In the years immediately after World War II , the British Empire experienced a late flurry of government investment by Britain. Linked to the Colonial Development and Welfare Scheme, which extensively subsidised primary production, from forestry to fisheries, the Corona Series produced detailed survey volumes about overseas territories. These combined a travel writer’s eye for local colour and telling detail with solid factual information. All were written when many colonial territories still seemed a few decades away – at least – from political independence. Given the assumption that a steady stream of British administrators and businesspeople would likely arrive for the foreseeable future, it made sense to ensure new residents were well informed about the places where they could expect to spend large tracts of their lives. And with cross-postings between territories common, being able to familiarise oneself before arrival would be invaluable. Almost as the Corona Series got fully under way, however, rapid decolonisation occurred, and the final books covered the last colonial territories to gain independence – mainly in the Pacific. The first volume was Hong Kong (1952), written by recently retired British administrator Harold Ingrams (1897-1973), who spent much of his service career in the Aden Protectorate (now part of Yemen). Ingrams had a well-deserved pre-war reputation across the Arab world – along with his formidable wife, Doreen, later a successful broadcaster – for brokering a lasting ceasefire among feuding Arab tribes, known as “The Ingrams Peace”. Fluent Arab speakers with a dislike for pomposity and racial prejudice, the couple made lasting friendships across ethnic and social distinctions; for decades afterwards, parents in Aden admonished squabbling children with the warning that “they’d tell Mrs Ingrams!” Apparently, this dire threat brought about instant domestic peace – as it had done earlier, to more threatening tribes. Ingrams was an inspired choice to write about Hong Kong, as he already had an abiding interest in, and sympathy for, Things Chinese. “Years ago, in the Island of Pemba in the Zanzibar Sultanate,” he wrote, “I made friends with three Chinese who in a lonely little camp were collecting beche-de-mer or sea slugs for export to China. A little English and Swahili were our only means of intercourse, but they appreciated a friendly approach, and when I left presented me with a Chinese teapot and two handle-less cups in a padded basket, and a Chinese-English phrase book.” During another posting, “spare hours in the African bush and elsewhere [were spent] with Chinese philosophy, art and poetry, not seriously but with the consciousness of something beautiful and distant.” Later, in Mauritius, Ingrams made other Chinese friends, and quietly observed that “if he had not already been wedded to the Arabs, he might have sought a life in China.” Reflecting on these experiences, he concluded that “[…] these leanings were perhaps not without purpose, and when the chance of going to Hong Kong came, I naturally leaped at it.” Colonial Hong Kong’s ‘serviette civilisation’, and other cutting observations from a Briton’s diaries In his Hong Kong , readability and flashes of wit combine with factual information, and an enthusiasm for the place, and sympathy and understanding for its peoples; a reprint of this delightful book is long overdue. Places as diverse as Nyasaland (1955), Jamaica (1957), Sierra Leone (1958), North Borneo (1960) and Fiji (1963) were explored in other Corona Series volumes; Ingrams also contributed Uganda: A Crisis of Nationhood (1960). Established authors with a track record in colonial administration were usually selected for commissions, as they were able to make creative-yet-solid use of otherwise dry annual reports and similar official materials, without which these works would be just another travelogue. Austin Coates , author of Myself a Mandarin (1968), wrote Basutoland (1966) and Western Pacific Islands (1970) – the last Corona Series volume to appear.