The Chinese University of Hong Kong Department of History Department of History
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HIST4305IM Topics Studies in Modern World History:
Imperialism and Urbanisation: Asian Cities and Empires

Semester 2 (2021-2022)

Lecture TimeMonday 4:30pm - 6:15pm

VenueWMY 407


Lecturer Ian MORLEY (Tel.: 39437116 /

Teaching Assistant Claudia Isabelle Violeta MONTERO (

Course Description

The course surveys the role and effects of empire upon the historical evolution of cities and culture in Asia. To do this the course asks a number of fundamental questions: What made empires occur, grow, and fall? Why did cities have a crucial role in the development of empires? How did empires and their cities operate? And, how did Asian urban culture evolve under the dynamics of imperialism, and what legacies exist in cities today?

Using case studies from selected European empires, plus the Japanese Empire and American Empire, the course will introduce students to the construction of imperial rule in different regions of Asia. Encouraging learners to embrace concepts in Imperial Studies alongside the urban historical methods of culture and biography, students thus via focusing upon selected Asian colonies and cities will be able to not only appreciate why urban communities and civilizations in different territories evolved in distinct ways, but they will additionally assess counter-narratives to foreign hegemony. Consequently learners will deeply comprehend how and why political, cultural, legal, economic, and environmental matters interwove during the past and, as a result, shaped what is today ‘Modern Asia’.

During the course, learners will come face-to-face with various concepts, perspectives, and tools used by urban and imperial historians to explain the story of colonization in Asia, and will engage too with a range of textual and visual materials. As a result, students are afforded the opportunity to cultivate historical skills associated with the use of primary and secondary sources and, significantly, as members of a former colonial society more deeply recognize how the colonial past and postcolonial present interlink. Such awareness will assist students to possess a more comprehensive insight into the idea and framing of modern, independent nation-states in Asia during the early-21st century.


Course Aims

The course is designed with particular learning outcomes. Upon successful completion of the program students will have the know-how to:

  1. Comprehend the historical course of imperialism in Asia from its origins in the 1500s through to decolonization in the 1900s;
  2. Evaluate the impacts of imperial rule within the frame of Asian cities, their development, and the evolution of urban culture;
  3. Apply theories, concepts, and methods from Imperial History and Urban History so as to analyze, review, and synthesize knowledge about empires, urban places, and culture;
  4. Develop a basic grasp of the historiography of empire and cities in Asia;
  5. Articulate historical understanding and skills via the use of primary and secondary sources for spoken exercises and written assignments.

Lectures and Student Responsibilities

Students are required to attend all class functions and to arrive prepared for lectures. This includes arriving on time, having paper on which to record notes, listening attentively to the Lecturer, and, where possible, joining in any Lecturer-led discussions. 

Week 1 Course Introduction: From Past to Present – Comprehending Life in Asia via Empires and Cities
Week 2 Overview Lecture of (1) Key Concepts, Ideologies, and Theories, and (2) Empires in Asia Pre-European Contact
Week 3 The Arrival of Europeans and the (re)Building of Asian Society on Western Civilization Models
Week 4 Spanish Imperialism and the Tying of Asia to the Americas: The Laws of the Indies, Religion, and the Transformation of Urban Culture
Week 5 European Colonization and Chinese Encounters
Week 6 The British and India: Introducing New Cultural Spaces and Practices
Week 7 Evaluating Urban Life (1): Architecture, Identity, and Power (case studies Calcutta and New Delhi)
Week 8 Evaluating Urban Life (2): Public Health, Housing, and the Indian Diaspora in Burma (case study Rangoon)
Week 9 The Metropole and the Colonial Outpost: Interactions and Impacts (1) (case study Bombay and Manchester)
Week 10 Imaginaries and Modernity (case studies Indonesia, the Philippines, and Russia and Asia)
Week 11 The Metropole and Colonial Outpost: Interactions and Impacts (2) (case study Manchukuo and Japan)
Week 12 Decolonization: Concept and Practice – Taking Steps to National Independence
Week 13 Post-Colonial Legacies: Plurality of Place, Culture, and Heritage in the Frame of the Globalized World
Assessment & Assignments
Discussion 10%
Essay Test or Exam 40%
Essay 30%
Participation and Attendance 20%

The tutorials (4 in total) give students the chance to discuss in some detail the topics introduced in the lectures, and to help them sort out any problems in understanding that they may have. Time is also set aside to consider how industrialization has corresponded with changes in the broader world. Group activities shall be integrated into tutorial classes so that students can ‘do History’ but for tutorials to run effectively all students will be expected to have prepared beforehand, e.g. by reading and by thinking about the class topic in question. Materials to read shall be given by your lecturer each week and by consulting this course book. You also need to be prepared to join in the discussions within the tutorials: active learning is a basic of HIST4305IM But do not be afraid to ask questions if you are in doubt: by asking a question you may help others get a better grasp of the topic as well as well as helping yourself!


Required Readings

  • Brian P. Farrell, Empire in Asia: A New Global History (2018)
  • Anthony King, Colonial Urban Development (1976)
  • Felix Driver and David Gilbert (eds.), Imperial Cities: Landscape, Display and Identity (2003)


Recommended Readings

Examples of texts to be used by the students pertinent to particular classes as the course unfolds include:

  • Thomas Metcalf, ‘Imperial Towns and Cities’, in P.J. Marshall (ed.), British Empire (1996)
  • William Beinart and Lotte Hughes, Environment and Empire (2009)
  • Susan Parisj and Jim Masselos (eds.), The Great Empires of Asia (2010)
  • Robert Home, Of Planting and Planning (1997)
  • Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities (1983)
  • Peter Brooker, Andrzej Gasiorek, Deborah Longworth, and Andrew Thacker, The Oxford Handbook of Modernism (2010)
  • Ho Pui-yin, Making Hong Kong (2018)
  • Hubert Bonin, Asian Imperial Banking History (2015)
  • Ashley Jackson, Buildings of Empire (2013)
  • Alex Bremner (ed.), Architecture and Urbanism in the British Empire (2016)
  • Brenda S.A. Yeoh, Contesting Space: Power Relations and Urban Built Environment in Colonial Singapore (1996)
  • Laura Victoir and Victor Zatsepine (eds.), Harbin to Hanoi: The Colonial Built Environment in Asia, 1840 to 1940 (2013);
  • Edward Denison and Guangyu Ren, Ultra-Modernism: Architecture and Modernity in Manchuria (2016);
  • Carlos Quirino, Old Manila (1971);
  • B.R. Pearn, A History of Rangoon (1939);
  • Henco Bekkering, Adele Esposito, and Charles Goldblum (eds.), Ideas of the City in Asian Settings (2019);
  • Gregory Bracken (eds.), Asian Cities: Colonial to Global (2015);
  • Christopher W. London, Bombay Gothic (2002);
  • Peter Scriver and Vikramaditya Prakash, Colonial Modernities (2007);
  • Paul Rabinow, French Modern (1989);
  • Fernando Nakpil Zialcita, Authentic Though Not Exotic (2005);
  • David Cannadine, Ornamentalism (2001);
  • Edward Said, Orientalism (1978);
  • Anthony King, Urbanism, Colonialism, and the World Economy (1990);
  • Tristram Hunt, Ten Cities That Built an Empire (2015);
  • Raymond Betts, Assimilation and Association in French Colonial Theory, 1890-1914 (1960);

Papers published in a host of journals are also to be utilized as are primary sources available online, e.g. censuses, government reports, maps, photo archives, etc. These can be found at websites such as

Honesty in Academic Work

Attention is drawn to University policy and regulations on honesty in academic work, and to the disciplinary guidelines and procedures applicable to breaches of such policy and regulations. Details may be found at

With each assignment, students will be required to submit a signed declaration that they are aware of these policies, regulations, guidelines and procedures.

  • In the case of group projects, all members of the group should be asked to sign the declaration, each of whom is responsible and liable to disciplinary actions, irrespective of whether he/she has signed the declaration and whether he/she has contributed, directly or indirectly, to the problematic contents.
  • For assignments in the form of a computer-generated document that is principally text-based and submitted via VeriGuide, the statement, in the form of a receipt, will be issued by the system upon students’ uploading of the soft copy of the assignment.

Assignments without the properly signed declaration will not be graded by teachers.

Only the final version of the assignment should be submitted via VeriGuide.

The submission of a piece of work, or a part of a piece of work, for more than one purpose (e.g. to satisfy the requirements in two different courses) without declaration to this effect shall be regarded as having committed undeclared multiple submissions. It is common and acceptable to reuse a turn of phrase or a sentence or two from one’s own work; but wholesale reuse is problematic. In any case, agreement from the course teacher(s) concerned should be obtained prior to the submission of the piece of work.

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