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HONG KONG: The Hong Kong Civil Service List for 1940 / Compiled in the Colonial Secretary’s Office / Thirty-Sixth Issue. Zoom

HONG KONG: The Hong Kong Civil Service List for 1940 / Compiled in the Colonial Secretary’s Office / Thirty-Sixth Issue.


Rare – the official listing of all civil servants employed by the government of Hong Kong for the year 1940, published in Hong Kong shortly before the Japanese WWII invasion; a valuable insight into the nature of the British colonial administration at a critical point in time.

Place and Year: Hong Kong: Noronha & Co., Ltd., Government Printers, 1940.
Technique: Small 4°: 427 pp., bound in original printed card covers with cloth spine bearing pastedown title (Very Good, internally clean, anterior free endpaper creased, binding toned with light shelf-wear).
Code: 67915

This is the official gazetteer of all persons employed by the British colonial regime in Hong Kong in 1940, the year before the territory was attacked and brutally occupied by Japanese forces.  The work lists thousands of names, from Governor Sir Geoffry Alexander Stafford Northcote down to the lowliest file clerk.  Far from being a dry list, each name accompanies a job title with their salary, his/her resume of service in the administration, their educational qualifications, as well as what languages (other than English) that they speak (ex. Cantonese, Hakka).  

The listing reveals the great ethnic diversity of the Hong Kong Civil Service, featuring not only British and European names, but many ethnic Chinese officials (with their names often additionally written in Chinese characters) as well as Indian and Jewish bureaucrats.  In all, it provides a valuable and detailed record of the personnel of what was a highly professional and effective government apparatus on the eve of the calamitous events of World War II.  The list is an indispensable academic resource for any study of Hong Kong during the era.

The Hong Kong government printer, Noronha & Co., locally printed an edition of this work every year from 1904 to 1958 (save the 1941-45 period), upon which the publishing contract was taken over by the firm of J.R. Lee.

All the editions of The Hong Kong Civil Service are rare.  We can trace examples of the 1940 edition in only 4 institutions outside of Hong Kong (Cambridge, University of Toronto, National Library of Australia and University of Sydney).

References: OCLC (re: 1940 ed. as part of a set with several other annual editions): 221648222.