Professor Robert Bickers
Professor of History
Office: 1.39, 13 Woodland Rd
Phone: +44 (0)117 928 7930
Visualising China: project site and project blog
Specialises in modern China, 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), and Empire Made Me: An Englishman adrift in Shanghai (2003), a biography of Maurice Tinkler (1898-1939), a British member of the Shanghai Municipal Police. This is at once the study of a man's life in a world opened up by empire, of a quasi-colonial organ of British power in Shanghai, and of the city of Shanghai itself during its inter-war spree. A new book, The Scramble for China: Foreign Devils in the Qing Empire, 1832-1914 (2011) surveys the history of the foreign presence in that period. His interest in the world of British colonialism more broadly underpins the new volume in the Oxford History of the British Empire companion series that he has edited on British communities across the worlds of formal and informal empire. He is also interested in cemeteries and photographs and their post-colonial lives, clipper ships, lighthouses and meteorology in China.
He is Director of the British Inter-university China Centre, a Co-Director of the AHRC-funded REACT Knowledge Exchange Hub, and leads an ESRC-funded project, 'Colonialism in comparative perspective: Tianjin under nine flags' (2008-11). He directs the 'Visualising China' initiative, and its underlying Historical Photographs of China digitisation programme. He also ran an AHRC-funded project on the history of the Chinese Maritime Customs Service, worked with the ACRE project at the Met Office's Hadley Centre on an AHRC Knowledge Catalyst project, leads a British Academy funded project, Historical Photographs of China, Co-Directs the British Inter-university China Centre, is involved in Bristol University's Centre for East Asian Studies, and the Centre for the Study of Colonial and Postcolonial Societies.
Welcomes 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.
Currently has students working on:
- Science and internationalism in modern China
- Compradores in Hong Kong
- The Shanghai Municipal Council, 1900-43
- Creating a New Shanghai; the End of the British Presence in China (1949-57)
- The life of J.O.P. Bland
- The Russian concession at Tianjin
- European music at the Qing court
- The Scramble for China: Foreign devils in the Qing empire, 1832-1914 (Allen Lane, 2011)
- Settlers and expatriates: Britons over the seas (Oxford History of the British Empire companion series, Oxford, 2010). Editor.
- Empire Made Me: An Englishman Adrift in Shanghai ( Allen Lane, Penguin and Columbia University Press, 2003.) Winner of the 2004 AHA Forkosch Prize for post-1485 British and British imperial history. The proposal won the 2000 Institute of Historical Research Prize.
- Britain in China: Community, Culture and Colonialism, 1900-49 (Manchester University Press, 1999) ISBN: 0-7190-4697-1, 0-7190-5697-7
- May days in Hong Kong: riot and emergency in 1967. Editor with Ray Yep. (Hong Kong University Press, 2009)
- Picturing China 1870-1950: Photographs from Bristol Collections (Chinese Maritime Customs project Occasional Papers No. 1, 2007), with Catherine Ladds, Jamie Carstairs and Yee Wah Foo.
- The Boxers, China, and the World (Rowman & Littlefield, 2007). Editor with R.G. Tiedemann.
- New Frontiers: Imperialism's New Communities in East Asia, 1842-1953 (Manchester University Press, 2000). Editor with Christian Henriot, Director, Institut d'Asie Orientale, Lyon. ISBN: 0-7190-5604-7
- Missionary Encounters: Sources and Issues (London: Curzon Press, 1996). Editor, with Rosemary Seton. ISBN. 0700703705
- Ritual and Diplomacy: the Macartney Mission to China, 1792-1794 (London: Wellsweep/British Association for Chinese Studies, 1992). Editor. ISBN 0948454199
Articles and book chapters
- ‘‘Good work for China in every possible direction’: the Foreign Inspectorate of the Chinese Maritime Customs, 1854-1950’, in Bryna Goodman and David Goodman (eds), Twentieth Century Colonialism and China: Localities, the Everyday, and the World (London: Routledge 2012), pp. 25-36.
- Shanghailanders and others: British communities in China, 1843-1957’, in Bickers (ed.), Settlers and expatriates: Britons over the seas, (Oxford: OUP, 2010), pp. 269-301). Also wrote introduction, pp. 1-17.
- 'Anglo-Japanese Relations in treaty port China: the case of the Chinese Maritime Customs Service, 1899-1941' in Antony Best (ed.), The International History of East Asia, 1900-1968: Ideology, Trade and the Quest for Order (Routledge: 2010).
- 'Citizenship by correspondence in the Shanghai International Settlement, 1919-43' in Yves Chevrier, Alain Roux et Xiaohong Xiao-Planes (eds), Citadins et citoyens dans la Chine du XXe siècle, Mélanges en l’honneur de Marie-Claire Bergère (Paris: EHESS/MSH, 2010).
- 'On not being Macao(ed) in Hong Kong: British official minds and actions in 1967', in Bickers and Yep (eds), May Days in Hong Kong, pp. 53-67.
- 'The Chinese Maritime Customs at War, 1941-45', Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 36:2 (2008), pp. 295-311.
- 'Transforming Frank Peasgood: Family photographs and Shanghai narratives', European Journal of East Asian Studies 6:1 (2007), pp. 129-142 (2007).
- ‘Chinabound: Crossing borders in treaty port China’, History in Focus 11 (Autumn 2006).
- 'Purloined letters: History and the Chinese Maritime Customs Service', Modern Asian Studies 40:3 (2006), pp. 691-723.
- 'Ordering Shanghai: Policing a treaty port, 1854-1900', in David Killingray, Margarette Lincoln and Nigel Rigby (eds) Maritime Empires: British Imperial Maritime Trace in the Nineteenth century (The Boydell Press in association with the National Maritime Museum: 2004), pp. 173-194.
- 'Settlers and Diplomats: the end of British hegemony in the International Settlement', in In the shadow of the rising sun: Shanghai under Japanese occupation, 1937-45, edited by Christian Henriot and Wen-hsin Yeh (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004)
- 'Guanli Shanghai: weichi tongshang kouan de zhi'an' (Ordering Shanghai: Policing a treaty port', in Changlin Ma (chief ed.), Zujie li de Shanghai (Shanghai in the Foreign Concessions) (Shanghai: Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences Publishing House, 2003), pp. 271-92.
- 'The Business of a Secret War: Operation "Remorse" and SOE salesmanship in Wartime China', Intelligence and National Security, 16, 4 (2001), pp. 11-36.
- '"The Greatest Cultural Asset East of Suez": The History and Politics of the Shanghai Municipal Orchestra and Public Band, 1881-1946', in Chi-hsiung Chang (chief ed.), Ershi shiji de Zhongguo yu shijie (China and the world in the twentieth century) (Taibei: Institute of History, Academia Sinica, 2001), vol. 2, pp. 835-875.
- 'Who were the Shanghai Municipal Police, and why where they there? The British Recruits of 1919', in Robert Bickers and Christian Henriot (eds), New Frontiers: Imperialism's new Communities in East Asia 1842-1953 (2000), pp. 170-191.
- 'Shanghailanders: The Formation and Identity of the British Settler Community in Shanghai, 1843-1937', Past and Present, 159 (May 1998), pp. 161-211.
- 'The Shifting Roles of the Colony in the British informal empire in China', in Judith M. Brown and Rosemary Foot (eds), Hong Kong's Transitions (London: Macmillan, 1997), pp.33-61.
- 'Death of a Young Shanghailander: The Thorburn Case and the Defence of the British Treaty Ports in China in 1931', Modern Asian Studies, 30, 2 (1996), pp. 271-300.
- "Coolie work': Sir Reginald Johnston at the School of Oriental Studies, 1931-1937', Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, Series III, 5, 3 (November, 1995).
- 'To Serve And Not To Rule: British Protestant Missions and Chinese Nationalism, 1927-1931', in Bickers and Seton (eds), Missionary Encounters, pp. 211-239.
- (With Jeffrey Wasserstrom) 'Shanghai's 'Chinese and Dogs Not Admitted' Sign: History, Legend and Contemporary Symbol', The China Quarterly, 142, (June 1995), pp. 444-66.
- 'Tongshang kou'an yu Majiaerni shituan' (The Treaty Ports and the Macartney Embassy) Jindaishi yanjiu (Modern History Research) (Beijing), 85 (1, 1995).
- 'New light on Lao She, London, and the London Missionary Society, 1921-1929', Modern Chinese Literature, 8, 1-2 (Spring/Fall 1994), pp. 21-39.
- 'Problems of Understanding', in Helen Forde and Rosemary Seton, eds, Archivists and Researchers: Mutual Perceptions and Requirements (London: British Records Association and the Society of Archivists, 1994).
- 'History, Legend, and Treaty Port Ideology, 1925-1931', in Bickers (ed.), Ritual and Diplomacy.
- Changing Shanghai's 'Mind': Publicity, Reform and the British in Shanghai, 1927-1931 (London: China Society Occasional Papers, 1992).