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Professor Robert BickersBA (Hons), PhD(Lond)

Professor of History

Robert Bickers

Professor Robert BickersBA (Hons), PhD(Lond)

Professor of History

Member of

Research interests

Specialises in modern Chinese history, and the history of colonialism, and in particular of the British empire and its relations with China and the history of Shanghai (1843-1950s). Work in this field includes the books Britain in China (1999), Empire Made Me: An Englishman adrift in Shanghai (2003), and The Scramble for China: Foreign Devils in the Qing Empire, 1832-1914 (2011). My interest in the world of British colonialism more broadly underpins a volume in the Oxford History of the British Empire companion series that I edited on British communities across the worlds of formal and informal empire. I am also interested in cemeteries and photographs and their post-colonial lives, clipper ships, lighthouses and meteorology in China. My most recent books are Getting Stuck in for Shanghai: Putting the Kibosh on the Kaiser from the Bund (Penguin, 2014), and a volume co-edited with Jonathan J. Howlett, University of York: Britain and China, 1840-1970: Empire, Finance, and War.

I am a Director of the British Inter-university China Centre, have been a Co-Director of the AHRC-funded REACT Knowledge Exchange Hub, and led an ESRC-funded project, 'Colonialism in comparative perspective: Tianjin under nine flags' (2008-11). I direct the 'Hong Kong History project', and the 'Visualising China' initiative, and its underlying Historical Photographs of China digitisation programme. I also formely ran an AHRC-funded project on the history of the Chinese Maritime Customs Service.

Blog: Twitter: @bickers Facebook: /scrambleforchina

Visualising China: project site and project blog

Teaching and supervision

I welcome proposals in any area of modern Chinese and East Asian history, in most areas of colonial history, but particularly in the history of Sino-Western relations, the Customs service, and the treaty port world: foreign society, politics or culture in China before the 1950s, its rise and its fall.

I am interested in supervising across a range of areas related to my research. Amongst PhD students supervised in the past are those now holding posts at: ExeterYorkHong Kong Baptist, Nanyang Technnological, Shanghai Jiaotong and Wuhan universities, as well as the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, and Trinity College Dublin. My current students include:

  • Philip Burnett, ‘Music and Ritual; Empire and Missionaries’
  • Jon Chappell, 'Foreign Intervention In China: Empires And International Law In The Taiping Civil War, 1853-64'
  • Sabrina Fairchild, 'Fuzhou And Global Empires: Understanding The Treaty Ports Of Modern China, 1850-1937’
  • Gao Yuqun, 'Missionary Cases and Chinese society, 1844-1898'
  • Andrew Hillier, ‘Three Brothers in China: a Study of Family and Empire’
  • Vivian Kong, 'Britishness and Identities: the British community in pre-war Hong Kong'
  • Sarah Pearson, 'John Shore, Lord Teignmouth, and the transition to British rule in India, 1768-1834'
  • Sara Shipway, 'Britain's Trade Relations with Germany in China during the First World War
  • Alex Thompson, 'British Attitudes and Practices with regard to British Colonial Subjects in China
  • Chris Wemyss, 'One World City, Two Administrations: The Impact of Britain and China on the Development of Identity in Modern Hong Kong, 1980-2014'

View research connections

Postal address:
13-15 Woodland Road
United Kingdom

Selected research outputs

  1. Published

    The Scramble for China: Foreign devils in the Qing empire, 1832-1914

    Research output: Book/ReportAuthored book

  2. Published

    Empire Made Me: An Englishman Adrift in Shanghai

    Research output: Book/ReportAuthored book

  3. Published

    Britain in China: community, culture and colonialism, 1900-1949

    Research output: Book/ReportAuthored book

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