Wesley B. Chaney

Associate Professor of History



Pettengill Hall, Room 117

Asian Studies



Ph.D., Stanford University, History; M.A., Stanford University, East Asian Studies; B.A., Davidson College, History

I am an historian of China and concentrate broadly on the environmental, social, and legal history of the Qing Empire (1644-1912). My forthcoming book, Forgotten Hills: Law, Environment, and Social Transformation on the Frontiers of Tibet and China (under contract with Cambridge University Press as part of the Legal History Series), examines ground-level social transformations and the ethnicized legal disputes that both triggered and followed the violence of the mid-nineteenth century. Centering on the lives of ordinary peddlers, smallholders, and herders preserved in legal case records and a range of other local sources, the study details the changing jurisdictional geographies and disputes over land, resources, and individual bodies that attended imperial expansion in the Sino-Tibetan borderlands.

Here at Bates I teach a broad range of courses—from surveys covering the whole sweep of Chinese history to short term classes on Chinese food—and have advised many senior theses, including works exploring Chinese migration to Southeast Asia, CCP rural policies, and the Silk Roads.

Forgotten Hills: Law, Environment, and Social Transformations on the Frontiers of Tibet and China (Columbia University Press, Legal History Series), forthcoming
“Threats to Gong: Environmental Change and Social Transformation in Northwest China,” in Late Imperial China 41.2 (December 2020), 45-94
Current Courses:
  • ASHI 171: China and Its Culture
  • ASHI 274: China in Revolution
  • ASHI 259: Caravans, Khans, and Commissars: A History of Central Eurasia
  • INDS 301s: Environmental History of China
  • ASHI 301b: From Tibet to Taiwan: Frontiers in Chinese History, 1700-Present
  • ASHI s17: Global Chinese Food

Current Courses

Short Term 2024

Global Chinese Food

Fall Semester 2024

ASIA 171 / HIST 171
Imperial China

HIST 399
Historical Methods