Area of Study
Email Address

Chao Ren is a historian of modern South and Southeast Asia and global history, with a focus on environmental history, legal history, and the history of capitalism. His current research examines how environmental factors inform the development of global capitalism and the making of the colonial subject in the early oil industry of colonial Burma. His research has been recognized and supported by the Social Science Research Council, the Association for Asian Studies, and the American Society for Legal History. He has published in journals such as Modern Asian StudiesHistory of Science, and Journal of Energy History. He received his Ph.D. training in history at the University of Michigan, and holds an MA in history from Tufts University, an MTS from Harvard Divinity School, and a BA in history from Illinois Wesleyan University.

Recent Courses Taught

Environment and Capitalism
Law and Colonialism

Select Publications

  • "The Spectre of Ma Phyu? Loyalty, Competence, and the Spatial Dynamics of Imperial Administration in Colonial Burma." Modern Asian Studies, Volume 58, April 2024.
  • "Global Circulation of Low-End Expertise: Knowledge, Hierarchy, and Labor Migration in a Burmese Oilfield." History of Science, Volume 61, Issue 4, December 2023.
  • "From the Allegheny to the Irrawaddy: American Oil Drillers in Colonial Burma." Journal of Energy History/Revue d’Histoire de l’Énergie, No. 9, December 2022.

Professional Affiliations

American Historical Association
Association for Asian Studies
American Society for Environmental History
American Society for Legal History
Business History Conference

Appointed to the Faculty


Educational Background

Ph.D. (Expected), University of Michigan
M.A., Tufts University
M.T.S., Harvard University
B.A., Illinois Wesleyan University

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