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Rachel Leow



Center for History and Economics
1730 Cambridge Street
Cambridge MA 02138

rleow [at] fas.harvard.edu


Rachel Leow holds a BA (Honours) in Modern European History from the University of Warwick and an MPhil in Historical Studies from the University of Cambridge. She was awarded full PhD scholarships from both the Bill and Melinda Gates Cambridge Trust and the Tunku Abdul Rahman PhD Scholarship Fund at St Catharine's College. Her dissertation, 'Language, Nation and the State in the Decolonization of Malaya, c. 1920-1965', was completed under the supervision of Dr T. N. Harper. She graduated with a Ph. D. in History in 2011.

Rachel has been an associate of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore, and is a 2009 alumnus of the National History Center's Annual Decolonization Seminar in Washington DC.


Past and Present Research

Rachel's past research has focused on the social and intellectual history of colonial and postcolonial Malaya, Singapore and Indonesia. Her MPhil project drew on previously unused archival material to offer a new account of the abolition of the mui tsai system in interwar British Malaya, under which children, principally Chinese girls, were sold into bonded domestic servitude. Her PhD project was a study of the decolonization of British Malaya and the legacies of colonial rule for present-day Malaysia. It examined the role of colonized agents in negotiating and perpetuating standards of language, national belonging and ethnic identity under the conditions of extraordinary state governance occasioned by the Malayan Emergency (1948-60). She is presently writing a book from this thesis, provisionally entitled Taming Babel: Language and Power in the Making of Malaya. Her next research project seeks to explore global intellectual networks in interwar Asia. Using China's May Fourth movement as a case study, it seeks to understand how texts and ideas travel to different and unintended milieux, and to thus reposition a national intellectual movement in a more transnational history of ideas.



'Age as a Category of Gender Analysis: Servant Girls, Modern Girls, and Gender in Southeast Asia', Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 71, No. 4 (November 2012).

'"Do you own non-Chinese mui tsai?" Reexamining Race and Female Servitude in Malaya and Hong Kong, 1919-1939', Modern Asian Studies, Vol. 46, No. 6 (November 2012).

'DevonThink, Digital Research and the Paperless Dream', Perspectives on History (American Historical Association) Vol. 50, No. 7 (October 2012).

'Reflections on Feminism, Blogging and the Historical Profession', Journal of Women's History, Vol. 22, No. 4 (December 2010).



Rachel maintains a blog on historical research methods, Asian history and other academic matters at A Historian's Craft. At Harvard in 2012 she conducted a series of seminars on technology and historical research, the notes for which are available online. She was a contributor to George Mason University's History News Network. An up-to-date list of her web articles and other projects can be found on her personal webpage.