Jacob Fordham


University College


DPhil Asian and Middle Eastern Studies



Educational Background:

  • 2020–: DPhil Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, University of Oxford
  • 2018–2019: MA Translation Studies, University of Sheffield
  • 2018: Diploma in Translation, Chartered Institute of Linguists
  • 2010–2015: BA (Hons) Chinese Studies, University of Sheffield

Research Interests:

My DPhil thesis, based on Chinese, Portuguese, and English archives, is a global microhistory of the linguists (通事 or jurubaças) of the seventeenth-century Pearl River Delta and their role in the early English Canton trade. These linguists, as negotiators, brokers, and mediators, were at the centre of English interaction with Chinese and Portuguese merchants and officials of Canton and Macau; in shifting the historical lens to focus on these understudied figures, I hope to shed new light on the early history of British-Portuguese-Chinese interaction in the Pearl River Delta. More broadly, I am interested in changing ideas surrounding rulership, governance, and commerce on the South China coast against the backdrop of the increasing interconnectivity of the early modern period. I am also working on the political thought of Zhang Jingxin, a late Ming Supreme Commander of Liangguang and Minister of War under the Southern Ming, and a study of transnational kinship in the early modern Pearl River Delta and beyond.

I am co-convenor of the Oxford Seminar in Early Modern Global Intellectual History, supported by All Souls College and the Academy of Korean Studies. In 2022-23, I was co-convenor of the Oxford China Reading Group (OxCRG), funded by the Asian Studies Centre at St Antony's College. In April 2023, I co-organised Authority and the Global Early Modern: Translation and Transformation, supported by the Centre for Intellectual History, the Centre for Early Modern Studies, and the China Centre. I am also a DPhil Associate of the China Centre and the graduate representative on the China Centre Management Committee.

My research is funded by the Clarendon Fund, the AHRC, and a University College Senior Scholarship. I am supervised by Professor Henrietta Harrison.

Recent Publications and/or Conferences:

  • ‘The Qing and Republican afterlives of late Ming military and political thought’, ISIH 2023: Crisis and Change in Intellectual History since c. 1450 (4–6 September 2023, Edinburgh).
  • ‘Chinese archives through European eyes: rethinking translation, corruption, and office in the first English trading expedition in China, 1637’, Cambridge Workshop for the Early Modern Period (10 Oct 2022, Cambridge).
  • ‘The uses of hybridity: practising transnational kinship in early modern Macau and beyond’, ‘Hybridity’ - 2022 Cambridge AHRC International Conference (19–21 Sept 2022, Cambridge).
  • ‘Linguists between state and commerce: the balancing act of the early modern Pearl River Delta’, BACS Annual Conference (1 Sept 2022, Oxford).
Jacob Fordham