Tristan Brown

S.C. Fang Chinese Language and Culture Career Development Professor

Tristan G. Brown is a historian of late imperial (“early modern”) China. His research focuses on the ways in which law, science, environment, and religion interacted in China from the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries.

His first book, Laws of the Land: Fengshui and the State in Qing Dynasty China (Princeton University Press, 2023), examines Qing (1644-1912) judicial archives to investigate the uses of cosmology in Chinese law during an era of great economic and environmental change. He is preparing a second book that employs Chinese, Arabic, and Persian sources to examine the history of Islam in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), when many Muslim communities integrated into Chinese society.

Professor Brown’s recent and forthcoming publications include Empire Under the Night Sky—Recording Astral-Cosmography in Qing Dynasty China, 17th-19th Centuries: A Special Issue of The Journal of History of Science and Technology (editor), Prototyping a Comparative Global Humanities: A Special Issue of History of Humanities (co-editor with Wiebke Denecke and Alex Forte), as well as articles in T’oung Pao, Late Imperial China, and Archives des Sciences Sociales des Religions. He occasionally writes on issues in contemporary China, with pieces appearing in MIT Case Studies in Social and Ethical Responsibilities of Computing and the Middle East-Asia Project (MAP).

Professor Brown has held fellowships at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, St John’s College, Cambridge, and Stanford University, and has conducted fieldwork with the support of the British Academy, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Social Science Research Council, and the Henry Luce Foundation. At present, he is an elected fellow of the Future Earth Foundation (China Hub) and an appointed member of the MIT Climate Nucleus’s Fast Forward program.

Professor Brown offers “Dynastic China” in the autumn and “Modern China” in the spring. These lecture courses are designed as a complementary yearlong sequence, but students are welcome to enroll in one or the other. An additional seminar, “Nature and Environment in China,” looks at the country’s environmental history and the ecological issues affecting it today.

Subjects Offered

Offered Spring 2024

Catalog Subject Faculty Level HASS Category
21H.152

Modern China

MW 3:30-5; 37-212
Tristan Brown
Introductory HASS-H
21H.186

Nature and Environment in China

T 2-5; E51-361
Tristan Brown Introductory HASS-H

Not Offered This Term

Catalog Subject Faculty Level HASS Category
21H.151

Dynastic China

MW 3:30-5; 4-145
Tristan Brown Introductory HASS-H