Centre researchers are working on a number of inter-related projects, that include archivally-driven scholarship, digital humanities innovation, and collections development. We are supporting pioneering new research through our postdoctoral appointments and PhD scholarships, as well as developing new collections for use both by scholars and the wider public. Our current areas of concentration include: 

Migration and Mobility 

A core strand of Centre research lies in the theme of migration and mobility in Hong Kong history. A cluster of projects approaches the city’s history by thinking about local, regional and global networks of peoples, cultures, ideas, businesses, and goods for which Hong Kong is a key site. We are proud to have hosted a number of projects that explore the lived experiences of multiracial diasporas that had called Hong Kong home, and their contributions to the city’s vibrant, dynamic urban life, including Catherine S. Chan’s PhD, now published as The Macanese in British Hong Kong: A Century of Transimperial Drifting (2021). 

Recent publications and current projects on this include: 

Metropole and Periphery 

Ray Yep is finishing a book, MacLehose, London and Hong Kong: the Long 1970s that revisits the “golden era of colonial rule” under the governorship of Murray MacLehose (1971-1982). Through detailed analysis of MacLehose’s managing of four critical episodes: Vietnamese refugee crisis, anti-corruption campaign, launching of social reforms and land leases in New Territories beyond 1997, the study examines how colonial autonomy is negotiated and defined. Another project, Hong Kong Lobbying in Britain, further explores the intricacies and dynamics of London-Hong Kong relationship. It examines how interests in Hong Kong made use of the openings inherent of the liberal democratic character of the British polity to pursue their own agendas. Through detailed analysis of the cases of Elsie Elliot’s anti-corruption campaign in the 1960s and 1970s, business interests initiatives to promote Hong Kong exports to Britain in the 1970s, and students’ lobbying in Britain during the Anglo-Chinese negotiation process, this study aims to explore the mutually constitutive character of British colonialism by going beyond the governmental level analysis of interaction between the metropole and the colony. In addition, Wai Li Chu is in the final stages of a PhD dissertation that reassesses the Sino-British joint negotiations through the prism of the late Cold War and Britain’s late colonial history. Taking a different perspective, Robert Bickers’s recent book China Bound: John Swire & Sons and its World, 1816-1980 (2020), enriches our study of Hong Kong’s place in the history of Sino-British relations, British empire and globalization, taking as its focus the London-headquartered conglomerate, John Swire & Sons. 

Cold War Politics 

Ray Yep’s long term interest in the 1967 Riots (first demonstrated in his co-edited book with Robert Bickers, May Days in Hong Kong: Riot & Emergency in 1967 (2009) is developed further in a monograph project, Cultural Revolution in Hong Kong: The 1967 Riots, Cold War Politics and Beyond. In addition to the objective of uncovering a comprehensive and analytical account of the context, causes and unfolding of the drama in 1967, the study also strives to examine three under-studied implications of the 1967 Riots:  

  • Interaction between Britain/Hong Kong and American/Taiwanese during the confrontation and impact on their relations beyond 1967; 
  • Repercussion for the future of Hong Kong: how Beijing’s position during the negotiation and transition was undermined by the marginalization of its sympathizers in Hong Kong after the conflict;  
  • 1967 as a template for crisis management in 2019: how the colonial government’s firmness in response could help justify and reinforce the HKSAR’s position in overseeing the Anti-Extradition Bill Protests half a century later. 

Creating Hong Kong Collections 

The Centre will build new collections to support the study of Hong Kong history. Bristol is the first British institution that has made Hong Kong’s history a collections priority for its Library’s Special Collections and Archives. This will develop along two strands. As well as providing a secure home for archival materials (in diverse formats) currently held in private hands in the UK, the Centre will build on the success of the ‘Historical Photographs of China’ project, to develop a new ‘Historical Photographs of Hong Kong’ online platform. Experience has shown us that families who have historic connections to Hong Kong in Britain – through living and working there in business, health, education, or in government service, or through migration to the British Isles – often have unique and historically valuable material stored away – photograph albums, documents of all sorts, and other ephemera. We will be actively looking to collect such materials, preserve them, and share them.

Hong Kong Mapping Project 

This digital project, led by Dr Thomas Larkin, is an initiative designed to geographically organise visual and written archival documents into a platform that maps Hong Kong’s urban development. The project will develop a series of digitised maps spanning Hong Kong’s history that will use historical data (including but not limited to the forthcoming ‘Historical Photographs of Hong Kong’ collections, Hong Kong Public Record Office land registries, and place-based information drawn from newspapers, chronicles, and directories) to depict the territory’s urban and social geography. The intended public-access platform, to be joint-hosted between the Centre and University of Prince Edward Island, will allow users to interactively explore the territory’s growth, while providing researchers with templates to input and begin analysing their own data.