The Chinese University of Hong Kong Department of History Department of History
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In Our Image, In Their Image: The Evolution of Colonial Governance in Manila, the Philippines, c. 1901-41

Principal Investigator


Total Fund Awarded


Funding Source

RGC General Research Fund

Abstract of Project

The project investigates the forces shaping the governance of Manila, the Philippine capital city, during the American colonial era (1898-1946). Focusing upon the formation, development, and expression of political authority, the study analyzes the character of local administration and the endeavours of Filipinos therein.

In 1898 the United States’ colonization of the Philippines commenced. With the passing of Act No. 82 in January 1901, the Americans permitted Filipinos to assume municipal responsibilities. Yet, in what ways Filipinos subsequently sculpted governmental strategies and, so, societal evolution in Manila is not clear. For instance, how did the Filipino comprehension of American colonization influence the policies and actions of the city’s administration? More specifically, whilst the national government from the early-1900s promoted the advancement of public education, city planning, public health, economic growth, and infrastructure construction as articulations of American-driven social reform, how did these matters align, or clash, with the Filipinos’ perception as to what the make-up of their civilization, and their capital city, should be?

The inquiry will probe Manila’s governmental operations circa 1901 to 1941, i.e. between Act No. 82’s passing and the commencement of World War Two in Asia, and how they corresponded with the Americans and Filipinos’ grasp of ‘good modern governance’. Accordingly, the project will assess the Filipinos who held positions of authority within the city administration, and will seek to evaluate how their actions contributed to the attainment of social and economic progress before national independence occurred. Furthermore, the study will assess not only the achievements of Manila’s government but its imperfections too. In doing this the study will reveal both positive and negative Filipino agency upon urban management, and it will expose those within Manila who contested the nature of native-held, native-shaped public authority. Likewise, the investigation will uncover in what ways, or not, Filipino politicians in the Philippines’ principal city conformed to the principles of American-styled democracy implanted by the colonial regime post-1898. The study, in opening a new window to comprehend the American Empire, shall present original insights of the relationship between societal transformation, the issuing of public authority by native hands, and the management of a colonial capital city. In examining national governmental involvements alongside local political initiatives, the project will be of interest to persons interested in the Philippines’ past, administrative practices within the frame of American imperialism, and the development of colonial capitals in Asia.

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