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Chan Yin Lam, Ethan
Having a strong interest in the history of the Eastern bloc as well as the intelligence services of its constituent states, I was very grateful to have been invited by the History Department to participate in its History Without Borders project allowing me to further investigate matters pertaining to them. Noting that there were few historical studies looking at cooperation between the different Eastern bloc security services, I chose to look at cooperation between the Stasi in East Germany and the Służba Bezpieczeństwa in Poland during the 1980s.
For my research trip I visited the the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN) in Warsaw and the Stasi Records Agency (BStU) in Berlin. This allowed me to experience different archival styles and traditions. Whilst the IPN was much more relaxed, allowing visitors to apply to use specific documents and allowing copies to be made practically at will, the BStU was much stricter, only allowing visitors to list a topic in their application and choosing the documents for them, whilst copies of documents also had to be made by the BStU. Having never before had the opportunity to handle real documents or visit an archive, this experience was extremely enriching for me as a historian.
The topic I chose entailed looking primarily through long government reports which were not necessarily arranged in chronological order. Furthermore, especially in the case of the BStU, many of the documents were in fact irrelevant to my research, and so many a long afternoon was spent skimming through titles of reports to remove the metaphorical chaff. Additionally, the language used in these reports could be odd, although thankfully I had my own reference books to refer to. Nevertheless, this project has helped me further realise some of the challenges historians in this field face.
In general, this project has greatly helped me further develop my skills as a historian, particularly in terms of using primary source materials and practical skills in dealing with archives and the bureaucracy inherent in using them. It also helped increase my understanding of the Eastern bloc and further broke down the stereotype of a monolithic bloc, having seen that the two agencies I was investigating actually had quite a poor history of putting their cooperation agreements into practice.
Ng Zi Yan, Joyce
Research calls to mind days holed up in archives and libraries, trawling through dusty documents and deciphering terrible handwriting, not cemetery-hopping to see what little remains of these once glorious places. But with the History Department’s generous support, I had the extraordinary opportunity for an unconventional experience in my final year – gather material on a research trip to pen an essay and its sequel on the history of garden cemeteries in London for History Without Borders and History Research Project respectively. Since site visits were central to my research, I hiked through five of the Magnificent Seven in London and Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, during which I joined a guided tour to Highgate Cemetery’s catacombs, lamented at the vandalism covering Oscar Wilde’s tomb, and endured the unrelenting rain adding to the gloom of Kensal Green Cemetery in January. I also uncovered old cemetery records in archives and found drawings of the cemeteries at their prime.
Before the trip, I dropped by the Hong Kong Cemetery to get a taste of what to expect. Mosquitoes I am familiar with, degrading monuments too, but visiting so many graveyards led me to reflect on the fragility of life, grief and mourning. This course did not only introduce me to a new dimension of what it means to be a historian; it further touched on deep questions about the meaning of death and the commemoration of life.
Tang Ho Kwan, Kyle
As a student who has been fascinated by movies and books about Winston Churchill, I am much grateful to the Department of History for offering me a precious chance to study this significant historical figure through a more critical and in-depth approach. By exploring various propaganda channels like speeches, broadcasts, press, visits, personal encounters and clothing, my research topic analyzes the mechanism behind the creation of Churchill's image as a capable wartime leader.
During my research trip, I visited the National Archives in London and the Churchill Archives Center at the University of Cambridge. The primary sources I have studied include the Prime Minister's Office records, press cuttings, photographs, and even paintings about Churchill. Admittedly, students would face the uneasiness of lacking suitable materials in the archives. This is why I would never forget the excitement when I had new discoveries, which challenge some of my stereotyped ideas, or noticed the interconnection between different documents. It was also enjoyable to flip through the pages of the correspondence between ministries chronologically, which allows me to understand the conflict and consideration behind each decision. To know more about people's interpretations of Churchill, I also visited the Churchill War Rooms and talked to people from different cultural backgrounds about Churchill in where I stayed.
As a capstone course, this remarkable learning journey integrated both my historical and historiographical knowledge from the past few years. It is the milestone of my lifelong journey of learning history.
Pang Tak Fung, Allan
Before taking this course, I thought researching in an overseas archive would be nothing special as what I have to do there would probably be collecting and reading documents. "History Without Borders" made me realise how wrong I was. After spending a week in the National Archives (TNA) in Kew, I found this research trip a meaningful experience. My research project examines two issues in Hong Kong history: what the British perceptions of Hong Kong were from 1967 to 1978, and how these perceptions affected the colony's development and its future return to China. Through reading documents from TNA, I discovered valuable primary sources which illustrate Hong Kong's decolonisation process. Compared to my experience of researching in other archives (include those in Hong Kong), I had a much smoother process in obtaining materials that I am looking for. This made me realise researching in archives can be more enjoyable than what I have experienced. This trip also made me feel like working as a true historian. With the chance of researching across geographical borders and working in the same environment as many other professional scholars, I am glad that I can have this precious opportunity to conduct original research with the financial support from the History Department.
Seung Pok Man, Bryan
As a student who is interested in military history, I am extremely grateful that the History Department offered this rare opportunity for me to tailor-make my research project, which fulfils my curiosity about this field of study.
My research focuses on examining the role of the British garrison in Hong Kong during the 1967 Riot. As 2017 marks the 50th anniversary of this important event, I felt it would be a great opportunity to reconstruct the forgotten roles of the British and Nepalese soldiers in assisting the Hong Kong Police, as well as understand how politic and diplomacy dictated military actions in post-WWII era. During the trip, I studied many valuable documents at the National Archive and the Imperial War Museum. The most exciting part of this study, however, is to visit other lesser-known archives, discovering new files that have never been studied before. I still remember vividly how I was warmly welcomed by ex-Gurkhas when I visited their regimental archive at Winchester, and the excitement of reading journals detailing their operations at the border during the conflict.
Overall, the project helps me to strengthen my practical skills in conducting historical research. Throughout the course, I could constantly reflect and improve my research methods. I also learnt how to obtain and analysis different kinds of primary sources, ranging from archival documents to military reports. Furthermore, this study enriches my understanding about how military forces operates and organizes, and its interaction with civilian government in times of internal crisis.
Lo Yui Chim, Tommy
I am incredibly grateful to the Department of History for its offer for me to take this course and its funding, without which I would not have found myself working in the National Archives in London during a semester break. Examining recently declassified British documents (some of which were declassified only days before I arrived at London!), my research studied the role of Edward Youde, Governor of Hong Kong, in the Sino-British negotiations regarding Hong Kong's future in 1982-84. Specifically, my research considered how far Youde, usually seen as being utterly dedicated to the future of Hong Kong and its people, in fact acted in accordance with London's – the British government's – interests and positions. Archival research is admittedly arduous, but the chance to be in touch with records that bear the weight of the past, let alone the possibility of discovering new and exciting evidence in them, turned my archival work into a labour of love. Throughout the course, I often reflected on the progress of my research, which clarified how I should proceed and helped me develop research skills useful in postgraduate studies or elsewhere. This course is a fantastic opportunity for anyone interested in history, in research, or in knowing more about the place where the research is conducted – London is always lovely to visit.
Au Tsz Him, Gigi
I was grateful to be invited to take this course. It offered me an opportunity to immerse myself in archival research for two weeks in London, which was certainly one of the highlights of my undergraduate studies. My research project delved into the lobbying strategies of the Homosexual Law Reform Society (HLRS) on the introduction of the Sexual Offences Act 1967, which decriminalised homosexual behaviour between two men in private. It also evaluated the responsibilities of the HLRS in leading to the disappointing law reform. I conducted my research in the Hall-Carpenter Archives in London School of Economics and Politics, the National Archives, the British Library Sound Archive, and the Lesbian and Gay Newsmedia Archive (LAGNA) in Bishopsgate Institute. It was difficult, yet enjoyable to identify, locate, and interpret different kinds of historical documents. The excitement of discovering useful evidence from the original records was beyond words. The exposure to different archives also enriched my knowledge in doing research. Above all, this course allowed me to reflect on what research, or even history, really is and my shortcomings in the area.
Lin Charles Cheuk Hon
Designing a field trip on your own is not an easy task. Admittedly, I was a bit anxious when I was invited to enrol in this course. There are many factors such as accessibility of documents that determine the result of a research project. Thanks to the support of the Department, I had a successful trip in Singapore and collected substantial data. This course enabled me to get acquainted with archival research, which is essential to advanced historical studies. It also provided me with an opportunity to better understand my academic capabilities.
My research project investigated Singapore’s language policy at the time of the merger with Malaya. While present-day Singapore is known for the popularity of English, the PAP government made efforts to popularise a minority language, Malay, during the merger. Besides the issue of Malay dominance, language was a source of tension on the Malay peninsula in the 1960s. During my ten-day field trip, I visited the National Archives of Singapore and the National University of Singapore to read declassified documents and publications. This research project prompted me to reflect on the modernity, arbitrariness and artificialness of nation. Singapore offers a remarkable case of nation-building. Nationalists constructed common languages to unite their compatriots, and they could remove or change them to inaugurate new ‘imagined communities’ when necessary.
Leung Hui Yin
The course provided me with a valuable opportunity to conduct research on the Family Planning Association of Hong Kong (FPAHK), a non-profit organisation that continues to shape the lives of many in Hong Kong today. My research explores how the FPAHK pioneered the sexuality education programme in the late twentieth century. I drew upon various primary sources such as the FPAHK's reports, newsletters, comics and television advertisements. These materials offered me a more thorough understanding of Hong Kong's social and cultural history. I could integrate the knowledge gained in this research project with other History courses. The course also honed my presentation skills. Upon completion of the project I presented to a group of local secondary school students my research findings and methodology. It was such a rewarding experience that allowed me to convey complex ideas to the masses. Students taking this course can make use of subsidies to set their own learning goals.
Tang Siu Hang, Winnie*
"I am honoured to be invited to take HIST4028 History without Borders. This course is a highlight in my undergraduate years.
My research focuses on the major anti-suffrage organisation in Britain - the National League for Opposing Woman Suffrage (NLOWS). It explores factors contributing to the failure of the NLOWS and argues that the anti-suffrage movement had been defeated in 1913. It challenges some existing interpretations on British anti-suffrage movement.
I am grateful that I had the opportunity to spend sixteen days in London visiting three archives - the British Library for Curzon's papers, the National Archives for Cromer's papers, and the Women's Library at LSE for the materials of the NLOWS and the Woman's National Anti-Suffrage League. The archival experience has been intellectually inspiring. It prompts me to reflect on historiography, specifically related to handling first-hand materials. It also allows me to interact with historical records. All of these archival materials had been produced by great men and women in British suffrage history. They sparked immense excitement, astonishment and curiosity. These intense feelings make this course unlike any other."
* Tang Siu Hang, Winnie (supervised by Prof. David Pomfret), is the Regional Winner in the Asia region in the History category, and is named a Highly Commended Entrant in The Undergraduate Awards for the essay "Explain the Failure of the National League for Opposing Woman Suffrage in 1910-1913."
Lau Yan Kei, Carman
"I am so happy that I can design and conduct my own research project in the final semester of my university life. It has been such a great experience for me to do research independently. My research topic focused on the female domestic service industry from 1880 to 1914 in England.
I conducted my research mainly in the British Library and the Women’s Library in LSE. At the beginning, I focused mainly on books and journals because these are two types of materials that I often use in research. However, as I went deeper down into the topic, I was able to find some other materials, such as newspaper articles, which are highly relevant to my topic. Through the access in the British Library, I found many news articles wrote by domestic servants from 1880 to 1914. In fact, their voices are absented from the books and journals that I have looked at earlier. But I am so glad that I managed to find these sources at the end and put them in my research project. To conduct research in archives overseas allows me to get expose to new areas of knowledge. With the large amount of materials available in archives overseas, I was able to find sources that are not available in Hong Kong."
Chan Hiu Chung, Adelaide
"My project focused on identifying the differences between the role of female missionaries in two missionary societies in England during 1900-1930. Selecting two British societies that had different denominational backgrounds, I flew to London and Birmingham to seek answers to the different works the missionaries did, the impact they had on Chinese women and the effect their religious initiatives had in Fukien and Chefoo in the early 20th century. It was an unforgettable experience as I went into the archives and handled diaries, letters and governmental documents written over 100 years ago. Furthermore, this was an optimal way to wrap up my university career as I lived the lifestyle of a historian for two weeks, learnt to handle documents with care and applied the skills and knowledge I had acquired from the past four years as a History major into this research project."
Chong Pang, Beatrice
"I am very glad to be invited to enroll this course so that I can have an experience in conducting research in archives overseas in my undergraduate studies. This course is very different from the other courses offered by the department. Instead of having regular lectures, students have to decide their own research topic and plan their very first overseas research trip.
The average disaster aid given by each Taiwanese to Japan was the highest all over the world after the Great East Earthquake. During my stay in Taipei and Tokyo, I researched on the language of giving, the way of giving and the reasons for them to give generously. This opportunity enabled me to read local newspaper and reports so that I can examine the attitude of the Japanese towards the humanitarian assistance given after the earthquake. Besides going to overseas archives and libraries, I visited some NGOs that played an important role in encouraging and collecting donations. The trip was productive and fun. I learnt a lot about how to get useful sources in overseas archives and conduct independent research."
Kam Wai Yu, Vivian
"I was researching on the alcohol regulations of Hong Kong and Singapore at the turn of the 20th century for HIST 4028. Therefore, apart from researching on the colonial archives in Hong Kong, I had a field trip to Singapore and looked into the C.O. series in the National University of Singapore. Such experience was unique to my entire undergraduate studies and allowed me to have a taste of building my own research on primary material. It was also a truly enriching experience because aside from reading the archives, I found setting my foot on Singapore helped me to understand the society hence the research background better. I would definitely recommend the History Without Borders course to anyone who is interested in historical research as his or her capstone course."
Koo Siu Ki, Brian
"My project was associated with the British educational policies in late-eighteenth-century India. By studying the archives of the India Office of the British Library, I was able to deeply investigate Warren Hastings' establishment of the Madrasa' Aliya in 1781. Subsidising students to conduct historical research overseas is definitely one of the greatest benefits of this course, as students can seize this opportunity to learn to analyse archives and use diverse evidence, and explore how interesting research is."
Guan Zheng, Jesse*
"I am privileged to have been invited to HIST3028 'History without Borders: Special Field Project', without which I would not have had the opportunity to formulate my own research plan and carry it out by conducting archival research outside of Hong Kong. The most exciting moment was perhaps when I laid hands on the original documents produced more than 70 years ago – they felt particularly real when I struggled to figure out the handwriting.
Aside from reading document files and jotting down notes in the archives, I took the opportunity to see the cities, trying, most of the time in vain, to find some historical connectedness between them and their past. Nevertheless, history was being shaped all the time: the landslide defeat of the KMT Party in local elections, the very first National Day for Nanjing Massacre, and back in Hong Kong, the Umbrella Movement — all happening during my research process and field trips.
Through this course, I have learnt how to approach the past that has been documented and archived. I have also had the chance to think about how history is written, and thus to discern some of the pitfalls that this process may create."
* Guan Zheng (supervised by Dr. Peter Cunich) was the winner of Highly Commended Entrant prize in the internationally renowned Undergraduate Awards for the essay "Student Movements in Wartime China, 1937-1949."
"I was generously invited to the History Without Borders course where I was funded to travel to the University of Hawaii at Manoa in order to carry out research on the topic of diplomatic history surrounding the role of NGOs in foreign policy making. My project, which focuses on the Institute of Pacific Relations, explores the role of individuals and NGOs in shaping and representing foreign policy and the extent to which the governments truly represented public opinion. The project also explores the diplomatic relations between China – through their activities in the Institute of Pacific Relations, namely the conferences – and Japan in light of the 'Manchurian problem' that existed in the late 1920s and throughout the 1930s. The main focus of the project is to explore the deteriorating Sino-Japanese relations, and how the 1929 and 1931 Institute of Pacific Relations conferences revealed such tensions from a non-governmental, private perspective, which the Institute of Pacific Relations claimed to be."
"On reflection, HIST3028 course gave me real experience of archival research and certainly enhanced my interest in the work of a historical researcher. I am also glad to work on my interested research topic as I could eventually gain deep understanding in the topic."
Bobby Tam Chun
I was researching in London for a course called History without Borders. It was a unique experience as I could totally decide my research topic and method and it was the first time I research in a foreign land. I was researching about London Counterculture in the 1960s. I did my research in the British National Archive in Kew, British Library in St. Pancras and also carried out interviews with interesting figures.
Ngai Tsz Fung, Raphael
During my stay in London, I researched the political career of the Protestant missionary, Robert Morrison (1782-1834), examining his role as a translator in the East India Company and a mediator of disputes in British diplomatic missions in Qing China. During my archival studies in the SOAS Library, the British Library, and the Wellcome Library, I read family letters, church correspondence and the Canton East India Company factory records. This provided me with practical experience of studying primary sources and illuminated a previously understudied part of Morrison’s life. During the visit, I also took the opportunity to do sight-seeing, visit museums, and enjoy British cuisine. I will never forget this memorable time in London.
This course enriched my undergraduate studies. I gained a deeper understanding of Christianity through this course and HIST3023 (History Research Project) in which I investigated the preaching strategies of Matteo Ricci. I then broadened my horizons and looked into the Chinese Religion in Malacca and Penang in HIST3031 (East Asia Field Trip). I also applied historical theories such as the biographical approach and interdisciplinary history from HIST3015 (The Theory and Practice of History) to study Morrison. The theme of languages and diplomatic contacts as forces connecting different parts of the world is also relevant to HIST3029 (Transnational history: A New Perspective on the Past). Finally, I became acquainted with the Morrison Collection in the HKU Libraries, which aroused my interest in further exploring the preservation of Chinese culture in wartime Hong Kong.
Winnie Hung Wai Yan
The course provides me with the valuable opportunity to conduct a primary research on qipao, which is the topic that I am interested in. I gained a very memorable experience of sitting in the library and read through all related primary sources for the whole day. Although it may sound like a tiring job, I felt like I really became a historian at that moment. Besides, the course gives me the flexibility of how to present my findings. I could thus go into the community and share my results with some local secondary students. This was so remarkable.
I took HIST3028 as part of my dissertation electives. I highly recommend the course to anyone intending to pursue history on a higher level not only because it works to enhance your academic CV but also because you will truly benefit from the way the course is structured and the unique learning experience of doing primary research in a foreign city that has special connection to the topic of your thesis.