Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures

Dr Ernest Caldwell

Key information

Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures Reader in Chinese Studies China Institute Academic Staff, SOAS China Institute Centre for Law in Asia Member Centre for Human Rights Law Member (CHRL) Centre of Taiwan Studies Member (CTS) Member (CSEAS) SOAS Director of Learning and Teaching
BA (Alabama), LLM (Singapore), MA (Kansas), PhD (Chicago)
Russell Square, College Buildings
Email address
Telephone number
+44 (0)207 898 4645
Support hours
By appointment (EC24)


Ernest Caldwell (康佩理) is a historian specialising in early and medieval Chinese law and manuscript culture. Ernest joined SOAS in 2012 as Lecturer in Chinese Law. In 2020, he transferred to the School of East Asian Languages and Cultures and currently serves as Senior Lecturer in Premodern Chinese Studies. Ernest obtained a BA in Asian History, an MA in Premodern Chinese Literature, and an LLM in Contemporary Asian Legal Studies. He completed his PhD at the University of Chicago after studying Chinese palaeography, excavated manuscript culture, and early Chinese legal history. His dissertation examining the linguistic features of legal statutes in early imperial Chinese excavated manuscripts formed the basis of his first book Writing Chinese Laws: The form and function of legal statutes found in the Qin Shuihudi corpus  (Routledge 2018).

Ernest is currently the Principal Investigator for a four year (2021-2025) AHRC funded project, titled “Han Phonology: When Chinese became Chinese”. This project will apply a variety of digital methods to rhymes found in received and excavated manuscripts dated to the Han dynasty (c. 202 BCE – 220 CE) in order to analyse sound changes occurring during the period between Old Chinese and Middle Chinese. The project is intended to produce a Handbook of Han Dynasty Chinese as well as two open access databases of Han period Chinese rhymes and Han period Chinese transliterations of Buddhist terminology.

In addition to his work on early China, Ernest has also published extensively on the modern legal histories of China and Taiwan. He is particularly interested in histories of constitutional change and in legislative aspects of transitional justice in Taiwan. In 2019, the Washington International Law Journal published a special issue of responses to Ernest’s 2018 article “Transitional Justice Legislation in Taiwan Before and During the Tsai Administration”. 

Ernest’s research has appeared in a variety of journals, including Early China, Chicago-Kent Law Review, Washington Journal of International Law, and Law and History Review, as well as several contributions to edited volumes. 

In EALC, Ernest teaches Classical Chinese as well as undergraduate and postgraduate modules on premodern China. He is happy to advise undergraduate, postgraduate, and research students on any aspect of Chinese and Taiwanese law and premodern Chinese history/literature/culture.

Research interests

Chinese law (traditional and modern); Chinese palaeography; Chinese manuscript culture; Taiwanese law

PhD Supervision

Name Title
Biye Gao Gender, Class and Reproduction in Post-Socialist Rural China (working title)
Owen Stampton A Study on Sino-Korean Poetry of the Enlightenment Era
Miss Magdalena Wojcik The Community, Voice and Contributions of the Other Tang (618–907) Women Poets in the Early Modern (16th–18th c.) Anthologies of Poetry.


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