Karen Gottschang Turner
Professor, College of Holy Cross; Chinese Legal Historian
Bill Alford and I met in the late 1980s , and I honestly cannot remember how it happened, but I do know that he read my doctoral dissertation and in time we connected over ideas about Chinese legal history. Bill’s understanding of my project was very welcome, especially at that time, for I was challenging some deeply ingrained conceptions of the role of law in China’s classical tradition. Not all of my colleagues in the field were supportive of my argument that law played an important role in the early empires, and Bill was aware of this issue. He later wrote a brilliant critique of the lack of attention to law in the Chinese tradition in an article: “Law, Law, What Law?: Why Western Scholars of Chinese History and Society Have Not Had More to Say about Its Law,” in Modern China, Oct., 1997. After I joined the East Asian Legal Studies program at Harvard Law, Bill continued to support those of us working on Chinese legal history and provided an intellectual home that inspired and supported many of us as we continued on in our work. I know that Bill is well known and appreciated for his generosity and care for friends and colleagues, but I wanted to note in particular my own appreciation for his own work on Chinese legal history and for helping a field develop over time.