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Research interests

Kelvin Chan is a historian of medicine and the British Empire, with a particular focus on colonial Hong Kong. His research interests include the history of madness, drugs, and traditional Chinese medicine.


My PhD research focuses on the history of colonial psychiatry in Hong Kong during the mid and late 20th centuries, exploring the relationship between decolonization and psychiatry. It draws on hundreds of patients' case files from Hong Kong and England to trace: 1) how psychiatric knowledge shaped colonial governance and the operation of various reformatory institutions, and 2) how ordinary people contested, negotiated with, and utilized the state institutions. In doing so, this study examines the transformation of colonial psychiatry in the final phase of colonialism and, more importantly, its influence on our current understanding of mental illness. Part of my PhD research has been published in China Information and Medical History.

My next project examines the globalization of Chinese medicine between the 1950s and the 1980s. It investigates the transnational businesses of Chinese medical companies and the careers of practitioners who relocated to Hong Kong and expanded their businesses to Southeast Asia and North America from the 1950s.


‘Medicine and Healthcare’, in A New Documentary History of Hong Kong, c. 1945–1997, ed. Florence Mok and Chi Keung Charles Fung (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, forthcoming).

"Commercialising Everyday Distress: Neurasthenia and Traditional Chinese Medicine in Colonial Hong Kong, 1950s to 1980s." Medical History. Published online 2024: 1-16. 

"Therapeutic Governance in Hong Kong’s Anti-narcotics War, 1959–1980s." China Information, 38(1), 44-67.


  • History of medicine
  • History of psychiatry
  • History of drugs
  • Traditional healing


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