Publication Details

Martinez, J., Lowrie, C., Steel, F. & Haskins, V. (2019). Colonialism and Male Domestic Service Across the Asia Pacific. London, United Kingdom: Bloomsbury Academic. 2018 https://bloomsbury.com/au/colonialism-and-male-domestic-service-across-the-asia-pacific-9781350056732/

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Bloomsbury Academic

Additional Publication Information

Chapter One of this publication has been made available with permission from the publisher.


Examining the role of Asian and indigenous male servants across the Asia Pacific from the late-19th century to the 1930s, this study shows how their ubiquitous presence in these purportedly 'humble' jobs gave them a degree of cultural influence that has been largely overlooked in the literature on labour mobility in the age of empire. With case studies from British Hong Kong, Singapore, Northern Australia, Fiji and British Columbia, French Indochina, the American Philippines and the Dutch East Indies, the book delves into the intimate and often conflicted relationships between European and American colonists and their servants. It explores the lives of 'houseboys', cooks and gardeners in the colonial home, considers the bell-boys and waiters in the grand colonial hotels, and follows the stewards and cabin-boys on steamships travelling across the Indian and Pacific Oceans. This broad conception of service allows Colonialism and Male Domestic Service across Asia and the Pacific to illuminate trans-colonial or cross-border influences through the mobility of servants and their employers. This path-breaking study is an important book for students and scholars of colonialism, labour history and the Asia Pacific region.

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