Search around the Internet, and you’ll find several hand-colored photos and postcards of Vietnam, Singapore, and the Philippines offering a peek at everyday life in the major cities of these countries during colonial rule in the early 20th century.
These images are clearly historically significant and useful for imagining what life was like in the previous century. Let’s take a look, shall we?
Vietnam before the war
The photos below were taken by Vo Anh Ninh, one of the founding fathers of Vietnamese photography, and feature shots from the 1950s during the waning years of French colonial rule. They provide a rare glimpse of life in Vietnam in the 1950s before it was engulfed in a long and bloody war in the next decade.
The Saigoneer website posted some of these photos, which are colorized and uploaded on the Flickr page of manhhai.
Manila in the early 1900s
The Philippines was a colony of Spain for more than 300 years until a revolution ended it in 1898. But the United States immediately invaded and remained a colonial ruler until 1946. The images below show the capital city of Manila in transition. Spanish heritage is still evidently strong but American influence is already making an impact.
Vintage Singapore postcards
Hand-colored postcards from the public domain collection of the New York Public Library include several images of Singapore during the early 20th century. The postcards give a few hints of the eventual rise of Singapore as a busy harbor and vital trading post in the Asia-Pacific region.