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Dr. Claude Chevaleyre

Researcher and Coordinator of Research Group "Beyond Slavery: Dependency in Asian History"

(1) University of Bonn
Bonn Center for Dependency and Slavery Studies
Genscherallee 2
D-53113 Bonn
(2) Research Fellow, Institute of East Asian Studies, ENS-Lyon


1994-1998          BA in Chinese language and civilization, Institut national des langues et civilisations orientales (INALCO, Paris)
1998-2000          MA in Chinese language and civilization, INALCO
2000-2002          MA in Chinese history, École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS, Paris)
2003-2015          Ph.D. in Chinese history, EHESS: “Research on the Bondage Institution in Late Imperial China”

Academic Positions

2007-2009          Research Associate, Chair of Modern Chinese history, Collège de France, Paris
2013-2015          Researcher, EHESS, Centre de recherches historiques, Paris
2016                   Postdoctoral Fellow, École française d’Extrême-Orient (EFEO), Paris
2016-2018          Lecturer, Université Paris-Diderot, Paris
2017                   Postdoctoral Fellow, International Institute of Social History (IISH, Amsterdam)
2017                   Lecturer, Institut national des langues et civilisations orientales (INALCO, Paris)
2018-                  Research Fellow, Institute of East Asian Studies, ENS-Lyon

Participation in Collaborative Project

2011-2015           Legalizing Space in China research program member
2012-2014           Indian Ocean World: Forms of bondage in the Indian Ocean. Origins, Structure and transformations
                            research program member
2014-2016           Scientific committee member of the Travail Libre/travail forcé. Contraintes locales et dynamiques globales         
                            research program
2015-2016           Free/Unfree Labor France-Stanford program member
2017–                  Slavery in the Indian Ocean World and beyond network member
2018–                  Asia Slavery Database project member

Other Academic Activities

2004-2009          Board Member of the French Association for Chinese Studies
2015–                 Co-editor of the Social Histories of Work in Asia series (Amsterdam UP)
2016-2018          Research seminar on the Social, economic and institutional history of early modern China, with Luca Gabbiani
2016–                  Co-editor (with P. Ismard, B. Rossi and C. Vidal) of an Histoire mondiale de l’esclavage (Seuil edition, 2021)

Third-Party Funding

Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation for Scholarly Exchanges doctoral fellowship; French Ministry for Education and Research Area Studies research grant


Two doctoral dissertation prizes (Chancellerie des Universités de Paris & Association française d’études chinoises)


At the crossroads of Chinese studies and labor history, my research addresses the global history of human bondage in Early Modern China (15th-19th centuries). It covers two main research fields. A first aspect of my research explores the articulations and interactions between norms, concepts, and practices of bondage. By confronting various normative sources (editions of the penal code, jurisprudence, legal exegesis, imperial proclamations, but also sources of domestic law and local norms) with the law in practice (i.e., judicial cases), I intend to lift the veil on Chinese conceptions of “unfree labor” and dependency, their evolutions over time, and their geographical disparities. To do so, I focus not only on the category that served as the conceptual matrix which many relations of dependency were built on (i.e.; “slaves” or “bondservants”, called nubi 奴婢in Chinese), but also on the labor and family identities situated in the grey zone between what we usually call “freedom” and “unfreedom” (or between “honorability” and “demeaning” to use Chinese concepts). I therefore also have a particular interest in local labor regimes, their logics and organization, and the forms of labor mobilization and immobilization in Early Modern Chinese context. A second aspect of my research concerns human trafficking in Early modern China and East Asia. Here, I attempt to reconstruct the interregional networks of human trafficking in China and identify their operators, sources, destinations, and markets, as well as their transnational connections with neighboring areas of East Asia and beyond. This project will result in the elaboration of a database that should help understand the local dynamics and global interactions of human trafficking in China.

Both aspects of my research are interrelated and converge in an overarching interest for the semantics of dependency. By looking at concepts and practices of “unfree” labor, dependency, and human trafficking in China, my research also approaches Eastern Asia as a normative space within which strong conceptual proximities gave rise to highly singular and differentiated forms of bondage and dependency, ones that still need to be explored in a comparative and transnational perspective. By looking at these phenomena from China and Eastern Asia, my research also questions the singularity of Western experiences, as well as the relevance of categories elaborated from Western historical contexts as universal concepts to think dependency as a global phenomenon.


  1.   “The Abolition of Slavery and the Status of Slaves in Late Imperial China”. In Human Bondage and Rights in Afro-Eurasia from the Seventeenth Century to the Present Day. Dir. Alessandro Stanziani & Gwyn Campbell. Palgrave. Forthcoming 2018
  2. “L’Histoire oubliée de la rivière Lai de Zhou Tingying”. Écrire l’histoire., 2017, no. 17, 44-55
  3.   “Asservir pour punir. La nature pénale du statut d’esclave dans la Chine des Ming”. Extrême-Orient, Extrême-Occident, 2017, no. 41, 93-117
  4. “Derrière les murs de la Cité interdite”. L’Histoire, 2017, no. 431 (Jan.), 50-53
  5. “Under Pressure and out of Respect for Human Dignity: the 1910 Chinese Abolition”. In Distant Ripples of the British Abolitionist Wave. Dir. Myriam Cottias & Marie-Jeanne Rossignol. Trenton: Africa World Press (Harriet Tubman series), 2017
  6. “Qubie liupin: 17 shiji Zhongguo de nubi shenfen, falü yu sifa duidai” 区别流品: 17 世纪中国的奴婢身份、法律与司法对待 (The status, law and legal treatment of slaves in seventeenth century China). In Falü shi yiping (Legal History Studies). Dir. Zhou Dongping & Zhu Teng. Beijing: Beijing Daxue chubanshe, 2013, 164-170
  7. “Acting as Master and Bonservant. Considerations on Status, Identites, and the Nature of ‘Bondservitude’ in Late Ming China”.  In Labour, Coercion and Economic Growth in Eurasia, 17th-20th Centuries. Dir. A. Stanziani. Leiden: Brill, 2013, 237-272
  8. “Chine 2011-2012. La deuxième économie mondiale à la croisée des chemins”. In Encyclopédie de l’État du Monde. Paris : La Découverte, 2012 (online)
  9. “Étienne Balázs (1905-1963). Œuvres, projets, appréciations”. In Actualité d’Étienne Balázs (1905-1963) : témoignages et réflexions pour un centenaire. Dir. Pierre-Étienne Will & Isabelle Ang. Paris: De Boccard, 2010, 111-130
  10. Translation (Chinese to French) of Lau Nap-yin, “Droit et famille en Chine à l’époque des Song (960-1279)”, Annales. Histoire, Sciences Sociales, 2006, no. 6, 1377-1446

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