Cover: Edge of Empires: Chinese Elites and British Colonials in Hong Kong, from Harvard University PressCover: Edge of Empires in HARDCOVER

Edge of Empires

Chinese Elites and British Colonials in Hong Kong

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Product Details


$65.50 • £52.95 • €59.00

ISBN 9780674017016

Publication Date: 04/30/2005


274 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

1 map


Even more than most new history monographs, John M. Carroll’s carefully argued, informative study of the Hong Kong bourgeoisie circa 1841–1941 is one that it is easy to imagine readers picking up with very different goals in mind, only to come away with contrasting senses of the novelty and importance of its arguments. The author has interesting things to say about a variety of specific individuals (including colorful figures who moved skillfully between different cultural milieus), institutions (such as the fascinating ‘District Watch’ system of maintaining order in the overwhelmingly Chinese sections of Hong Kong), and events… Carroll has unquestionably done specialists in several fields a service by providing us with such a richly textured picture of the ‘multifaceted process of “embourgeoisment”’ in an intriguing colonial setting, that of a one-time part of the British Empire that since 1997 has ‘not been de-colonized’ but rather ‘re-colonized, with the metropole simply shifting from London to Beijing.’—Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom, American Historical Review

Carroll argues that in the century after the Opium War, an upper middle class appeared among the Chinese in Hong Kong. Western in outlook and education yet Chinese in value and connections, this bourgeoisie collaborated with their British rulers to build a place they considered their own. Chinese endeavors instead of British governance transformed Hong Kong from a collection of ‘barren rocks’ to a gleaming metropolis of stability and prosperity. Britain’s ‘crown jewel’ thus bore eloquent testimony to a productive encounter between the East and the West. This book fills an important gap in the scholarship on Hong Kong. As a close study of the rise of a Hong Kong–based Chinese bourgeoisie, Edge of Empires has much to offer to current studies of Chinese diaspora, business history, and political culture. It also challenges prevailing theories of global empires and colonialism.—Wen-hsin Yeh, University of California, Berkeley

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