Books on Hong Kong

Recently, I’ve been leaning my research towards Hong Kong (a subject I tend to write about a lot…). I found that a lot of scholars of China and scholars of colonialism tend to not know a lot about work on Hong Kong. So I did my own investigation. I put together a pretty exhaustive essay on Hong Kong’s historiography. I won’t post it here, but I will mention some of my favorite books. The following is a short list, and it’s limited: these works focus mainly on the earlier colonial period (pre 49) and on social history.

By far, I found the best book to be John Carroll’s Edge of Empires (2005). He recounts the growth of Hong Kong nationalism and local culture through middle class Chinese businessmen. While businessmen may sound slightly uninteresting, his discussions of the 1913 and 1920s protests are good, as is his discussion of Sir Ho Kai (another good essay by Carroll in the recent collection of essays The Human Tradition in Modern China, ed. by Kenneth James Hammond, Kristin Eileen Stapleton, 2008). A parallel work which focuses on the labor class as opposed to the business class (yet covers a similar time frame and similar events)  is Jung-Fang Tsai’s Hong Kong in Chinese History (1993). While he does a good job in reconstructing the lived experience of laborers, I find his categories of identity troubling; it seems that he wrote this when everyone was looking for “nationalism” in everything, and I’m not convinced of Chinese nationalism in Hong Kong the way he describes it. Perhaps more promising would be his more recent 香港人之香港史, though I have yet to read it.

Another good but exhausting read was Christopher Munn’s Anglo China (2006). It’s a few hundred pages of legal history, but it is quite successful in disproving the wide held belief that Britain was a “hands off” colonizer. Includes a lot of interesting legal cases. And as far as disproving myths, Patrick Hase’s book The Six-Day War of 1899 (2008) shows that British colonialism in Hong Kong was not non-violent, as often assumed.

Of course, there are important older works, such as Elizabeth Sinn’s Power and Charity (1989), Ming K. Chan’s work on the labor movement (mostly in essays) and Henry J Lethbridge, Hong Kong, Stability and Change. I don’t know a lot about post 49 works, but a couple which caught my eye were Hong Kong, China: Learning to Belong to a Nation and Ackbar Abbas’s Hong Kong: Culture and Politics of Disappearance.

If anyone wants to add to this list, please do; I’m always looking for books, especially about women in Hong Kong (I found Women in Chinese Patriarchy, which has a few chapters on Hong Kong; also an honorable mention).


  1. I did a paper review on this book which I found pretty informative about Hong Kong’s contemporary political history, teh LegCo and everything: PEPPER, Suzanne, Keeping Democracy at Bay: Hong Kong and the Challenge of Chinese Political Reform, Lanham : Rowman and Littlefield, 2008, 448 p.

    Thanks for your bibliography. I enjoyed very much analysing Hong Kong, China: Learning to Belong to a Nation for a class, especially as a Puerto Rican.

  2. In re: “While businessmen may sound slightly uninteresting,”

    My God, Man! Merchants and Businessmen are what build China.Without them, China would have been relegated to a dusty corner of some museum. Good Confucians may have ignored them, but the Empire was built on the backs of businessmen,

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