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Hongkongers in the British Armed Forces, 1860-1997

Author: Kwong Chi Man

Kwong Chi Man (2022) Oxford University Press; ISBN: 9780192845740,

Hong Kong has been caught between empires ever since the First Opium War (1839-1842). As a result, the study of Hong Kong history has been subjected to the influence of the empires that controlled or laid claims over it. The historical experience of the Hongkongers during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries is unique, with Hong Kong as a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural society, an international trading hub, and a geopolitically crucial British colony until 1997. In recent decades, historians produced works on different aspects of the Hong Kong history, but one particular group has remained obscure: the more than 30,000 Hong Kong men and women who served in the British armed forces from the Opium Wars to the end of the British rule.

This is the first systematic study of the experience of the Hong Kong servicemen in the British armed forces during the colonial period. It puts the Hong Kong servicemen in the contexts of Hong Kong history, the history of overseas Chinese, the history of the British Empire, and the military history of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It details the agency of Hongkongers, who were often portrayed as victims or beneficiaries during the two world wars and the Cold War, and highlights the relevance of Hong Kong in the modern history of East Asia. The author also looks at how the intertwined issues of class and race played out among these servicemen, who came from a variety of ethnic, cultural, and social backgrounds. The study reveals the complexity of the colonial Hong Kong society by illustrating the interplay between the colonizers and the colonized of different classes and ethnicities, and informs the ongoing discussion about colonial Hong Kong by providing concrete examples of the collaboration between ethnic groups.

Dr. Chi Man Kwong, Associate Professor of History, Hong Kong Baptist University.