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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.



Economic historians are fascinated by the causes of growth and have tended to focus on two explanations for its unevenness: the differential rate of uptake of new technologies and institutional divergence, contrasting rules governing how private and public organisations make decisions. David’s research has examined these twin dynamics for a vital period, 1945 to .1980, one characterised by re-globalisation and decolonisation.

Supported by external grants from the British Academy, the Economic History Society, The Leverhulme Trust, and the Wellcome Trust, he has worked on the end of informal empire in China; the industrialisation of Hong Kong; the strategic response of businesses in Britain to low-cost Asian competition; and the consumption of radio receiving sets in the British Empire.

As part of a Leverhulme Trust funded project based at the University of Bristol, he is currently co-writing a transnational history of radio broadcasting, due to be published in 2020/21. His contribution focuses on the technologies of international broadcasting.

His main long term project is on Water Emergencies in Hong Kong. Post-1945 regular, acute water shortages altered technologies (leading to innovations such as the use of salt water for flushing) and shaped institutions (embedding for example water rationing). He is using rich textual sources to study these processes.


David currently supervises PhD students on:

Water and international health (Joanna Lunt)
The Pullman Railway company (Anthony Ford)
State-society relations in 1970s Hong Kong (Florence Mok)
Food and Nutrition in post-war Hong Kong (Leo Shum)
Electronic Soundscapes (part of a White Rose PhD Network which he leads)

He welcomes applications from research students interested in using qualitative or quantitative techniques to investigate any aspect of the social and economic history of Britain, the British Empire, and Hong Kong.



  • Rhythm and Reason: Mass Communication and Culture, 1920-50 (first year Period Topic module)
  • China: An Economic and Environmental History, 1870-1950 (second year Explorations module)
  • Hong Kong: Decolonisation and Development, 1945-97 (final year Special Subject module)


Contact details

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

Tel: Internal 2988, External (01904) 322988

Student hours

Autumn term 2022


Week 8:

  • Tuesday 1pm to 2pm (in-person)
  • Thursday 3pm to 4pm

Week 9:

  • Tuesday 1pm to 2pm (in-person)
  • Thursday 3 to 4pm (online)

Week 10:

  • Tuesday 2pm to 3pm
  • No office hours on Thursday 1 December

Drop in or email for a specific appointment slot.