The traditional view of the Hong Kong colonial economy is that it was dominated by Western companies, notably the great British merchant houses, and that these firms enlisted support from Chinese middlemen – the compradors – who were effectively agents working for the Western firms. This book, which presents a comprehensive overview of the compradors and their economic and social functions over the full period of colonial rule in Hong Kong, puts forward a different view. It shows that compradors existed before the beginning of British rule in 1842, discusses their economic and social roles in the colonial economy, roles which included activities for Western firms, for the government and to support compradors’ own commercial activities, and outlines how the comprador system evolved. Overall, the book demonstrates that the compradors played a key role in the formation and development of Hong Kong’s economy and society, that they were active participants, not just passive servants of Western companies.
Introduction: The Rise of the Compradors in Hong Kong
1. The Licensed Compradors in Canton
2. The Compradors of the Colonial Government
3. The Company Compradors
4. Compradors’ Commercial Activities
5. The Compradors’ Social and Political Activities
Conclusion: Intermediaries in Hong Kong, China and the British Empire