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Dr. B. Becker
Associate Professor Bert Becker


1st State Exam Bochum, PhD Bochum, Habilitation Rostock


Phone No. Email Address HKU Scholars Hub

Office: 10.38



Research Projects | Publications | Courses | RPG Supervisions


Dr. Becker is Associate Professor in Modern European History. He joined the Department in 2002 as Visiting Assistant Professor under the auspices of the DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service). He also taught in the European Studies Programme from 2002 to 2007. In 2011 he was Senior Fellow at the Alfried Krupp Kolleg in Greifswald, Germany.


Before joining the Department, he was a member of academic staff at the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and a teaching fellow in Modern European and Asian History at the Free University of Berlin, the University of Rostock, and the European University Viadrina at Frankfurt-on-the-Oder.


Dr. Becker's research interests include the maritime and business histories of Europe, Hong Kong, and China (19th/20th centuries), and modern Prussian-German History. He is currently working on the biography of the shipowner and merchant, Jacob Jebsen (1870-1941), who co-founded Jebsen & Co. in Hong Kong in 1895.


Complete list of publications 1991-2017




Current Research Projects


Dr. Becker's main project explores transnational and global connections and exchanges between Europe and East Asia in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It employs methods of maritime-business, economic, political, and cultural history to delve into the pasts of Europe and East Asia, and of private companies and individuals.


In the centre of his research is the company Jebsen & Co., founded in 1895, one of the oldest and extant European trading houses in Hong Kong and which has branch offices in China and Taiwan. Jebsen & Co. began life as the shipping agency for the M. Jebsen Shipping Company, from Apenrade, Germany. Diversifying its business, the Hong Kong-based firm later expanded its activities to China and other parts of Asia. In 1920, northern Schleswig-Holstein was ceded to Denmark and the shipping company in Apenrade became Danish, but Jebsen & Co. continued to operate from its base in Hong Kong, with a partnership firm in Hamburg. In 2012, Dr. Becker published his biography of Michael Jebsen, the founder of the shipping company; it is the first book in a series dealing with the history of the Jebsen companies and the lives of its most important owners.


The project fits neatly into the China-West Strategic Research Theme of the Faculty of Arts of HKU, establishing important links between the arts and the business community. It is also supported by a grant from the Michael Jebsen Memorial Foundation in Hong Kong.


Dr. Becker is making the results of his research available (in English, German and some translations in Danish) in biographies, book chapters, and articles published in internationally-recognised history journals. Often utilising rarely-used primary sources from the private Jebsen & Jessen Historical Archives and over forty archives in Europe and East Asia, his work offers new insights into the history of Hong Kong and its people in a local as well as a transnational-global context.


Other research interests include the history of the French leased territory of Kwang-chow-wan (1898-1945), now Zhanjiang, and the Prussian province of Pomerania in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.






Dr. Becker's research has been awarded with the Faculty Research Output Prize (2008) and the Prize of the Association of Schleswig-Holstein History (2014). (See German news report and its English translation here)


Michael Jebsen 1835-1899: Reeder und Politiker: Eine Biographie

Michael Jebsen 1835-1899: Reeder und Politiker: Eine Biographie
English Title: Michael Jebsen 1835-1899: Shipowner and Politician: A Biography (Book abstract and content here)

"It is the special merit of Bert Becker to have recorded the impressive life of Michael Jebsen in around eight hundred highly readable pages. To characterise the work as a mere biography would fall short, and in addition the book title seems to be a little too modest considering the immense content. Becker when using the Apenrade shipowner as an example succeeds to draw the theoretically well-founded portrait of an entire period which was not only characterised by the economic awakening of the Founders' Years and by global politics but also and always by Danish-German tensions. Accordingly, the specific strength of Michael Jebsen, 1835-1899: Shipowner and Politician is the broad framework and the multi-perspective contextualisation of the ship owner's biography in its economic, political, cultural, and familial aspects. The book is a significant contribution to the entrepreneurial and business history of Imperial Germany and allows insights into such spheres of life, sources of which from other entrepreneurs are either silent or missing. The book is both intellectually stimulating and is exceptionally enjoyable to read with numerous pictures and maps adding to the already very good text. An extraordinary, recommended work!"


- Martin Krieger, Christian Albrecht University of Kiel


"Becker knows how to contextualise all of Jebsen's personal experiences and to embed them into the larger context, regardless of family, entrepreneurial, or political matters. His analysis in each case is convincing and there is hardly anything left to wish for. The biography is based mainly on a big company archive which has probably been organised in the meantime, and on several German and Danish archives. The book is clearly structured, avoids unpleasant technical jargon, and excitingly written. It also fills a gap in maritime literature as there are – with the exception of Albert Ballin and R. C. Rickmers – only a few substantial academic biographies of German shipowners. The book is excellently designed and richly furnished with colour pictures. With his goal being to comprehend Jebsen "as a typical representative of his time" and as "a symbolic figure of many general tendencies and developments of the nineteenth century" (p. 17), the author has achieved this impressively."

- Lars Ulrich Scholl, University of Bremen


"All in all, the book is an excellent biography of an entrepreneur, presenting the life of Michael Jebsen in an appropriate and colourful way; it is pleasant to read and combines regional, national, and global aspects of the entrepreneur's activities in an ideal way."

- Peter Wulf, University of Flensburg



Georg Michaelis: Preußischer Beamter, Reichskanzler, Christlicher Reformer 1857-1936. Eine Biographie
English Title: Georg Michaelis: Prussian Official, Imperial Chancellor, and Christian Reformer, 1857-1936: A Biography (Book abstract and content here)

"It is a great credit to Bert Becker to have discovered this hitherto both "forgotten" and contradictory historical person. He has not only visited more than 30 archives but has also made use of an impressive number of primary and secondary sources. (...) Becker constructs an altogether impressive and in many parts exciting panorama of the life and work of a representative of the oft-cited Prussian-German bureaucracy about whose collective official deeds – Prussian-German politics – we are rather well informed but whose individual actions and motives are mostly obscured in the dark recesses of history. By making systematic use not only of publications by and about Michaelis but also of notebooks for long periods of time, and especially the so-called family circle letters, Becker provides essential insights into the self-image and the motives of his protagonist. (...) It is Becker's merit to have provided a deep insight into the mentality of an important representative of the Prussian-German administrative elite of the late-Wilhelminian period without in any way abandoning a critical stance towards his sources; for all periods of Michaelis' life the hard facts are separated from subjective evaluations, and are measured against each other. (...) It should be noted that, without pursuing Becker's far-reaching descriptions, this monograph offers important new and inspiring material for further research on several aspects that go beyond biographical interest."


- Reinhold Zilch, Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences

Georg Michaelis: Preußischer Beamter, Reichskanzler, Christlicher Reformer 
		1857-1936. Eine Biographie


"Until recently Michaelis had belonged to the forgotten and everything else than "exciting personages". As such he was discovered by Bert Becker, since 2002 a visiting professor at the Department of History of the University of Hong Kong, who was concerned with his person for "almost fifteen years". For his biography, which employs a comprehensive methodological approach in the field of cultural history, he was allowed to use the voluminous personal archive of Michaelis but also other materials from more than thirty archives. From these abundant sources, the reader is spared no detail. However, because Becker convincingly fits Michaelis’ life and deeds into the respective historical period, his voluminous book is also a reference book for the comprehension of the socialisation and education, of the administration, of the social and economic life, of the evangelical-conservative governmental state-of-mind, and of the diffusion of Protestantism in Imperial Germany and in the Weimar Republic. (...) Becker's conclusion that the "contradictory figure" of Michaelis, despite the necessary assessment, deserves more attention and appreciation than "previously attributed", is justified. (...) A physically small man found a great biographer."

- Rudolf Morsey, University of Speyer


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Teaching and Courses Taught


  • HIST1018 Europe in the Long Nineteenth Century, 1789-1914
  • HIST2073 Prussia in the Age of Absolutism and Reform, 1648-1815
  • HIST2076 Germany and the Cold War
  • HIST2086 Bismarck: The Iron Chancellor
  • HIST2096 History of European Business in China
  • HIST2125 Hitler's Germany
  • HIST2133 The Weimar Republic through documents (1918-1933)
  • HIST2134 The Third Reich through documents (1933-1945)
  • HIST2135 Cold War Germany through documents (1945-1990)
  • HIST2142 The German Empire, 1871-1918
  • HIST2147 Germany’s Weimar Republic, 1918-1933
  • HIST3025 Hitler and the National Socialist Ideology




Research Postgraduate Supervisions


Dr. Becker has supervised Research Postgraduates in the following areas:


  • HO Ming Yan, Eileen, "Western Europe and Security: the Chinese Dimension" (M.Phil 2005)
  • Fong Ho Nam, Nelson, "A Comparison of the Colonial Medical Systems in British Hong Kong (1841-1914) and German Qingdao (1897-1914)" (M.Phil 2005)
  • CHING Chung Cham, Dennis, "Trade without flag: West Germany and China 1949-1972" (M.Phil 2006)- Judged 'outstanding' by examiners and winner for award for Outstanding Research Postgraduate Student' (2005-2006) in 2007.
  • CHAN Wing Yan, Josephine, "Internal Discrepancies over the Economic Deconcentration Policy during the Period of Allied Occupation of Japan, 1945-1952" (M.Phil 2006)
  • YUNG Kai Chung, Kenneth, "Personal Sympathy and National Interests: The Formation and Evolution of Congressman Walter H. Judd's Anti-Communism, 1925-1963" (M.Phil 2007)
  • PANG Wai Ting, Connie, "French Business in Indochina and Beyond: Entrepreneurship and Business-Government Interplay" (M.Phil 2009)
  • KO Y. H., Wilhelmina, "A Study of the Coming to Self-Administration of the Chinese Rhenish Church Hong Kong Synod (1914-1952) and the Tsung Tsin Mission of Hong Kong (1914-1929)" (M.Phil 2009)
  • Paul WENHAM, "The Decline and Fall of British Technology 1945-1973" (Ph.D 2012)
  • CHOI Sze Hang, Henry, "One Country, Two Systems: Shipping and Maritime Customs Affairs in Hong Kong and the Guandong Province" (Ph.D 2012) - Judged 'excellent' by examiners and winner for award for Wang Gungwu Prize for Postgraduate Students in History in 2013.
Latest Publication
Michael Jebsen 1835-1899: Reeder und Politiker: Eine Biographie Book
Michael Jebsen 1835-1899: Reeder und Politiker: Eine Biographie

Verlag Ludwig

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