Dr Catherine Ladds, Assistant Professor of History, won the inaugural First Book Prize 2013-14 awarded by the Hong Kong Academy of the Humanities (HKAH) for her book Empire Careers: Working for the Chinese Customs Service, 1854-1949 published in 2013.

In addition, Dr Qu Li, Lecturer of Religion and Philosophy, was selected as an outstanding finalist for his book Concrete Time and Concrete Eternity: Karl Barth’s Doctrine of Time and Eternity and its Trinitarian Background published in 2014.

The prize committee found Dr Ladds’s work extremely well researched and attractively written, while also breaking new ground interpretively by challenging a number of basic assumptions guiding previous studies related to foreign customs officers within the Qing empire and the Republic of China.

Dr Ladds said: “I am thrilled to receive the award. It’s a great honour and a privilege. This book project had a long germination, taking 10 years to complete from start to finish, so it’s especially rewarding to receive recognition after this long journey. In a broader sense, I appreciate how the award highlights the achievements of early career scholars who are, as demonstrated by the finalists’ books, working in a diverse range of humanities fields. The HKAH is working hard to promote humanities scholarship in Hong Kong and book prizes are an important part of this.”

At the recent award ceremony, Dr Ladds gave a presentation of her award-winning book. In introducing Dr Ladds, Professor Clara Ho, HKAH Fellow and Head of the Department of History of HKBU, praised her as a versatile and energetic young scholar who focuses her scholarly research in a few areas including the social, cultural, and political history of colonialism, the Chinese treaty ports, global history, Asia-Europe Relations from the 19th century to the first half of the 20th century, and history of expatriate communities.

In addition, the prize committee said that Dr Qu has produced a very systematic work exploring not only theological research related to Barth’s complicated and prolific theological output, but also delves deeply into related philosophical and physics research.

Dr Qu said: “I am so surprised to receive this distinguished prize from HKAH. My prayers have been answered. I am grateful to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit who are the topic of this thesis and the Lord of my life. Without the help of many people, this research project would not have been possible. I am indebted to my supervisor, Dr Graham McFarlane, for his enduring patience, intelligent advice and valuable criticism. I would also like to thank Langham Partnership (UK & Hong Kong) for awarding a generous scholarship to fund this period of research.”

Dr Qu gave a presentation of his book at the award ceremony while Professor Lauren Pfister, HKAH Fellow and Professor of the Department of Religion and Philosophy at HKBU, responded by reading Dr Qu’s curriculum vitae and sharing his knowledge of the book.

To give recognition and encouragement to early career achievement among scholars of the humanities working in Hong Kong, HKAH has instituted an annual prize for the best first book published by a humanities scholar in the early stages of his or her career.