24 October 2009

Great Charter Cities ~ Historical Travelogues...

I've been quite fascinated by Paul Romer's idea for Charter Cities -- i.e. city-scale special administrative zones with rule-of-law, openness to migrants, and attraction to investors -- as well as the pro's and con's of urban renewal and regeneration -- i.e. the tearing up of the old and building of the new. See especially recent Charter comments on urban housing. So thanks to Erica Young and Cory Kidd for spotting these late-1930s vintage travelogues. Yes, the voice-over is laced with the imperialist and racist western outlook of the time, but the images capture an important historical view on what are arguably today our greatest cities. First Hong Kong, "Gateway to China"... Second, Singapore, "Crossroads of the East"... Fascinating historical perspectives on two cities which were clearly vital freeports and transport hubs already at that time. Curious too is the emphasis on "British Imperial Power" since both of these cities would fall shockingly rapidly to Japanese forces just three years after these images were shot. Post-WWII led to the emergence of the modern Commonwealth with Singapore today a thriving independent city-state and, since 1997, Hong Kong as a special administrative region of mainland China, but effectively still a highly autonomous city.

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