies 28 (Dec. 2015);

“Power of Knowledge: The Role of Secret and Published Treatises of Private Legal Specialists in the Qing Juridical Field” (知识的力量: 清代幕友秘本和公开出版的律学著作对清代司法场域的影响), Journal of Zhejiang University 45.1 (Jan. 2015): 13-32 (in Chinese);

“Contestation over Legal Knowledge and Limits of Imperial Power in Qing China,” in Chinese Law: Knowledge, Practice and Transformation, 1530s-1950s (Brill, 2015), 254-86 (translated into Chinese in 复旦法律评论 (Fudan Law Review), March 2016);

“Rethinking Chinese Law and History: An Introduction,” co-authored with Madeleine Zelin, in Chinese Law: Knowledge, Practice, and Transformation, 1530s-1950s, edited by Chen and Zelin (Brill, 2015), 1-14;

“Affective Sovereignty, International Law, and China’s Legal Status in the Nineteenth Century,” in The Scaffold of Sovereignty: A Global Interdisciplinary Approach, edited by Zvi Ben-Dor Benite, Stefanos Geroulanos and Nichole Jerr (Columbia, forthcoming).

He is also author of Chinese Law in Imperial Eyes: Sovereignty, Justice and Transcultural Politics (Columbia, 2016) (available here), co-editor of Chinese Law: Knowledge, Practice and Transformation, 1530s-1950s (with Madeleine Zelin, Brill, 2015) (available here), and contributor to Pierre-Etienne Will’s Official Handbooks and Anthologies of Imperial China: A Descriptive and Critical Bibliography (forthcoming, Brill).

He is currently working on a SSHRC-funded book project on the legal culture and juridical field in late imperial China, and several book chapters and articles on international law and empire, Chinese modernity, or Qing jurisprudential politics. More information about his research can be found here.


B.A. in English (Beijing Foreign Studies)
M.A. in Political Science (SUNY Buffalo)
J.D. in Law (Illinois) (magna cum laude)
M.A., M.Ph., Ph.D. in Chinese History (Columbia)