Greater China Legal History Seminar Series – ‘Stirling Fessenden: The American Boss of Shanghai 1925 to 1939’ by Mr. Douglas Clark (Online)

Sterling Fessenden, an American Lawyer, was Chairman and, then, Secretary General of the Shanghai Municipal Council between 1925 to 1939. During that period he effectively was the boss of Shanghai, negotiating with foreign powers and the Chinese to keep Shanghai safe (or as safe as possible) during the Kuomintang Northern Expedition and Sino-Japanese wars of 1932 and 1937. Fessenden arrived in Shanghai in 1905 as a young lawyer and practiced before the US Court for China, other foreign courts and the Mixed Courts in Shanghai. He was first elected to the SMC in 1923 and soon became its Chairman. His life provides a fascinating insight into one of the most important times in Chinese history as it found its way as a modern nation. The presentation will discuss how the SMC and Fessenden operated under the extraterritorial legal system in place in Shanghai.

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