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Sander Molenaar

Research topic

My Ph.D. dissertation, entitled "‘Greedy, Ignorant People’: The impact of recurring coastal violence on state-society relationships along the south coast of the Ming Empire, 1440-1570", discusses the impact of coastal banditry on state-society relationships in Zhangzhou and Chaozhou during the 15th and 16th centuries. Coastal banditry in the Ming period is often studied within the framework of international politics and maritime trade networks, in particular during the late 16th century peak of coastal raiding on Chinese coasts. I argue that this perspective elevates international piracy at the cost of local, endemic forms of banditry that preceded and outlasted periods of heightened pirate activity. Shifting focus to the study of bandit groups in local society provides insight in the sociopolitical history of local communities and the interaction between state and society.

I am currently employed as post-doctoral researcher in the project "The Lives and Afterlives of Material Imperial Infrastructure in Southeastern China" at the International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam.


Associate tutor, University of Warwick, October 2019-June 2021

• HI112-30 Mongols, Ming, and Manchu: China, 1500-1800

• HI112-30 China 1500-1800

Teaching assistant, Leiden University, April-June 2017

• Modern Korean History (BA-level)

Course instructor, Leiden University, February-June 2017

• Classical Chinese (MA-level)

Teaching assistant, Leiden University, January 2010-June 2012

• Classical Chinese (BA-level)


Peer-reviewed journal articles

Molenaar, Sander. "Locating the Sea: A Visual and Social Analysis of Coastal Gazetteers in Late Imperial China." In The Journal of the European Association for Chinese Studies Vol. 3 (2022): 37-57.

Molenaar, Sander. "Turning Bandits into 'Good Citizens': Coastal violence on the south coast of the Ming Empire in the fifteenth century." In International Journal of Maritime History Vol. 32.3: 681-696.

Other academic publications

Molenaar, Sander. “Portuguese Melaka at the center of a maritime empire?” Review of The Portuguese and the Straits of Melaka, 1575-1619: Power, Trade, and Diplomacy by Paulo Jorge de Sousa Pinto. In Newsbook.Asia, September 20, 2013.

Molenaar, Sander. “Nomads of the Sea: How the Mongols Learned to Sail.” In Rombouts Graduate Conference Proceedings, edited by Rens Krijgsman, 55-69. Leiden: Stichting Shilin, 2012.

Molenaar, Sander. “Book Review: China and Maritime Europe, 1500-1800.” Review of China and Maritime Europe, 1500-1800: Trade, Settlement, Diplomacy, and Missions, by John Wills Jr., ed. In Shilin, Leiden University Journal of Young Sinology vol. 4.1 (2013): 63-9.


Molenaar, Sander. “Mystical Mountains: The creation of a cultural landscape on the south coast of the Ming Empire.” Paper presented at the Warwick Postgraduate History Podcast 2020, Warwick University, July 22, 2020.

Molenaar, Sander. “Superstitious Sea Bandits on the South Coast of the Ming Empire, ca. 1460.” Paper presented at The Problem of Piracy: An Interdisciplinary Conference on Plunder by Sea across the World from the Ancient to the Modern, University of Strathclyde, June 24-26, 2019.

Molenaar, Sander. “The Social Organisation of Sea Bandits in Chaozhou.” Paper presented at Warwick Postgraduate History Conference, Warwick University, May 30-31, 2019.

Molenaar, Sander. “Reliable Witness: Knowledge construction in Carletti’s travel writing.” Paper presented at My Voyage Around the World: The Atlantic and Pacific Travels of a Late Sixteenth-Century Italian Merchant (workshop), Warwick University, April 30, 2019.

Molenaar, Sander. “Caught between Empire and the Sea: Zhangzhou and Chaozhou, 1449-1567.” Paper presented at the Graduate Conference: Empire and Imperialism in Early Modern Asia, National University of Singapore, November 27-8, 2014.

Molenaar, Sander. “Nomads of the Sea: How the Mongols Learned to Sail.” Paper presented at the Rombouts Graduate Conference: Globalization and Glocalization in China, Leiden University, September 6-7, 2011.