Trenton Wilson is a scholar of early Chinese intellectual and political history. His dissertation, “Empire of Luck: Trust and Suspicion in Early China,” examines political and ethical debates around institutional trust in the Qin and Han empires. He is especially interested in problems of bureaucracy, surveillance, amnesty, fate, and luck in discussions of early Chinese institutional design. He is also interested in the development of Han classicism, classical commentary, and intellectual culture the early and medieval periods. In his research, he uses excavated materials, excavated administrative documents, and other excavated manuscripts. In 2017-2018, he spent a year reading excavated materials at the Center for Bamboo and Silk Manuscripts at Wuhan University.
Wilson received a B.A. in East Asian Languages and Cultures from the University of Kansas in 2009, an M.A. in Chinese Philosophy from Peking University in 2012, and a Ph.D. in History from University of California, Berkeley in 2021.
EAST 413, HIST 381J
Writing the Rise and Fall of the Qin Empire
This course is a survey of the history of the Qin empire from its pre-imperial origins to its fall in 207 BCE—with a twist. We learn about the Qin, but we also use the Qin as a case study for the writing of East Asian history. How do we know what we know about the past? What assumptions are we making when we read a primary document? What’s the difference between primary and secondary sources? Instead of beginning with survey materials written by scholars, we start with so-called primary sources (in translation). We then look at excavated materials. With new materials coming to light nearly every month, the study of the Qin empire is an exciting and quickly changing field of study. There is likely be new evidence published during the course of the semester.