David Clayton
Senior Lecturer in Modern History



BA, PhD (Manchester)

David Clayton is a Senior Lecturer in Modern History. After gaining a BA and a PhD at the University of Manchester (1987-94), David took up a lectureship in the Department of Economics at York. In 1998 he transferred to the Department of History, and in 2007 was promoted to a Senior Lectureship in History. David is currently a Director of the Centre for Historical Economics and Related Research at York (CHERRY), which links together economic historians across the campus. He is also an associate member of the Centre for the Evolution of Global Business and Institutions at the University of York, based in the Department of Management.

David has held a Fellowship from The Leverhulme Trust, and been a visiting fellow at the Centre for Asian Studies, Hong Kong, and at the Centre for Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto University. He has peer-reviewed manuscripts for numerous journals and publishers, including Business History, Cambridge University Press, Contemporary British History, The Economic History Review, Hong Kong University Press, International History Review, and Media History.



David's research career began with a PhD on Anglo-Chinese diplomatic relations in the early 1950s, an old-style international history-type study which examined the responses of British governments to the triumph of Communism in China, an event that is still having a profound effect on world affairs in the twenty-first century.

For the last ten years, initially supported by a Leverhulme Fellowship, he has investigated how customs and laws affected behaviour in Hong Kong. David has published on the evolution of labour standards and on the use of trademarks, and have long term plans to write on how exchange relations within factories and workshops were affected by traditions of co-ordinated and un-co-ordinated bargaining.

Concerns about the evolution of formal and informal institutions in Hong Kong led David to investigate the international political economy of trade in cotton textiles during the mid to late twentieth century. Hong Kong was a major exporter during an epoch when new global institutions emerged to manage the transfer of comparative advantage in textile and clothing production from the developed to developing world. He has written on Anglo-Asian textile diplomacy in the 1950s and have collected material on the rise of protectionism in the US during the 1960s.

David also has extensive interests in the rise of mass consumption, in both the developed and developing countries. In 2004 he published a landmark article on the diffusion of radios in Hong Kong; one which succeeded in getting ‘Elvis Presley’ into a prestigious, economic history journal! He is currently collaborating with Sue Bowden (Economics, York), and Alvaro Pereira (Simon Fraser University, Canada) on a large-scale project examining the diffusion of radio broadcast technologies in all British dependent territories in the 1950s.

His interests in consumption also got David exploring the transition from austerity to affluence in post-war Britain. He has published on the growth of expenditure on advertising in 1950s Britain, and has also written about how, in the face of intense and ultimately ruinous competition, the British cotton textile industry marketed cotton textiles. He is currently co-researching with Mark Roodhouse (York) how early post-war governments sought to constrain conspicuous consumption by capping the growth of advertising expenditure.


David's current research examines the relationship between environmental constraints and development using the case study of water scarcity in post-war Hong Kong. He is exploring the origins of supply-side innovations (such as dry-sanitation, salt-water flushing, re-cycling and reduced leakage rates) and of rationing and resource pooling, the key demand-side strategies. The effects of water scarcity on public heath are a key focus for this research. This project will also chronicle ‘friendly’ water diplomacy, an exceptional international political economy that enabled Hong Kong to alleviate endemic water shortages by importing huge volumes of water from China. There was a serious drought in 1963-64 Hong Kong which caused great hardship and which consequently left a rich seam of archival records for historical research. This project also contributes therefore to recent economic history research on Natural Disasters.



Contact details

Dr David Clayton
Vanbrugh College V/210
Department of History
University of York
YO10 5DD

Tel: Internal 2988, External (01904) 322988