Politics and International Studies


Thoralf Klein MA, Dr. phil, Dr. habil.

Photo of  Thoralf Klein

Senior Lecturer in History


I am a historian of modern China and a global historian. Ever since my first travels in China in the late 1980s, I have been fascinated by the culture and history of this vast country. My main interest lies in exploring the transformation of China, and especially of its relation to the wider world, in the last 200 years. In my opinion, history is the key to understanding China’s breathtaking rise, but also its current political, social and environmental problems. Conversely, I am also interested in the varying ways Westerners have tried to make sense of China since the mid-nineteenth century.

My degrees are in Modern History, Political Science and Chinese Studies (MA and PhD: University of Freiburg, Germany, 1995 and 2000 respectively) and in Modern and East Asian History (Habilitation: University of Erfurt, Germany, 2007).

I am a review editor and member of the steering group at H-Soz-u-Kult. Communication and Information Services for Historians, as well as a coordinator of the international project and research group Globalisation and the Transformation of the Religious Field in China, 1800-present. In 2007-2008, I was a Fellow at the College of Cultural Studies, University of Konstanz, Germany.


I started out researching the transcultural history of Christianity in China in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and have since written broadly on themes in the modern history of China.

My current interest is in the history of media. I am in the process of finishing a global media history of the Boxer War (1900–1901), using a range of textual, (audio)visual, oral and performative materials in Chinese, English, German, and French. I explore how the different perspectives of participants, observers, memory and research contributed to construing a historical event.

More recently, I have begun a project on the 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’. By examining I examine various types of media (books, newspapers and magazines, film and TV, etc.) and various levels of discourse, from ‘serious’ political analysis to various forms of popular culture, I seek to integrate various national debates (especially in Europe, the United States, and Australia) into a transnational perspective. 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.

I have taught at Loughborough University since 2010. Before that, I taught at the University of Erfurt in Germany (2000–2010). I have designed and taught many undergraduate and Masters’ courses on Chinese, East Asian and world/global history. At Loughborough, I teach a first-year survey module on world history and convene the history fieldtrip to Berlin. In the second and third years, I offer modules on China’s and East Asia’s interactions with the wider world, in which I draw on my broad research expertise in the field.

My aim as a teacher is to stimulate students’ critical thinking. I have a strong preference for dialogic forms of teaching built on the analysis of primary sources. It is my conviction that teaching is not a one-way road, but a process of mutual interaction, and I believe that my greatest successes as a tutor are those moments when I learn something from my students.

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 invite postgraduate students to work with me in these and other related fields.

Globalization and the Making of Religious Modernity in China

Transnational Religions, Local Agents, and the Study of Religion, 1800-Present (Leiden: Brill, 2014)

Thoralf Klein with Thomas Jansen and Christian Meyer (eds.)

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Globalization and the Making of Religious Modernity in China

Geschichte Chinas von 1800 bis zur Gegenwart

A History of China From 1800 to the Present

Thoralf Klein

2nd ed. Paderborn: Schöningh 2009 (first published in 2007)

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Geschichte Chinas von 1800 bis zur Gegenwart

Die Basler Mission in der Guangdong (Südchina)

1859-1931. Akkulturationsprozesse und kulturelle Grenzziehungen zwischen Missionaren, chinesischen Christen und lokaler Gesellschaft [The Basel Mission in Guangdong]. München: Iudicium 2002.

Thoralf Klein

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Die Basler Mission in der Guangdong (Südchina)


  • Klein, T. (2009). Geschichte Chinas von 1800 bis zur Gegenwart [A History of China From 1800 to the Present] (2nd ed.). Paderborn: Schöningh (first published in 2007).
  • reviews in: H-Soz-Kult 2007, Berliner China-Hefte 33 (2007)
  • Klein, T. (2002). Die Basler Mission in der Provinz Guangdong (Südchina), 1859-1931: Akkulturationsprozesse und kulturelle Grenzziehungen zwischen Missionaren, chinesischen Christen und lokaler Gesellschaft [The Basel Mission in Guangdong Province]. Munich: Iudicium.
  • reviews in: Periplus 13 (2004); Jahrbuch für Europäische Überseegeschichte 4 (2004)

Select edited volumes / themed journals

Select articles and book chapters

  • Klein, T. (2015). How to Be a Contact Zone: The Missionary Karl Gützlaff between Nationalism, Transnationalism and Transculturalism, 1827-1851. In J. Becker (Ed.), European Missions in Contact Zones: Transformation through Interaction in a (Post-)Colonial World (pp. 219–237). Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.
  • Klein, T. (2014). How Modern was Chinese Modernity? Exploring Tensions of a Contested Master Narrative. International Journal for History, Culture and Modernity, 2(3), 275–301.
  • Klein, T. (2014). Media Events and Missionary Periodicals: The Case of the Boxer War, 1900-1901. Church History, 82, 399–404.
  • Klein, T. (2014). The Other German Colonialism? Power, Conflict and Resistance in a German-speaking Mission in China, ca. 1850-1920. In N. A. Berman, K. Mühlhahn, & P. Nganang (Eds.), German Colonialism Revisited: Asian, African and Oceanian Responses (pp. 161–178). Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.
  • Klein, T. (2014). The Missionary as Devil: Anti-missionary Demonology in China, 1860-1930. In J. Becker & B. Stanley (Eds.), Europe as the Other: External Perspectives on European Christianity (pp. 119–148). Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.
  • Klein, T. (2013). Protestant Missionary Periodicals Debate the Boxer War, 1900-1901: Martyrdom, Solidarity and Justification. In F. Jensz & H. Acke (Eds.), Missions and Media: The Politics of Missionary Periodicals in the Long Nineteenth Century (pp. 187–204). Stuttgart: Steiner.
  • Klein, T. (2012). Rethinking the Origins of ‘Western’ Imperialism in China, 1790-1860: Global Constellations and Imperial Policies. History Compass, 10, 789–801.