pp 1–25 | Cite as

Exploratory multivariate space–time analysis of colonial justice in Hong Kong during 1900–1930

  • T. Edwin ChowEmail author
  • Michael Ng
  • David W. S. Wong
  • C. Carlo Chan


A key to understand a place is to explore the geographies of population, physical environments, socioeconomic entities and their interaction over time and space. By examining the archived company directories of Hong Kong during the period of 1900–1930, this study reconstructed its historical geography of legal functional units and explored their spatiotemporal relationships with social, economic and political functional units. The study found that in the early 1900s, legal practitioners scattered around nowadays Central and began more clustered over time. Among the lawyers, barristers were more clustered than solicitors. Moreover, the cluster of legal units moved from western Central to eastern Central with a transition splitting into two smaller clusters between 1910 and 1920. The results from regression analysis and local entropy mapping suggest that the spatial associations between legal and social, economic and political functional units changed over time, reflecting the evolving emphases of the legal professionals in serving the economic sectors in this commercial-based city. This work also demonstrates, methodologically, a space–time framework of parametric and non-parametric analyses appropriate to study historical geography.


Historical GIS Colonial justice Functional units Space–time geography Exploratory data analysis 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflicts of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Human and animals participants

This research does not involve human participants and/or animals.

Informed consent

We have obtained the informed consent.


  1. Agozino, B. (2003). Counter-colonial criminology: A critique of imperialism reason. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  2. Ayhan, I., & Cubukcu, K. M. (2010). Explaining historical urban development using the locations of mosques: A GIS/spatial statistics-based approach. Applied Geography, 30(2), 229–238.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bennett, L., & Layard, A. (2015). Legal geography: Becoming spatial detectives. Geography Compass, 9(7), 406–422. Scholar
  4. Brunsdon, C., Fotheringham, A. S., Charlton, M. E., et al. (1996). Geographically weighted regression: A method for exploring spatial nonstationarity. Geographical Analysis, 28(4), 281–298.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bush, R. C. (2016). Hong Kong in the shadow of China: Living with the Leviathan. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press.Google Scholar
  6. Carlos, H. A., Shi, X., Sargent, J., Tanski, S., Berke, E. M., et al. (2010). Density estimation and adaptive bandwidths: A primer for public health practitioners. International Journal of Health Geographics, 9(1), 39. Scholar
  7. Carroll, J. (2007). Edge of empires: Chinese elites and British colonials in Hong Kong. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Chan, A., Munn, C., & Ng, M. (2016). Legal system and administration of justice in Colonial Hong Kong. In Wang Gungwu (Ed.), Hong Kong History: New perspectives. Hong Kong: Joint Publishing.Google Scholar
  9. Deacons. (2007). A 1846–2007 archive stored at the Special Collection of the University of Hong Kong Library.Google Scholar
  10. Dhanani, A. (2016). Suburban built form and street network development in London, 1880–2013: An application of quantitative historical methods. Historical Methods, 49(4), 230–243. Scholar
  11. Dixon, A. (2011). The geography of finance: Form and functions. Geography Compass, 5(11), 851–862. Scholar
  12. Dueñas, A. (2010). Indians and Mestizos in the “Lettered City”: Reshaping justice, social hierarchy, and political culture in colonial Peru. Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Endacott, G. B. (1958). A history of Hong Kong. London: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Fotheringham, A. S., & Oshan, T. M. (2016). Geographically weighted regression and multicollinearity: Dispelling the myth. Journal of Geographical Systems, 18(4), 303–329. Scholar
  15. Gregory, I., & Healey, R. (2007). Historical GIS: Structuring, mapping and analyzing geographies of the past. Progress in Human Geography, 31(5), 638–653. Scholar
  16. Guo, D. (2010). Local entropy map: A nonparametric approach to detecting spatially varying multivariate relationships. International Journal of Geographic Information Science, 24(9), 1367–1389. Scholar
  17. Hoelscher, S. (2003). Making place, making race: Performances of whiteness in the Jim Crow South. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 93(3), 657–686.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hong Kong Memory. (2012). Please Excuse Us!—170 years of Reclamation. Retrieved May 2, 2019, Accessed May 2, 2019.
  19. King, S. (2017). Colonial criminology: A survey of what it means and why it is important. Sociology Compass, 11(3), e12447. Scholar
  20. King, L. J., & Golledge, R. G. (1978). Cities, space, and behavior: The elements of urban geography. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  21. Locatelli, F. (2003). Colonial justice, crime, and social stratification in the “Native quarters” of colonial Asmara, 1890–1941: Preliminary insights from the court records of the indigenous tribunal of Hamasien. Northeast African Studies, 10(3), 101–115.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Munn, C. (2009). Anglo-China: Chinese people and British rule in Hong Kong, 1841–1880. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Munn, C. (2017). ‘Our best trump card’: A brief history of deportation in Hong Kong 1857–1955. In D. W. S. Wong & M. Ng (Eds.), Civil unrest and governance in Hong Kong: Law and order from historical and cultural perspectives. New York, NY: Routledge.Google Scholar
  24. Myint, S. W. (2008). An exploration of spatial dispersion, pattern, and association of socio-economic functional units in an urban system. Applied Geography, 28(3), 168–188. Scholar
  25. Ng, M. (2014). Legal transplantation in early twentieth-century China: Practicing law in republican Beijing (1910s–1930s). New York: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Ng, M. (2016). Rule of law in Hong Kong history demythologised: Student umbrella movement of 1919. Hong Kong Law Journal, 46(3), 829–847.Google Scholar
  27. Ng, M. (2017). When silence speaks: Press censorship and rule of law in British Hong Kong (1850s–1940s). Law and Literature, 29(3), 425–456.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Ng, M., Chow, T. E., Wong, D. W. S., et al. (2016). Geographic dimension of colonial justice: Using GIS in research on law and history. Law and History Review, 34(4), 1027–1045. Scholar
  29. Norton-Kyshe, J. W. (1971). The history of the laws and courts of Hong Kong from the earliest period to 1898. Hong Kong: Vetch and Lee.Google Scholar
  30. O’Sullivan, D., & Wong, D. W. S. (2007). A surface-based approach to measure spatial segregation. Geographical Analysis, 39(2), 147–168. Scholar
  31. Pue, W. W. (1990). Wrestling with law: (Geographical) Specificity vs (legal) abstraction. Urban Geography, 11(6), 566–585.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. So, B. K. L., Ng, M., Zhang, P., Lin, H., et al. (2012). GIS in urban cultural studies: Reflections from the project on Republican Beijing. Annals of GIS, 18(1), 81–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. The Law Society of Hong Kong. (2007). Celebrating a centenary: The law society of Hong Kong. Hong Kong: Standard Newspapers Publishing.Google Scholar
  34. Tsai, J.-F. (1993). Hong Kong in Chinese history: Community and social unrest in the British Colony, 1842–1913. New York, NY: Columbia University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Tsang, S. (2004). A modern history of Hong Kong. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press.Google Scholar
  36. Wong, D. W. S., & Lee, J. (2005). Statistical analysis of geographic information with arcView GIS and ArcGIS. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Press.Google Scholar
  37. Wong, D. W. S., So, B. K. L., Zhang, P., et al. (2012). Addressing quality issues of historical GIS data: An example of Republican Beijing. Annals of GIS, 18(1), 17–29. Scholar
  38. Yu, C. Y. J. (2014). Coastline of Hong Kong. Hong Kong: Chung Hwa Book Company.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GeographyTexas State UniversitySan MarcosUSA
  2. 2.Faculty of LawUniversity of Hong KongPok Fu LamHong Kong
  3. 3.Department of Geography and Geoinformation ScienceGeorge Mason UniversityFairfaxUSA
  4. 4.Department of Urban Studies and PlanningUniversity of SheffieldSheffieldUK

Personalised recommendations