Sie sind hier: FRIAS Fellows Fellows 2021/22 Prof. Dr. Daniel Leese

Prof. Dr. Daniel Leese

Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg
Internal Senior Fellow
Oktober 2018 - Juli 2019


I am a historian working on modern China with a special emphasis on the history of the 20th century. I received my MA from the University of Munich in 2003, after having previously studied history, sinology, and economics at the Universities of Marburg and Peking. My PhD thesis on the Cultural Revolutionary cult of Mao Zedong was completed in 2006 at International University Bremen. I spent extended periods of time in the People's Republic of China and in Hong Kong to gather the relevant source materials from archives and flea markets. Between 2006 and 2012, I taught Chinese history and politics, as well as Chinese and Manchu language, at the University of Munich with brief stints as visiting professor at the University of Freiburg. Since April 2012, I have been professor of Chinese history and politics at the University of Freiburg. My current research interests are devoted to questions of historical justice in the immediate post-Mao period, which is also the focus of my current ERC-funded project on "The Maoist Legacy: Party Dictatorship, Transitional Justice, and the Politics of Truth". Other research interests include information flows within the party state, digital humanities approaches, and the history of Manchuria.

Publikationen (Auswahl)

  • Victims, Perpetrators, and the Role of Law in Maoist China. A Case-Study Approach, Berlin/Boston: De Gruyter Oldenbourg 2018 (with Puck Engman).
  • Die Chinesische Kulturrevolution, 1966-1976, München: C.H. Beck Verlag 2016.
  • Mao Cult. Rhetoric and Ritual in China's Cultural Revolution, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2011 (paperback 2013).
  • "Mao Zedong as a Historical Personality", in Norman Naimark, Silvio Pons, and Sophie Quinn-Judge (eds.), The Cambridge History of Communism, vol. 2, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2017, 269-290.
  • "Revising Verdicts in Post-Mao China. The Case of Beijing's Fengtai District", in Jeremy Brown and Matthew Johnson (eds.), Maoism at the Grassroots. Everyday Life in China's Era of High Socialism, Cambridge (Mass.): Harvard University Press 2015, 102-128.


Shadows of Maoism. Law and the Politics of History in the PR China

The research project breaks important new ground by analyzing how the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) dealt with the legacy of injustices and atrocities, committed under Maoist rule, in the early reform era. Accounts of the period mention the famous show trial against the “Gang of Four” and the accompanying resolution on party history from 1981, which held former party chairman Mao Zedong accountable for grave political errors but not for criminal deeds. However, as yet there has been no in-depth analysis of the millions of cases and petitions handled by courts and party committees between 1978 and 1987 in order to right previous injustices. Despite its enormous scale and crucial relevance for societal stability and party legitimacy, this so-called “revision of unjust, false, and mistaken verdicts” has been virtually left unattended to by scholarly research. The project aims at diminishing this gap by studying the CCP’s policy and implementation strategies, as well as the societal consequences resulting from this major policy change. It proposes to analyze the partial break from the Maoist legacy as an important, yet by and large overlooked example of transitional justice, albeit confined by the party dictatorship’s overarching aim to stay in power. By way of relying on a wide array of recently available official and non-official sources, the project analyzes and documents how the CCP selectively dealt with the towering injustices of the past.