University of Nottingham Ningbo China
School of
International Studies
  • Intranet

Thomas Hirzel

Senior Research Fellow in Silk Road Studies, School of International Studies


Personal details


Trent Building (AB) 213

+86 (0)574 8818 0000-8053

Qualification and Honor

Magister Artium (M.A.) Chinese Studies and Philosophy, University of Tübingen, Germany 

MA, Translation and Interpreting Chinese English, University of Nottingham Ningbo China

PhD, University of Tübingen, Germany 


Thomas is a historian and a linguist who joined the School of International Studies in July 2018 as Senior Research Fellow in Silk Road Studies. He has previously been Lecturer at the Northeastern University in Shenyang, China and the University of Tübingen, Germany.

He has also previously been Research Fellow in the international research project Monies, Markets, and Finance in China and East Asia, 1600-1900. His research project assessed the organizational capability of the eighteenth and nineteenth century Qing state (1644-1911) by investigating its capacity and flexibility in steering the macro-economic process of procuring mint metals for the mints of the coastal provinces Jiangsu and Zhejiang in Eastern China. The inquiry is primarily based on a large corpus of archival documents and a wide range of historical sources of the traditional type. The study offers an innovative approach to the study of economic and social history of late imperial China which combines historical scholarship with quantitative analysis.


Teaching and learning


  • History and the History of Thought of Pre-modern China I (to 900 A.D.)
  • History and the History of Thought of Pre-modern China II (900-1800 A.D.)
  • Political Systems in Greater China
  • Introduction to Chinese Studies


  • Classical Chinese III
  • Introduction to the Documentary Style of Qing Archival Documents


Expertise Summary

Chinese economic and business history, especially maritime trade and merchant networks of ports and port cities in Jiangsu and Zhejiang

Translation and Intercultural Communication in the context of Chinese cultural heritage in GLAMs (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums)

Research Interest

Thomas is currently working on a project that investigates in the role of the port of Ningbo in the Maritime Silk Road, 850-1850 in the areas of production, economy and trade.

Archaeological evidence will be analyzed alongside historical sources and archival documents. For the archaeological research the project members under Prof. Julian Henderson will closely collaborate with the Ningbo branch of the National Center for Underwater Heritage (国家文物局水下文化遗产保护中心,宁波基地)located at the China Port Museum in Ningbo.

For the historical research Thomas will collaborate closely with local researchers and historians but also with local libraries and archives, like the Tianyige library. To start with historical sources, he will focus on local gazetteers as they provide information about local products, making them excellent sources for issues such as the regional distribution of material goods and trade relations.

For the analysis the project will apply the analytical tool of commodity chain analysis. Commodity chain analysis refers to the factors, processes, technology, logistics, distribution and commercialization networks, consumption patterns, and demand for one or more substances, materials, or products with particular physical characteristics from which things or objects have been or are made that are of a value and quality and are traded, bought or sold by society.

Through the innovative approach of examining archaeological evidence side by side with historical sources the project will shed new light and offer new insights into the role of the port of Ningbo in the Maritime Silk Road from 850 to 1850.

Orcid Account:


State and Merchant: Qing Monetary Policies in the Lower Yangzi region, 1740-1840. Leiden/Boston: Brill. Series "Monies, Markets, and Finance in East Asia, 1600-1900" (In preparation). 

Hirzel, Thomas et al. "Engaging and Empowering Student Representatives as Agents of Change at The University of Nottingham Ningbo China". Compass: Journal of Learning and Teaching, [S.l.], v. 9, n. 13, nov. 2016. ISSN 2044-0081. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 01 july 2017. 

Mint Metal Procurement for Jiangsu and Zhejiang in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries: An Inquiry into the Organisational Capability of the Qing State. Ph.D. Diss., Tübingen University. Stable Link:, print on demand, 2011. 

Review of Zelin, Madeleine, The Merchants of Zigong: Industrial Entrepreneurship in Early Modern China. H-HistGeog, H-Net Reviews. January, 2009. URL: 

Hirzel, Thomas and Nanny Kim (eds.), Metals, Monies, and Markets in Early Modern Societies: East Asian and Global Perspectives. Berlin: LIT (Monies, Markets and Finance in China and East Asia 1), 2009. 

"Regularien für Transportbeamte von Kupfertransporten im Qing-zeitlichen China." In Martina Eglauer and Clemes Treter (eds.), Reisen: Tagungsband der Deutschen Vereinigung für Chinastudien. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2008.