chapter  1
19 Pages

Hong Kong’s Floating World: Disease and Crime at the Edge of Empire


The deep, sheltered waters of Victoria Harbour enthralled many British travelers to Hong Kong in the nineteenth century. Visitors were impressed by the vista of steep granite hills rising above the expanding city on the shoreline. And they were struck by the sight and sounds of innumerable Chinese boats teeming beside the jetties as they plied their wares and services. As Julius Berncastle remarked, typically, in Voyage to China (1850): “We were immediately, on our arrival, surrounded by a host of sampan boats, rowed and steered by women and children, the whole family generally passing all their lives in their boats.”1