The shaping of early Hong Kong : Transplantation and adaptation by the British professionals, 1841-1941

Research output: Journal Publications and ReviewsRGC 21 - Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)549-568
Journal / PublicationPlanning Perspectives
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2012


Britain's colonial cities benefitted greatly from town planning practices that originated in the mother country. Hong Kong, one of many British colonial cities, grew from a small fishing village to an international metropolis. Urban development in the colony from 1841 to 1941 was continuous and systematic but ended abruptly with the Japanese invasion in World War II. The period was marked by rapid urban growth which brought with it many problems for the colonial management. This paper reviews the urban history of Hong Kong over the 100-year period from 1841 and explores the development motives of the colonial administration. The colonial government appointed British professionals for specialized roles and their services were apparent in significant milestones in the city's town planning and construction. The paper highlights the contributions of a few significant personnel: A.T. Gordon, C.G. Cleverly, Osbert Chadwick, David J. Owen and Wilfred H. Owen. By describing the works of these British colonial professionals, the authors hope to illustrate their impact on the development of Hong Kong, linking history to the present and filling gaps in the study of Hong Kong's early town planning. Both archive research and on-site study were employed in the preparation of this paper which is expected to complement other studies of colonial city planning in Asia and Africa. © 2012 Taylor & Francis.

Research Area(s)

  • Colonialism, Expatriate expert, Historical study, Hong kong, Town planning