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Hong Kong: Decolonisation and Development, 1945-97 - Semester 1 - HIS00163H

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  • Department: History
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. David Clayton
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2023-24

Module summary

The module begins in 1945, after Britain took back Hong Kong from occupying Japanese forces and ends in 1984, when the British and Chinese governments fixed 1997 as the date for the transfer of power from Britain to China. The module focuses on explaining a pattern of peaceful ‘decolonisation’– relative that is to territories such as Kenya and Malaya. It also accounts for Hong Kong’s path of ‘development’—that is, how the living standards for ordinary Chinese people improved steadily but unevenly post-1945. It examines crises: such as Hong Kong becoming a destination for refugees fleeing communist China; strikes and violence on the streets; riots in 1956 and 1966; a severe drought in 1963; the Cultural Revolution in 1967; Sino-British diplomacy in the 1980s. It examines slower processes of change: how the most densely populated city in the world became high-rise, how employment expanded, how pollution worsened, how the state taxed people and spent the dividends, how Chinese mentalities ‘modernised’.

The primary sources used range from telegrams, newspaper reportage, minutes of meetings, academic reports, social surveys, government statistics and autobiographies/oral testimonies. The module debates source biases, source skews and the impact of British, Hong Kong and Chinese state secrecy on the retelling of Hong Kong history. Semester 1 debates ‘decolonisation’ from a Hong Kong perspective. Semester 2 engages with ‘development’ from the perspective of Hong Kong.

Related modules

Students taking this module must also take the second part in Semester 2.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 1 2023-24

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

  • To introduce students to in depth study of a specific historical topic using primary and secondary material;
  • To enable students to explore the topic through discussion and writing; and
  • To enable students to evaluate and analyse primary sources.

Module learning outcomes

Students who complete this module successfully will:

  • Grasp key themes, issues and debates relevant to the topic being studied;
  • Have acquired knowledge and understanding about that topic;
  • Be able to comment on and analyse original sources;
  • Be able to relate the primary and secondary material to one another; and
  • Have acquired skills and confidence in close reading and discussion of texts and debates.

Module content

Students will attend a 1-hour briefing in week 1 and a 3-hour seminar in weeks 2-4, 6-8 and 10-11 of semester 1. Weeks 5 & 9 are Reading and Writing Weeks (RAW). Students prepare for and participate in eight three-hour seminars in all.

Seminar topics are subject to variation, but are likely to include the following:

  1. Hong Kong Exceptionalism
  2. Constitutional Conundrum
  3. Leftist Restraint
  4. Riotous Rebellion
  5. Colonial Cultures
  6. Economic Endgame
  7. Diplomatic endgame
  8. Decolonisation summed up: a pattern or a puzzle


Task Length % of module mark
Text Commentaries and Essay
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

For formative assessment, students will be given the opportunity to produce text commentaries in seminar, including a written commentary.

For the summative assessment students build a portfolio of two parts, to be submitted together:
a) Two text commentaries of 500-750 words; and
b) One 1,500-word essay which reflects on the significance of the chosen texts in light of scholarship and sources from across the module.
The commentaries comprise 50% and the essay 50% of the overall mark for this module. Summative assessments will be due in the assessment period.


Task Length % of module mark
Text Commentaries and Essay
N/A 100

Module feedback

Formative work will be live marked in seminar and supplemented by the tutor giving oral feedback to the whole group. All students are encouraged, if they wish, to discuss the feedback on their formative work during their tutor’s student hours. For more information, see the Statement on Feedback.

For summative assessment tasks, students will receive their provisional mark and written feedback within 25 working days of the submission deadline. The tutor will then be available during student hours for follow-up guidance if required. For more information, see the Statement of Assessment.

Indicative reading

For semester time reading, please refer to the module VLE site. Before the course starts, we encourage you to look at the following items of preliminary reading:

  • John M. Carroll, A Concise History of Hong Kong (Lantham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2007).
  • Steve Tsang, A Modern History of Hong Kong (London: I B. Tauris, 2007).
  • Lam Wai-Man, Understanding the Political Culture of Hong Kong. The Paradox of Activism and De-politicization (London and New York: Routledge, 2004).

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.