Philip Thai is associate professor in the department of history at Northeastern University. A historian of Modern China and East Asia, he has research and teaching interests that include legal history, economic history, and diplomatic history. At the core of his inquiries is understanding the interplay between law, society, and economy. He is the author of China’s War on Smuggling: Law, Economic Life, and the Making of the Modern State, 1842–1965 (Columbia, 2018), which examines the intersections between global capitalism and legal transformation through an overview of violent anti-smuggling campaigns along the Chinese littoral from the late nineteenth through the late twentieth centuries. During the 2022-23 academic year, he will be in residence at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study as an American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) Frederick Burkhardt Fellow working on his new project, “In the Shadows of the Bamboo Curtain: Underground Economies across Greater China during the Cold War.”
Professor Thai received his Ph.D. from Stanford University in 2013 and his B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley in 2000. Between his time as a graduate and undergraduate student, he spent several years as a consultant and financial analyst in the private sector. He is the Modern China Book Review Editor for the Journal of Asian Studies and an associate in research at Harvard University Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies, and formerly a Henry Luce Foundation/ACLS China Studies Postdoctoral Fellow. He was a participant of the BHC Doctoral Colloqium and the University of Wisconsin Hurst Institute in Legal History. His interdisciplinary work has been supported by a number of organizations, including the Fulbright-Hays Program, Social Science Research Council (SSRC), Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation, and Freeman Spogli Institute (FSI).