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Min Modersprak

Klaus Groth (1819-1899)
Extract from “Min Modersprak”

Old-Hovel-HartenholmA career in the academy was not even a fanciful thought in my youth. Although following in the footsteps of my shepherd ancestors in Holstein was by then unlikely, work as an agricultural labourer still remained the most obvious choice. It was, however, rather unfortunate circumstances that took me from the countryside to a nearby town.

Yet that move also offered better educational opportunities, preparing me for a three-year apprenticeship in a small wholesale firm in the city of Hamburg, the ‘Gateway to the World’. At the end of my apprenticeship, the Hamburg Chamber of Commerce awarded me with a diploma and a special prize, namely the novel by Adolph Wittmaack, Konsul Möllers Erben, for excellent academic and practical performances. With that encouragement, I confidently embarked on a career in commerce, first in Hamburg and later in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Konsul-Mollers-ErbenIt was during my military service in the U.S. Army that the possibility of advanced study began to dawn on me. Because the Army post at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, encouraged educational improvement, I was able to take my first tentative steps in some evening courses at San Antonio College. The encouraging results confirmed the viability of embarking on a degree course in higher education.

Consequently, I registered for the Bachelor of Arts programme at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee on a part-time basis. During the 1968-69 academic year, I interrupted my work-and- study programme and joined the multitudes on the popular overland passage to Kathmandu and beyond.


1969: not yet on the China trail

Having subsequently successfully completed my undergraduate studies with a 4.0 GPA, the next step was to commence graduate studies (M.A. and Ph.D.) in Chinese History at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. The shift from the United States to the United Kingdom completed the transition from the world of commerce to the world of learning.

My teaching career started in the United Kingdom with several part-time appointments, followed by five years in the School of Humanities, The Hatfield Polytechnic (now the University of Hertfordshire), Hatfield, United Kingdom. Thereafter I spent some twenty years teaching Modern History of China in the Department of History of the School of Oriental and African Studies. Adjusting to the peculiarities of British academic life proved to be quite a challenge. Teaching was the most enjoyable part and lasting friendships resulted from the experience, not only from among the graduate students but also some of the more studious undergraduates.

Engaging in and publishing research has, on the other hand, been a fairly low-profile business in my field of special interest. Studying the history of Christianity in China was for many years regarded with a degree of suspicion by secular academic institutions. Consequently, many of my publications are buried in relatively obscure collective volumes. To be sure, this situation has changed quite dramatically in recent years and a great many academic books and articles are now flooding the market. Interested scholars are, nevertheless, invited to consult the publications listed in my bibliography.

In more recent years I had the privilege of teaching and undertaking research at Chinese universities, first at Shanghai University (2008), followed by Central China Normal University in Wuhan (2010) and since 2012 at Shandong University in Jiꞌnan.

The long road from life in a tumbledown hovel in the outer margins of a remote village in Holstein to a professorship at Shandong University has been tortuous at times, yet also immensely rewarding. Various obstacles notwithstanding, the protracted journey into the academy has certainly been worthwhile. My research is perhaps little more than a voice from the margins, yet it is hoped that there are some readers out there who may find my perspectives of interest. If nothing else, some of my insights may helpfully address at least a few of the persistent inaccuracies in the existing literature.

Min Jehann

Extract from Klaus Groth, “Min Jehann”

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