Preetam Prakash

I am currently a PhD candidate in Stanford’s history department. I was initially drawn to the study of late imperial Chinese history while serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Yibin, Sichuan from 2012-2014. Some of my primary interests are in legal history, Qing state formation from the 17th-early 19th century, and early modern approaches to information management.

My PhD dissertation project, tentatively titled “Ordering Life and Death: The Autumn Assizes and the Production of Qing Justice”, focuses on the Autumn Assizes, the ritualized central institution that granted the Qing emperor the final verdict in all serious legal cases involving the death penalty. Using large numbers of previously unexamined archival materials, I reconstruct the patterns of sentencing, imprisonment, and pardons that constituted the apex of the Qing legal system. On one level, my dissertation research aims to historicize and interrogate the extent of Qing legal centralization, in part by drawing attention to the context of early legal formation during the Kangxi period and by highlighting the continued operation of the Qing routine legal order during the early 19th century, a time that is generally envisioned as one of administrative decline. My dissertation is also closely concerned with the forms of information production, classification, and circulation that came to characterize the Assizes during the 18th and 19th century, the extent to which these bureaucratic technologies allowed absolute central state claims over justice to be actualized vis-à-vis local and regional authorities, and the consequences of such centralization for accused criminals. I make use of both Chinese and Manchu sources and received a Fulbright grant to carry out archival research in Taiwan in 2021-2022.

I additionally have a strong interest in the nature and impact of Qing rule in border regions, especially Mongolia. I am currently working on a secondary project that uses mainly Manchu language materials to examine the role of Qing law in resolving violent crimes and in interpreting, and potentially reshaping, property and status relations in Khalka Mongolia from the 17th-19th century.