Projecting Britishness to Hong Kong: the British Council and Hong Kong House, nineteen-fifties to nineteen-seventies


  • Earlier versions of this article were presented to the 2010 ‘Crossroads’ conference of the Association for Cultural Studies, and to the history department seminar at Hong Kong University. The author is grateful for financial support from the research and postgraduate studies committee of Lingnan University, Hong Kong. In addition, thanks are due to John Carroll, David Clayton, Peter Mandler and Simon Potter, and to two anonymous referees, for valuable comments on earlier drafts of this article; to Timothy Wales and Penelope Pang Ching-Yee, for crucial research assistance; and to the British Council for permission to quote from their papers.


This article examines post-war British cultural diplomacy in Hong Kong, focusing on the British Council and Hong Kong House. Drawing on colonial office, British Council and Hong Kong government archival collections, it argues that neither the British nor Hong Kong governments placed a high priority on promoting British cultural values to the Hong Kong Chinese. Moreover, even this limited emphasis declined after the late nineteen-sixties, reflecting both Britain's retreat from what John Darwin calls the ‘empire project’ and the emergence of a more pronounced Hong Kong local identity.