This week we have another Bristolian to be a guest writer. Chris Wemyss is now in his second year of PhD at University of Bristol. Chris has been asked way too many times why he’s interested in Hong Kong (of all places!), and why he’s spending three months in this former British colony. He, therefore, decided to explain all these in this blog post:
Born in London, I lived there until I was eighteen, departing to study for a BA in History and Politics at the University of Southampton. My burgeoning interest in History quickly took me to the University of Warwick for an MA in Global History, and on to Bristol for my PhD studies supervised by Professor Robert Bickers and Dr Simon Potter. My fascination with Hong Kong materialised during my undergraduate degree, lying at the intersection of my interests in the British empire, China, and transnationalism. Empire is often seen as distant in the British consciousness, a project pursued by a very different nation, long ago. But in the case of Hong Kong, just twenty years have passed since its formal connection to Britain ceased – an event that occurred during my lifetime, although I was too young to understand the magnitude of the event. Even so, the very recent imperial past in Hong Kong remains fascinating to me, and has inspired my PhD research.
My project looks at British people whose lives became intertwined with late-colonial Hong Kong. I investigate the reasons that brought many different Britons to the territory in the 1980s, the myriad of employment options avaliable to them, their social lives in the city, and how all of this was altered by the 1997 handover. The continued presence of many Britons from this period in Hong Kong forms a visible reminder of the colonial past, but it should not be assumed that things simply carried on as they did before. Changes that occurred in the British community can illuminate the wider themes of British domestic history, decolonisation, globalisation, and migration.
I have recently been in Hong Kong for three months, conducting oral interviews with Britons. This trip, and my research, was made possible with the support of the Worldwide University Network, the Hong Kong History Project, and the Keil Scholarship.
Are you also an ECR/postgraduate hoping to let the wider community know about your work on Hong Kong history? If you’re interested in contributing, please write to Vivian Kong (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more details!