East Asia-China, 2015


Research Interests

Social, economic, and transnational history of late imperial and modern China; migration and diaspora; colonialism in the Asia-Pacific region; intercultural communication and conflict; history of education; language and translation; children, childhood, and nationalism


Barbarians on the Shore: Negotiating Global Trade and Daily Life on the South China Coast, 1780-1860


Carl Kubler is a historian of late imperial and modern China. His research centers on how the forces of global trade, migration, and cross-cultural encounter shape everyday life, with particular emphasis on the history of contact between China and the West.

His dissertation, titled “Barbarians on the Shore: Negotiating Global Trade and Daily Life on the South China Coast, 1780-1860,” examines the dynamics of socioeconomic opportunity seeking and conflict resolution between merchants, sailors, prostitutes, interpreters, coolies, cooks, pirates, and other liminal actors whose global circulations helped shape the course of Sino-Western relations in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Combining a granular focus on the microeconomies of the Pearl River Delta with a broad scope that spans six continents and draws on sources across eight languages, Kubler pushes back against conflict-centered narratives of Chinese-foreigner interaction and argues that mutually incentivized problem solving, rather than conflict, characterized transnational relations on the ground level. Research for the dissertation was funded by an International Dissertation Research Fellowship from the Social Science Research Council, a Fulbright Fellowship, and a Mellon Fellowship for Dissertation Research in Original Sources, as well as multiple centers at the University of Chicago and external institutions including the Boston Athenaeum and Harvard Business School.

Prior to beginning his doctoral studies, Kubler earned a Graduate Certificate in Chinese and American Studies from the Hopkins-Nanjing Center and worked in the bio-tech industry for several years. He holds a B.A. from Yale University.


—Awarded 2021 Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowship
—Awarded 2019 SSRC International Dissertation Research Fellowship
—Awarded 2019 Mellon Fellowship for Dissertation Research in Original Sources