Hong Kong and British culture, 1945–97

Author: Mark Hampton

This book examines the place of Hong Kong in the British imagination between the end of World War II and the return of Hong Kong to Chinese sovereignty in July 1997. It argues that Hong Kong has received far less attention from British imperial and cultural historians than its importance would warrant. It argues that Hong Kong was a site within which competing yet complementary visions of Britishness could be imagined—for example, the British penchant for trade and good government, and their role as agents of modernization. At the centre of these articulations of Britishness was the idea of Hong Kong as a “barren rock” that British administration had transformed into one of the world’s great cities—and the danger of its destruction by the impending “handover” to communist China in 1997.

The book moves freely between the activities of Britons in Hong Kong and portrayals of Hong Kong within domestic British discourse. It uses such printed primary sources as newspapers, memoirs, novels, political pamphlets, and academic texts, and archival material located in the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, the United States, and Australia, including government documents, regimental collections, and personal papers.

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‘…a well-written and original study that deserves to be widely read.'
Tanja Bueltmann, Northumbria University
The American Historical Review, Vol 122, Issue 1
January 2017

‘Highly illuminating and meticulously researched, the book shows that British commentators were either fascinated with Hong Kong’s transformation from a “barren rock” into a dynamic city, or critical of Hong Kong’s money-making and non-white character. By exploring the complex interplay between metropolitan and colonial cultures, Hampton has not only addressed a neglected aspect of Hong Kong history, but also provided valuable insights into postwar British society and culture. […] In short, Hampton has written a thought-provoking and hugely entertaining book, which lies at the intersection of British imperial and cultural history and Hong Kong history.
Journal of Social History

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