Friday, April 3, 2009

White Working Class Hong Kong in the Nineteenth Century Revealed


Wandering around the dank recesses of the interweb the other day I stumbled across this piece by Professor HJ Lethbridge. It’s a great piece though I’m not sure exactly when or where it’s from (probably the 1960s sometime). In his paper Condition of the European Working Class in Nineteenth Century Hong Kong (thanks to Hong Kong University Library for putting it on line) Lethbridge manages to both reveal a world that is often ignored compared to all the endless tomes on taipans and tycoons, and moves beyond boring bios of long forgotten governors to remember some of the ordinary working class Europeans who lived and worked in Hong Kong.

I won’t write much more – best to read it – especially if you like whores, beachcombers, loafers, criminals and ne’er-do-wells (all of the above in my case).


BTW: Lethbridge was a fascinating chap, an early sociologist at Hong Kong University who wrote on many subjects, Chinese and foreign. I came across him years ago when he wrote an introduction to an old reprint on Carl Crow’s Travellers Handbook to China and Juliet Bredon’s excellent Peking, Vicki Baum’s Shanghai ‘37 and many other classics. I’ve since found pieces by him on such riveting subjects as murders, prostitution and all manner of nefarious goings on in old Hong Kong.

Couldn’t think of a picture to stick with this so the above are some shots of HKU (above left) and Victoria Harbour (top) around 1946.

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