Law and Custom: Concubines in Early Twentieth-Century China


ACLS Fellowship Program




As a legal history of concubinage, the study analyzes the implications of legal reform on concubines under three political regimes in the first half of the twentieth century, with attention to the effect of the introduction of Western legal ideas on late imperial notions of monogamy and concubinage. As a social history of concubines, the study contests conventional views that attribute a concubine’s victimization to her marginal kinship status, contending instead that the extent to which a concubine could exercise agency depended on how law and society defined the nature of her relationship to her master and his family.