David’s interests are in economic and environmental history, especially in trade, investment and technological change. He has also published on labour relations.
His main empirical focus is on colonial Hong Kong—particularly during its period of accelerated industrialisation from the 1940s to the 1970s. From the 1970s, Hong Kong became a ‘model’ developing economy, and thus the subject of close enquiry by scholars investigating and pontificating on free ports, the rule of law and the externalities of growth.
David is also, inevitably, fascinated by the role of the British Empire, and he has collaborated with economists to examine the take-up of radio receiving sets (an important ICT) across a large set of British colonies in the 1950s. Controlling for the effects of income and prices, this work argued for the positive effects of early investment in infrastructures. More recently, he has collaborated with six historians across the world to write a book with Oxford University Press, The Wireless World.
David prefers to work collaboratively, and his new work (joint with Florence Mok, Nanyang Technological University) is on the politics and economics of clean water in colonial Hong Kong. He is therefore particularly interested in inter-disciplinary work on low-cost and low-carbon systems of supplying clean water and wet and dry sanitation.
David studied for his BA and PhD at the University of Manchester. He is a member of the Economic History Society.