In Search of an Identity: The Politics of History as a School Subject in Hong Kong, 1960s-2005

Edward Vickers

2005, 334pp.

ISBN 10: 962-8093-38-X
ISBN 13: 978-962-8093-38-0
HK$50 (local), US$8 (overseas)
Published by the Comparative Education Research Centre (CERC)


In most societies the school subject of History reflects and reinforces a sense of collective identity. However, in Hong Kong this has emphatically not been the case. Official and popular ambivalence towards the nation in the shape of the People’s Republic of China, and the sensitivity of Hong Kong’s own political and cultural status, have meant that the question of local identity has until recently been largely sidestepped in school curricula and textbooks. In this ground- breaking study, Edward Vickers sets out to reexamine some of the myths concerning colonialism and schooling under the British, while showing how in postcolonial Hong Kong these myths have been deployed to legitimise a programme of nationalistic re-education. In a new Afterword, he emphasises that it is Hong Kong’s fundamentally undemocratic political context that has thwarted – and continues to thwart – efforts to make history education a vehicle for fostering a liberal, democratic sense of regional and national citizenship.

Since the 1960s, Hong Kong people have developed a strong sense of their own distinctiveness. This thorough study explains why the local school curriculum has failed to reflect this emerging sense of identity. Vickers shows how the pressures of political correctness have constrained curriculum developers, and undermined their attempts to make history education more relevant, stimulating and critical. His book should be read not only by specialists interested in curriculum history, but by all those who are interested in Hong Kong, and the role that education can play in shaping its future.
– Christine Loh – Chief Executive Officer, Civic Exchange, Hong Kong

In Search of an Identity provides a scholarly and superbly readable account of a complex episode in curriculum history in East Asia. As such, it represents a major contribution to curriculum policy studies and to the regional historiography of education and identity formation.
– From the Foreword by Professor Andy Green

This volume makes a substantial contribution to understanding the complexities of curriculum development processes, identity politics, and notions of culture and nationness – not only in Hong Kong, but across the rest of East Asia and beyond.
– Alisa Jones, The China Quarterly

A significant contribution to research in the field of education in general, and to research in comparative curriculum history in particular… the first comprehensive effort to analyse the trajectories of history education in Hong Kong from historical perspectives.
– Hiromitsu Inokuchi and Yoshiko Nozaki, The Asia Pacific Journal of Education

[There is] no other book covering so thoroughly an essential topic for scholars of national identity: the curriculum through which Hong Kong youth have been taught history over the past forty years.
– Gordon Matthews, Asian Anthropology

Edward Vickers is Lecturer in Comparative Education at the Institute of Education, University of London. He is co-editor of History Education and National Identity in East Asia (New York: Routledge, 2005).