Robert Bickers - Author

About the Author

Shortlisted for the Wolfson History Prize 2018

Robert Bickers is the author of the highly-acclaimed Empire Made Me and The Scramble for China. He has written extensively on Chinese history and is a Professor of History at the University of Bristol.

On Out of China: How the Chinese Ended the Era of Western Domination: 

When I began undergraduate study of Mandarin Chinese in London in 1983, it was very rare to encounter anybody there who spoke the language. When I began doctoral study in the history of Sino-British relations in 1988, I was one of only three of four people beginning projects that year on China. When I joined the University of Bristol in 1997 I was asked who I could possibly speak to, given that ‘we don’t know anything about China’.

Now I hear Mandarin on the streets every day, there are dozens of historians of China teaching in British universities, and many of my colleagues have visited or collaborated with Chinese scholars. And to my delight, Out of China is on the Wolfson prize shortlist. So things have changed. Everybody is talking about China.

But its rocky history and the role in that of foreign powers, as enemies or friends, remains poorly understood. That’s dangerous, for this history really matters. With this book I show how China’s bullish nationalist confidence is shaped by narratives of its historic weakness, but I also questioned that story, and showed it for the partial and distorting truth that it is. Out of China showcases as well other Chinese experiences of the twentieth century, other roads once taken, many now blocked.

Featured books by Robert Bickers

Other books by Robert Bickers

Out of China How the Chinese Ended the Era of Western Domination

Out of China How the Chinese Ended the Era of Western Domination

Author: Robert Bickers Format: Paperback Release Date: 29/03/2018

SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2018 WOLFSON HISTORY PRIZE The extraordinary and essential story of how China became the powerful country it is today. Even at the high noon of Europe's empires China managed to be one of the handful of countries not to succumb. Invaded, humiliated and looted, China nonetheless kept its sovereignty. Robert Bickers' major new book is the first to describe fully what has proved to be one of the modern era's most important stories: the long, often agonising process by which the Chinese had by the end of the 20th century regained control of their own country. Out of China uses a brilliant array of unusual, strange and vivid sources to recreate a now fantastically remote world: the corrupt, lurid modernity of pre-War Shanghai, the often tiny patches of 'extra-territorial' land controlled by European powers (one of which, unnoticed, had mostly toppled into a river), the entrepots of Hong Kong and Macao, and the myriad means, through armed threats, technology and legal chicanery, by which China was kept subservient. Today Chinese nationalism stays firmly rooted in memories of its degraded past - the quest for self-sufficiency, a determination both to assert China's standing in the world and its outstanding territorial claims, and never to be vulnerable to renewed attack. History matters deeply to Beijing's current rulers - and Out of China explains why.

New Frontiers Imperialism's New Communities in East Asia, 1842-1953

New Frontiers Imperialism's New Communities in East Asia, 1842-1953

Author: Robert Bickers Format: Paperback Release Date: 01/11/2012

In the new world order mapped out by Japanese and Western imperialism in East Asia after the mid-nineteenth century opium wars, communities of merchants and settlers took root in China and Korea. New identities were constructed, new modes of collaboration formed and new boundaries between the indigenous and foreign communities were literally and figuratively established. Newly available in paperback, this pioneering and comparative study of Western and Japanese imperialism examines European, American and Japanese communities in China and Korea, and challenges received notions of agency and collaboration by also looking at the roles in China of British and Japanese colonial subjects from Korea, Taiwan and India, and at Chinese Christians and White Russian refugees. This volume will be of interest to students and scholars of the history and anthropology of imperialism, colonialism's culture and East Asian history, as well as contemporary Asian affairs. -- .

The Scramble for China Foreign Devils in the Qing Empire, 1832-1914

The Scramble for China Foreign Devils in the Qing Empire, 1832-1914

Author: Robert Bickers Format: Paperback Release Date: 23/02/2012

In the early nineteenth century China remained almost untouched by British and European powers - but as new technology started to change this balance, foreigners gathered like wolves around the weakening Qing Empire. Would the Chinese suffer the fate of much of the rest of the world, carved into pieces by Europeans? Or could they adapt rapidly enough to maintain their independence? This important and compelling book explains the roots of China's complex relationship with the West by illuminating a dramatic, colourful and sometimes shocking period of the country's history.

May Days in Hong Kong - Riot and Emergency in 1967

May Days in Hong Kong - Riot and Emergency in 1967

Author: Robert Bickers, Ray Yep Format: Hardback Release Date: 01/08/2009

In this study of the anti-colonial riots which erupted in Hong Kong in May 1967, the authors shed new light on their causes, their impact on future government policy and on Sino-British relations, and their legacy for Hong Kong society and governance, and the people of the territory.

May Days in Hong Kong - Riot and Emergency in 1967

May Days in Hong Kong - Riot and Emergency in 1967

Author: Robert Bickers, Ray Yep Format: Paperback Release Date: 01/08/2009

In this study of the anti-colonial riots which erupted in Hong Kong in May 1967, the authors shed new light on their causes, their impact on future government policy and on Sino-British relations, and their legacy for Hong Kong society and governance, and the people of the territory.

The Boxers, China, and the World

The Boxers, China, and the World

Author: Robert Bickers Format: Paperback Release Date: 12/07/2007

In 1900, China chose to take on imperialism by fighting a war with the world on the parched north China plain. This multi-disciplinary volume explores the causes behind what is now known as the Boxer war, examining its particular cruelties and its impact on China, foreign imperialism in China, and on the foreign imagination. The Boxers have often been represented as a force from China's past, resisting an enforced modernity. Here, expert contributors argue that this rebellion was instead a wholly modern resistance to globalizing power, representing new trends in modern China and in international relations. This volume will appeal to readers interested in modern Chinese, East Asian, and European history as well as the history of imperialism, colonialism, warfare, missionary work, and Christianity.

The Boxers, China, and the World

The Boxers, China, and the World

Author: Robert Bickers Format: Hardback Release Date: 12/07/2007

In 1900, China chose to take on imperialism by fighting a war with the world on the parched north China plain. This multi-disciplinary volume explores the causes behind what is now known as the Boxer war, examining its particular cruelties and its impact on China, foreign imperialism in China, and on the foreign imagination. The Boxers have often been represented as a force from China's past, resisting an enforced modernity. Here, expert contributors argue that this rebellion was instead a wholly modern resistance to globalizing power, representing new trends in modern China and in international relations. This volume will appeal to readers interested in modern Chinese, East Asian, and European history as well as the history of imperialism, colonialism, warfare, missionary work, and Christianity.

Empire Made Me An Englishman Adrift in Shanghai

Empire Made Me An Englishman Adrift in Shanghai

Author: Robert Bickers Format: Paperback Release Date: 03/06/2004

'This is a biography of a nobody that offers a window into an otherwise closed world. It is a life which manages to touch us all...' Empire Made MeShanghai in the wake of the First World War was one of the world's most dynamic, brutal and exciting cities - an incredible panorama of nightclubs, opium-dens, gambling and murder. Threatened from within by communist workers and from without by Chinese warlords and Japanese troops, and governed by an ever more desperate British-dominated administration, Shanghai was both mesmerising and terrible.Into this maelstrom stepped a tough and resourceful ex-veteran Englishman to join the police. It is his story, told in part through his rediscovered photo-albums and letters, that Robert Bickers has uncovered in this remarkable, moving book.

Britain in China

Britain in China

Author: Robert Bickers Format: Paperback Release Date: 15/07/1999

This is a study of Britain's presence in China both at its peak, and during its inter-war dissolution in the face of assertive Chinese nationalism and declining British diplomatic support. Using archival materials from China and records in Britain and the United States, the author paints a portrait of the traders, missionaries, businessmen, diplomats and settlers who constituted Britain-in-China , challenging our understanding of British imperialism there. Bickers argues that the British presence in China was dominated by urban settlers whose primary allegiance lay not with any grand imperial design, but with their own communities and precarious livelihoods. This brought them into conflict not only with the Chinese population, but with the British imperial government. The book also analyzes the formation and maintenance of settler identities, and then investigates how the British state and its allies brought an end to the reign of freelance, settler imperialism on the China coast. At the same time, other British sectors, missionary and business, renegotiated their own relationship with their Chinese markets and the Chinese state and distanced themselves from the settler British. -- .

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