Joseph Dennis

Visiting Scholar (Sep 2020-Sep 2021)

Joseph Dennis research focuses on the history of Chinese print culture, law, and society. He is a past president of the Society for Ming Studies, former Director of Graduate Studies of the University of Wisconsin Department of History, Director of the Center for East Asian Studies, and is active in the Wisconsin China Initiative. Prior to moving to Wisconsin in 2010, he taught at Davidson College and was a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University after receiving his doctorate from the University of Minnesota.

Dennis has spent many years studying Chinese local gazetteers, one of the most important sources for pre-modern Chinese studies. In his book, Writing, Publishing, and Reading Local Gazetteers in Imperial China, 1100–1700 (Harvard, 2015), Dennis examines how gazetteers were read, and illustrates the significance of these texts in local societies and in discourses that were national in scope. In analyzing how gazetteers were initiated and produced, he examines the geography of imperial Chinese publishing, tracks the movements of manuscripts to printers and print labor to production sites, and reconstructs printer business zones. He also presents a substantial data set on Ming publishing costs and identifies regional publishing centers. Dennis’ current projects are on the history of Chinese school libraries and legal education.


No current projects were found for this scholar.

School Library Book Collections in Ming, Qing, and Republican China


Selected Publications

Dennis, Joseph (2021). “Data Collection Practices for Compiling Confucian School Library Book Lists in Ming and Qing Local Gazetteers.” Monumenta Serica: Journal of Oriental Studies 69 (2): 487–513.

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Dennis, Joseph (2020). “The Role of Donations in Building Local School Book Collections in the Ming Dynasty.” Ming Qing yanjiu 24 (1): 46–66.

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Dennis, Joseph (2017). “Chinese School Libraries Book Collections Database Project.” In Chinese Local Chronicles Culture Going Global International Symposium on Local Chronicles Culture / 走向世界的中国方志文化国际学术研讨会论文汇编, 25–57. Beijing: The Office of Chinese…

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Presentations, Talks, & Teaching Activities

Songs to Encourage the Cessation of Litigation: Printing, Orality, and Legal Knowledge in China, 1595-1949

Institute for Research in the Humanities, Madison, Wisconsin

Legal Knowledge in Ming China

Nankai University, Tianjin, China

International Conference on Chinese Local Gazetteers: Digital Local Gazetteer Research Tools

Local Gazetteers Leadership Small Group, Beijing, China

Local Gazetteers Workshop: Books in School Libraries in Ming, Qing, and Republican China

Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin, Germany

Workshop on Archival Structures and Practices: Archival Structures and Practices in Ming and Qing China

Centre for the Study of Manuscript Cultures, University of Hamburg, Germany