Eastern Fortress: A Military History of Hong Kong, 1840–1970
Celebrated as a trading port, Hong Kong was also Britain’s “eastern fortress”. Likened by many to Gibraltar and Malta, the colony was a vital but vulnerable link in imperial strategy, exposed to a succession of enemies in a turbulent age and a troubled region. This book examines Hong Kong’s developing role in the Victorian imperial defence system, the emerging challenges from Russia, France, the United States, Germany, Japan and other powers, and preparations in the years leading up to the Second World War. A detailed chapter offers new interpretations of the Battle of Hong Kong of 1941, when the colony succumbed to the Japanese invasion. The remaining chapters discuss Hong Kong’s changing strategic role during the Cold War and the winding down of the military presence. The book not only focuses on policies and events, but also explores the social life of the garrison in Hong Kong, the struggles between military and civil authorities, and relations between the armed forces and civilians in Hong Kong.
Drawing on original research in archives around the world, including English, Japanese, and Chinese sources, this is the first full-length study of the defence of Hong Kong from the beginning of the colonial period to the end of British military interests East of Suez in 1970. Illustrated with images and detailed maps, Eastern Fortress will be of interest to both students of history and general readers.
Kwong Chi Man is an assistant professor in the History Department of Hong Kong Baptist University.
Tsoi Yiu Lun teaches history and liberal studies at Mu Kuang English School, Hong Kong.
“Armed with a range of declassified archives—many of them unpublished—Kwong and Tsoi expertly weave together military, political, social, and economic history to show how Hong Kong played a strategic role in East Asia and the British Empire from the early 1840s to the 1970s. Eastern Fortress is a must-read for anyone interested in Hong Kong and its history.”
—John Carroll, author of A Concise History of Hong Kong and Edge of Empires:Chinese Elites and British Colonials in Hong Kong
“This careful and well-written study does a difficult balancing act very well indeed. It connects the military history of Hong Kong to both the general Hong Kong experience and the wider military history of the region and beyond. Weaving its way with confidence from archive to library, from grand strategy to battlefield, this volume provides what we have long needed. Hong Kong’s experience was unique, but at the same time it was integrally connected to the wider circles of empire, region, and Asia. Nothing brings that trajectory out more strongly than the military dimension, and by ranging from the Opium War to the Cold War, with a critical eye, this volume does that story justice. It is the capstone that brings together a generation of good scholarship on the military history of Hong Kong.”
—Brian Farrell, author of The Basis and Making of British Grand Strategy 1940–1943: Was There a Plan? and co-author of Between Two Oceans: A Military History of Singapore from First Settlement to Final British Withdrawal