Published online by Cambridge University Press: 23 July 2019
This article argues that claims about the different economic trajectories of early modern Europe and late imperial China have incorrectly focused on the importance of formal contract enforcement mechanisms. As a first step toward more productive conversations about the history of economic development across world regions, this article provides a look at the factors in the development of the late imperial Chinese economy that led to the emergence of contract enforcement mechanisms not based on codified contract law. Several case studies from the Qing dynasty Chongqing archives are presented to illustrate how the mechanisms of contract enforcement operated.
The research for this article was conducted with the support of the UCLA Center for Economic History, a Fulbright-Hays DDRA grant, and the Harvard Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies. The author would especially like to thank Devin Fitzgerald, R. Bin Wong, Jean-Laurent Rosenthal, and the two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments.