Loughborough University
Leicestershire, UK
LE11 3TU
+44 (0)1509 222222
Loughborough University

Politics, History and International Relations

Academic Staff

Thoralf Klein

Thoralf Klein

Senior Lecturer in History
MA, Dr. phil, Dr. habil.

Tel: +44 (0)1509 222986

Location: Herbert Manzoni Building


Prior to joining the Department and the History team at Loughborough in 2010, I spent ten years teaching in my native Germany. I specialize in the social and cultural history of modern China (including Taiwan) and especially on its entanglement with the world at large from about 1800 to the present. My work has mainly focused on the history of imperialism/colonialism and religion (especially Christianity and forms of political religion). In my first book on the Basel Mission in Guangdong province between 1859 and 1931 (published in German in 2002), examines the complex processes of cultural change and the ensuing redrawing of cultural boundaries that resulted from the presence of a German-Swiss mission society in a region in Southern China. By contrast, my overview history of China from 1800 to the present (also in German – first edition 2007, second edition 2009) takes master narratives of Chinese history – revolution, modernity and nation – as the starting point for a critical, multi-perspective analysis of China’s recent development. My latest book, the edited collection Globalisation and the Making of Chinese Religious Modernity appeared with the prestigious publisher Brill in 2014.


While retaining some of my earlier research themes, I have developed an interest in media history in recent years. In 2015, I founded the Media and Communications History (MACH) research network, which includes colleagues from various disciplines within Loughborough University. An edited collection and a journal article on the Boxer War of 1900/01 as a media event are in preparation.


I have begun to work on a history of the ‘Western’ fears of East Asia that emerged in the second half of the nineteenth century and are informing current debates on the ‘rise of China’. Drawing on research on the ‘yellow peril’ discourse, I aim to trace these fears beyond the end of the ‘yellow peril’ rhetoric and into the twenty-first century. My aim is to show how the discourse of anti-East Asian fear changed from overt racism to more covert forms of expression, while the attitudes and concepts underpinning them remained very much in place.


At the same time, I seek to explain the fears of China (and also Japan, which was at times perceived as the greater danger) as a reaction to an increasing global connectivity as well as to shifts in the global order, from the influx of East Asian migrants into countries inhabited or at least dominated by whites to the politics of anti-imperialism to shifts in the global economy. In so doing, I look at the interactions between various national debates (especially in Europe, the United States, and Australia), integrating them into a transnational perspective. At the same time, I examine various types of media (books, newspapers and magazines, film and TV, etc.) and relate them to divergent levels from ‘serious’ political analysis to various forms of popular culture. The project will integrate previous research into a methodologically innovative, comprehensive and globally-oriented study that reflects the long-term trajectory and conflict-ridden dynamics of the anti-East Asian discourse.


At Loughborough University, I offer courses in Chinese as well as world history and also contribute to a number of introductory first-year modules. I am currently the convenor of two first-year modules, Modern World History: New Perspectives and the History Fieldtrip module, which includes a one-week excursion to Berlin. In the second year, I offer a module on Modern China in a Global Perspective, in which I draw on my broad research expertise in the field.

While these courses are inspired by my research, I am also aware that in-class discussions have been greatly beneficial to my research. This is why I link my final year options closely to my ongoing projects. Currently I offer a module on Fears of East Asia and the Global Order, which uses approaches, primary source materials and research literature from my ongoing research.

I have (co-) supervised doctoral dissertations and MA theses on the history of imperialism, war, migration, media, religion and the environment in China as well as other parts of East Asia and the world and would like to invite postgraduate students to work with me in these and other related fields.


Professional distinctions (selection)

Fellow, College of Cultural Studies, University of Constance, 2007-2008

“Historical Book of the Year” (Damals. Magazine for History and Culture): 2nd rank for Klein/Schumacher, Kolonialkriege (cf. list of publications), category: colonial history, 2007

Review editor, H-Soz-u-Kult. Communication and Information Services for Historians, 2007-

Member of the international project and research group ‘Globalisation and the Transformation of the Religious Field in China, 1800-present’, 2006-

Committee member, Workgroup on non-European History, German Historical Association (Arbeitskreis Außereuropäische Geschichte im Verband der Historiker und Historikerinnen Deutschlands), 2002

Doctoral Fellowship, German National Scholarship Foundation, 1996-1998


Recent publications


Edited volumes

Select articles and chapters

View all publications on the central database



Contact us

Department of Politics, History and International Relations
Herbert Manzoni Building
Loughborough University
LE11 3TU, UK‌‌

Tel: +44 (0)1509 222983