Multiracial Britons
: Britishness, Diasporas, and Cosmopolitanism in Interwar Hong Kong

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


What do we understand by the notion of being ‘British’ in the British Empire? This was an issue of political, legal and media debate and dispute. But, while a rich literature has considered how being British was an identity available to ‘non-white’ subjects in the empire, existing works often engage in the binary discussion of only the indigenous and British communities, neglecting other
ethnicities also present in colonies. This thesis proposes a different answer to this question through the prism of colonial Hong Kong between the two World Wars. I ask what did being British mean, and who was British. Drawing on legal cases, public discussions, civil society, and education, I identify a sizable group of ‘multiracial Britons’ who actively engaged themselves with notions of Britishness in interwar Hong Kong. This thesis examines closely various forms
of cross-cultural interactions – between white Britons and British subjects of colour; between Chinese students from British Malaya; British Hong Kong, and mainland China; between Anglophile Portuguese Eurasians and ‘patriotic’ Portuguese Eurasians; and between white Britons and other Europeans. As I investigate their understanding of Britishness, this thesis also explains how colonialism affected the development of diasporic, civic, and urban identities in
twentieth-century Asia. I argue that Hong Kong’s multi-ethnic population, urban setting, and transnational connections enabled Britishness to develop as not only a ‘race’, a legal identity, and a national belonging, but also an imperial tool, a civic sensibility, and a cultural attribute, and so on.
Date of Award24 Jul 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorSu Lin Lewis (Supervisor) & Robert Bickers (Supervisor)

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