Lecture Harriet Zurndorfer - Human Trafficking and Piracy in Early Modern East Asia

12 March 2024 - 16:00

Human Trafficking and Piracy in Early Modern East Asia: Maritime Challenges to the Ming Dynasty Economy, 1370–1565

In her lecture Zurndorfer discusses how human trafficking in Ming China (1368–1644) became enveloped in the emerging global economy of the sixteenth century. Utilizing theoretical insights from the model of “slaving zones,” she examines recorded incidents of human trafficking along China’s littoral from 1370 to 1565 and contends that its presence and persistence were intertwined with the Ming court’s economic policies and problems. Here the history of human trafficking in early-to-mid-Ming China is viewed from the perspective of a series of challenges to the country’s economic well-being but also to its power to govern according to its own laws and norms. These challenges include the Ming regime’s efforts: to eradicate piracy and smuggling through their integration into the lawful framework of tribute trade; to support provincial requests for extra revenue to promote military security; to acquire Japanese silver but deny Japan mercantile access to China; to profit from Portugal’s Southeast Asian and Japanese commercial networks. Her study argues that the increasing prevalence of human trafficking along China’s coastline was the result of competing forces anxious for power and riches that fused into the thrust of sixteenth-century China’s expanding economy, as well as the adaptability of those in authority to ignore the consequences of allowing safe havens for persons bartering and selling human beings. These factors turned the status of Ming China’s littoral from a “no slaving zone” into an “imperfect no slaving zone.” 

Zurndofer's article about 'Human Trafficking and Piracy in Early Modern East Asia' is attached below, in case you want to read it before the lecture. 

Practical
Date: 
12 March
Time: 16:00
Place: IISG, Cruquiusweg 31, Amsterdam
Entrance: Free admission, but please send an email to event@iisg.nl if you want to join. 

Bio: Harriet Zurndorfer is an economic and social historian of China, affiliated with the Leiden Institute for Area Studies.  She is the founder and editor of the journal Nan Nü:  Men, Women and Gender in China now celebrating its 25th volume anniversary; she is one of the editors of the four-volume Cambridge World History of Violence (2020), as well as a contributor to the Cambridge Economic History of China (2022).  Dr. Zurndorfer has published several monographs, and more than 250 reviews, book chapters, and research articles that have appeared in a variety of journals, including: The American Historical Review, Études chinoises, Feminist Economics, Gender & History, Gender, Place and Culture, Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, International Journal of Asian Studies, International Review of Social History, Journal of  Chinese History, Journal of Early Modern History, Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, Ming Studies, Past and Present, and T’oung Pao

Lecture Harriet Zurndorfer