Pär Cassel

Faculty Advisor
Professor of History
University of Michigan


Dr. Cassel is interested in late imperial and modern China; legal, political and institutional history of China; Sino-Japanese relations; and the treaty ports of East Asia. His most current book was Grounds of Judgment: Extraterritoriality and Imperial Power in Nineteenth-Century China and Japan (2011) in which he explores extraterritoriality and the ways in which Western power operated in Japan and China from the 1820s to the 1920s. In Japan, the treaties established in the 1850s were abolished after drastic regime change a decade later and replaced by European-style reciprocal agreements by the turn of the century. In China, extraterritoriality stood for a hundred years, with treaties governing nearly one hundred treaty ports, extensive Christian missionary activity, foreign controlled railroads and mines, and other foreign interests, and of such complexity that even international lawyers couldn't easily interpret them. Extraterritoriality provided the springboard for foreign domination and has left Asia with a legacy of suspicion towards international law and organizations. The issue of unequal treaties has had a lasting effect on relations between East Asia and the West. Drawing on primary sources in Chinese, Japanese, Manchu, and several European languages, Cassel has written the first book to deal with exterritoriality in Sino-Japanese relations before 1895 and the triangular relationship between China, Japan, and the West. Grounds of Judgment is a groundbreaking history of Asian engagement with the outside world and within the region, with broader applications to understanding international history, law, and politics.

Dr. Cassel got his PhD from Harvard University in 2006.