Harold Laski and His Chinese Disciples: Using Biographical Methods to Study the Evolution of Rights

Dr Ting Xu is working on a project on Harold Laski’s influence in China funded by the British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship.

Project duration

November 2019 - October 2020

Funding awarded by

British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship

Project information

Harold Laski was one of the most important public intellectuals in the English speaking world. His profound influence in China, however, has been under-researched for decades. This project examines Laski’s long neglected but very significant impact on China. It focuses on Laski’s influence on the evolution of rights, one of the key concepts that has emerged in China’s search for modernity and democracy. It uses biographical methods, drawing on published biographies of the Chinese intellectuals who were highly influenced by Laski, as well as official records and personal letters. Analysis of individuals and their networks is located in the cultural, political and social context in which those people lived. Through public engagement, this project will also stimulate interest in, and engagement with, the study of Laski and the British Left’s influence on China and provide new sources and methods for studying the legal history of China-Britain relations and its contemporary implications.

Project aims

The aim of this project is to uncover Laski’s impact on intellectual thinking and institution building, using biographical methods to study the evolution of rights (broadly conceived, including human rights and property rights) in Republican China (1911-49). The objectives of this project are:

1. To uncover Laski’s impact on intellectual thinking and institution building, in particular the evolution of rights, in Republican China;

2. To stimulate interest in, and engagement with, the study of the legal history of China-Britain relations and its contemporary implications;

3. To apply biographical methods to the study of law, and provide new materials and methods for comparative law, legal history and socio-legal studies.