Dr Hannah Theaker

Dr Hannah Theaker

Lecturer in History and Politics

School of Society and Culture (Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Business)



Lecturer in History and Politics, University of Plymouth

I joined the History and Politics departments in 2021, having previously been the Plumer Junior Research Fellow in Oriental Studies, St Anne's College, University of Oxford. My work explores empire, rebellion, migration and the co-construction of religion and ethnicity in China’s northwest, with a particular focus on the impact of 19th century state-directed resettlements of Muslims following the Great Northwestern Rebellions, 1860-1872. An additional strand of my current work explores the impacts of contemporary Sinicization of Islam campaigns among Chinese-speaking Muslims.Broadly speaking, I am interested in histories of ethnicity and the environment, and in writing engaged histories that speak to the present.


D.Phil, St Anne's College, University of Oxford, 2019 Dissertation: "Moving Muslims: the Great Northwestern Muslim Rebellion and the Transformation of Chinese Islam, 1862-1897"

M.St Oriental Studies, St Anne's College, University of Oxford, 2014

MA Chinese and History, University of Edinburgh, 2012

Professional membership

Associate Fellow, AdvanceHE

Member of the American Historical Association

Roles on external bodies

I am the subeditor of British Journal of Chinese Studies; I also coordinate an informal network of scholars working on Islam in China.



Teaching interests

I teach across History and Politics departments, offering a range of courses on China, refugee studies, historical methodology, postcolonialism and the Global South.

PIR 314: Mao to Now - the Politics of Modern China

PIR 500X: Refugee Studies

IRL 204: Global Development and International Relations

HIST 522: Talking History, Seeing History: Research Methods in Oral and Visual History

Areas of expertise for supervision:

China, especially late imperial China, and/or ethnic politics



Research interests

Modern China

Ethnicity and religion

Islam in China


Comparative colonialisms

Environmental history

Other research

My current book project builds on my D.Phil thesis, completed at Oxford, which explores the history and repercussions of the devastating Great Northwestern Muslim Rebellion, 1860-1872. The book project deepens and extends that work, exploring the 1860s as a moment which radically remade both the structure of Islamic communities in Shaanxi, Gansu, and Qinghai, but which also had far-reaching impacts on the way Islam is perceived and understood in China. Further work of mine has explored the history of the so-called Ma family warlords, and contemporary campaigns to sinicize Islam in China.

I have also contributed to Hannibal Taubes' ongoing project to document late imperial Chinese temple murals: 

Grants & contracts

Impact Acceleration Award, University of Plymouth, "Sinicization of Islam in China: Beyond Xinjiang", 2022

Creative practice & artistic projects

I authored a series of articles and interactive exercises on Qing history for BBC Bitesize: 




“Old Rebellions, New Minorities: the Ma Family Warlords and the Xinhai Rebellion”, as part of ‘Resisting Minoritization’ special edition of Global Intellectual History, 2021 DOI:

“Introduction to the British Historiography of the Qing” 清史研究在英國 [in Chinese], Qing History 清史研究, 2019 2, 1-10.

Internet Publications

BBC Bitesize, series of articles and interactive exercises on Qing history,

“Wounds that Fester: Histories of Chinese Islamophobia” , August 2019


“Document Authentication Report”, in David Tobin, “The “Xinjiang Papers”: How Xi Jinping Commands Policy in the People’s Republic of China, 2022,



Reports & invited lectures

“Sinicising Islam: A Roundtable Discussion”, in conversation with Dr. David Stroup, Dr. Rian Thum and Prof. Rachel Harris, University of Manchester China Institute, February 2022

“No Mere Soldiers: Gansu's Republican-era Muslim 'Warlords' as Politicians”, University of Manchester China Institute, May 2021

Conferences organised

Third Workshop of the Amdo Research Network, University of Oxford, September 2021

Convener of the University of Oxford China Centre Seminar Series, 2018-2020