Logistics of Empire: Governance and Spatial Friction in Ming China, 1368-1644


Luce/ACLS Early Career Fellowships in China Studies – Long-Term



Named Award

Long Term named award


"Logistics of Empire" studies the solutions, compromises, and miscalculations embraced by rulers and officials of Ming China as they sought to devise a centralized system for governing a vast bureaucratic empire. It argues that many seemingly wasteful Ming administrative practices can be explained by the concept of spatial friction, a force that amplified the cost of supervision whenever premodern rulers tried to establish accountability across large spaces. By paying attention to the materialities of governance, such as how long it took for documents and officials to travel from one location to another, or how the state authenticated and synchronized information, the book shows that we can find a comprehensible logic behind many premodern institutions that appear counterintuitive at first.