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A Modern History of Hong Kong Paperback – September 4, 2007

14 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1845114190 ISBN-10: 1845114191

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Editorial Reviews


""Tsang's history is authoritative and well-researched...From rock to great metropolis, the story storms along, full of heroes and villains, eccentrics and visionaries, bounders and buccaneers."" -- Chris Patten, New Statesman
""Clearly written, logically organized and sustains a tone of persuasive authority."" --Wm Roger Louis, University of Texas at Austin
""Having spent half his life in Hong Kong and half in the West, Mr Tsang is uniquely placed to write this book. He has produced what must be the definitive history of Hong Kong."" -- Contemporary Review
""This is a well constructed, thorough yet succinct history of Hong Kong. It should be on the shelf of everyone interested in the city. for the general reader, this will stimulate further interest. For the experts, enjoy Tsang's fine style."" -- Christine Loh, Civic Exchange
""A respected Oxford scholar brought up in Hong Kong, [Steve Tsang] has drawn on a vast array of sources, Chinese as well as British, to produce a thorough and well-crafted study which should appeal to the general reader as well as the specialist…For those who want to understand the importance of the territory's British legacy in its continuing success, Dr Tsang's study is likely to remain the best guide for some time to come."" -- Sir Robin McLaren, China Review

About the Author

Steve Tsang is Louis Cha Fellow and University Reader in Politics at St Antony's College, Oxford University. He served as Director of the Asian Studies Centre at Oxford from 1997 to 2003 and is author of Hong Kong: An Appointment with China, also published by I.B. Tauris.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: I. B. Tauris (August 15, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1845114191
  • ISBN-13: 978-1845114190
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #511,319 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Oliver B on January 21, 2006
Format: Hardcover
A Modern History of Hong Kong presents a supremely well-balanced history of this former British imperial possession. Steve Tsang's meticulously researched historical narrative duly recognizes the efforts of both Hong Kong's industrious and civic-minded local Chinese population and the expatriate British who held the bulk of the administrative power over Hong Kong during its tenure as a crown colony. Tsang's work demonstrates that Hong Kong's ethnic Chinese inhabitants played an essential and dynamic role in the creation of the former colony in that they constituted its economic, industrial, and infrastructural workforce from the beginning, and came to develop their own unique Hong Kong identity as the population stabilized culturally but exploded in number in the decades following the Second World War. Tsang's historical account never strays far from what students of Marxist theory would likely refer to as Hong Kong's material conditions, in that the book portrays Hong Kong's cultural development within the context of its economic and political circumstances. The work puts forth a history of Hong Kong in which the colony's unique social and cultural characteristics were established as a result of the relatively minimalist legal and political framework that was provided by the British colonizers in order to ensure Hong Kong's capitalistic success. Students of history, English, postcolonial studies, comparative literature, and other academic disciplines will find this book to be a fascinating primer for further studies into both Hong Kong's history and the colonial and postcolonial initiatives of Britain and other Eurasian countries. General readers and academics alike who are interested in Hong Kong's history will find Steve Tsang's book to be a lively, entertaining, and fair treatment of the forces and events that led to the formation of this former colony and to the creation of its current identity as a Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By John Simpson on January 30, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This is by far the best book on Hong Kong I have ever read. It is clearly written, balanced, and insightful. My family and I have lived in Hong Kong for years and it is nice to read a book that describes a place one knows well in beautifully written prose. It is fair about both the British and the local Chinese communities. When I read the chapter on the rise of a Hong Kong identity I know this is really good. It rings true. Most highly recommended.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By DCD on April 21, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This history is well balanced, thoroughly researched and very readable. It covers the period from the Opium Wars when the British obtained the rocky island referred to as "fragrant harbour" (Hong Kong) to the handover of one of the world's preeminent trading and financial centres to the PRC. The strength of the text is that it makes very clear that Hong Kong's existence was a function of the relative power of China and Britain. As China disintegrated in the 19th Century and European powers took little pieces for themselves, Britain was the leading European in the area, and (after serving itself) even sought to protect China against its European competitors. When the costs of World War II and the Japanese Empire broke the back of Europe's colonies in Asia, a new chapter began in Hong Kong as well. Prof. Tsang shows a Hong Kong that somewhat resembles the United States in that it is a refuge for immigrants from troubled foreign countries, although in the case of Hong Kong almost everyone came from China. Tsang does not shy away from depicting the racist and elitist practices of Victorian England towards the Chinese refugees who made up Hong Kong's population, but stresses that what the colonial masters had to offer (particularly the rule of law and civil service) was much better than what these people could expect from their Chinese homeland. This portrait of the people of Hong Kong is extremely sympathetic, even endearing. They appear as enterprising refugees who had no real power to defend themselves against either Imperial Britain or Communist China except making Hong Kong such a special (and wealthy) place that the power current overshadowing them would look favorably to giving them space to breathe. This is not only a captivating and informative history, but also an excellent study of colonies generally and culture: it shows how and the extent to which a Western economy and society can develop in a culture that remains completely Chinese.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By jim's travels on January 31, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As we travel, I like to read the history of a country or area before we go there. I find that it is difficult to find a factual history that is easy to read, let alone enjoyable.

Tsang has a writing style that makes history interesting. He discusses the roles of Chinese government, the British government and the Chinese who immigrate to Hong Kong. He also has a very good understanding of the role of government and the economic forces at work.

He is very objective and does not have an "agenda".

I feel that this book has given me a very accurate description of the history of Hong Kong and will make our trip to Hong Kong, on which we leave in three days, much more enjoyable.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Chris on August 4, 2013
Format: Paperback
As other reviewers here have mentioned, Tsang's "A Modern History of Hong Kong" is an excellent and insightful overview of the territory's history, from its inception into the British Empire in 1841-2 to the years immediately following its return to China in 1997. The author is remarkably balanced in his interpretation of Hong Kong's historical development, presenting both the British legal/political framework and Chinese participation that facilitated its progress from what he calls "a collection of sleepy fishing villages into a great modern metropolis." Tsang also consults a wide variety of primary and secondary sources in both English and Chinese, although the inclusion of personal accounts and statements where possible could have lent some of his more general statements on "the people's" sentiments more authenticity. His approach does indeed prioritize Hong Kong's economic and political history over its social developments, but he manages to integrate all three in meaningful and appropriate contexts. Some more elaboration on the social and cultural history of Hong Kong, as well as an appendix of relevant demographic/economic statistics (if not more direct citations in the text itself) would have been useful, but Tsang's history of Hong Kong is more than sufficient in addressing the delicate complexities, maneuvers, and circumstances that have shaped its growth.
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