Research Projects

Gold and Silver: German Bankers and the Financial Internationalisation of China, 1870-1919

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Hermann Wolff, the manager of the Hankou branch of the Deutsch-Asiatische Bank, with his Chinese staff in 1899 (Source: Historical Archives of the Deutsche Bank)

My current research project, which builds on my doctoral research, uses a wide range of English, German, Chinese and Japanese archival records and published sources to trace the interaction between foreign banks and Chinese officials, bankers and entrepreneurs in modern China. It sheds new light on the hitherto largely neglected role foreign banks played in modern China’s financial internationalisation and integration into the first global economy and supplies the historical context for the re-entry of foreign banks into the Chinese market since the 1970s. By comparing foreign banking in modern China with the activities of foreign banks in modern Japan, it also gives us an important new perspective on the institutional development of modern banking in China.

Electric China: A History of China’s Electrification, 1879 to the Present

Electricity moves industry forward

“Electricity Moves Industry Forward,” Poster from the First Five Year Plan (1956) (Source: www.chineseposters.net)

In my new research project, I aim to reconstruct the history of China’s electrification since 1879 and write the first comprehensive archive-based history of electricity in China. Situated at the intersection of economic and business history, urban history, the history of technology and energy and global history, my research traces the crucial contribution electrification made to China’s rise as an economic power and to the grand transformation of Chinese businesses and ordinary Chinese lives during the 20th century. At the same time, this research project seeks to provide the critical historical background to China’s recent accomplishments in electrification, which will allow us to evaluate the feasibility of Chinese electrification as a model for other developing countries.