"A History of Diseases and Epidemics in Hong Kong, 1841-2003"

Project: Research project

Project Details


Based upon the recently completed project on the documentary history of public health in Hong Kong by the same team of researchers, this newly proposed project will investigate the history of diseases and epidemics in Hong Kong. It will aim at discovering the dynamic interactions during the processes of negotiation over the question of how to identify the causes and consequences of diseases and epidemics and their corresponding cures. Parties involved in such negotiations include the following: a) practitioners of Western and Chinese medicines in Hong Kong and Britain, b) colonial administrators in Hong Kong and within the British Empire, c) Chinese government officials in South China, and d) social leaders in Hong Kong whose views were represented in both organized and unorganized manners, ranging from initiatives to offering medical services for the needy ones within the institutional framework of hospital care to newspaper coverage by journalists or spontaneous contributions from the community. Evidently, there were external dimensions of diseases and epidemics that connected Hong Kong with China, Asia and the world. Attention will also be given to comparable cases for discussion where comparative perspectives are required.

This project will attempt to identify the patterns behind the occurrence of major diseases and epidemics in Hong Kong. In particular, the scope of investigation will focus on the changing notions of the following factors: a) the cultural assumptions of diseases in the British and Chinese minds, b) the emergence of medical professionalism, c) the impact of health and diseases in the power structure and Chinese leadership, d) local voluntarism and its patron of indigenous medicine and biomedicine, e) features of demography and urban and rural landscapes, f) gender factor, g) socio-economic conditions of different classes in Hong Kong, and h) the port of Hong Kong as a major nodal point in the network of global communications and movement of people and commodities. The inception of British colonial rule serves as a relevant starting point for this project because it marks the beginning of a conscious effort of documenting information concerning morbidity and mortality in Hong Kong, while the SARS in 2003 the other end of time-frame for this proposed investigation as it signifies as a recent example of an epidemic that illuminates Hong Kong's role in the broader view of medical history.
Effective start/end date1/01/1230/06/15


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