History of Singapore

Featured Books

* Studying Singapore’s Past
* Singapore: The Battle that changed the World
* Singapore: A Biography
* From Third World to First
* When there were Tigers in Singapore

Studying Singapore’s Past

Studying Singapore's Past
Edited by Nicholas Tarling
NUS Press, 2013

C.M. (Mary) Turnbull’s contributions to historical writing on Singapore extended from her 1962 thesis, published in 1972 as The Straits Settlements, 1826-67: Indian presidency to crown colony, to her magisterial history of Singapore, first published in 1977 and re-issued in 2009 in an updated edition as A History of Modern Singapore, 1816-2006. Her approach to history involved detailed work with documents and published materials, with a particular focus on political and economic history. One contributor to the present volume described the book as an “exercise in endowing a modern ‘nation-state’ with a coherent past that should explain the present.”

As styles in history evolved, younger scholars including some of her former students and colleagues began exploring new approaches to historical research that drew on non-English-language source material and asked fresh questions of the sources. Mary enjoyed controversy and expected debate, and had a deep interest in these accounts, which were in many ways a natural progression from her own publications even when they raised questions about her interpretations and conclusions.

Studying Singapore’s Past had its origins in a conference organized to discuss her work. The volume includes ten contributions, some from long-established scholars of Singapore’s history, others from a new generation of researchers. Their work offers an evaluation of established understandings of Singapore’s history, and gives an indication of new directions that researchers are exploring. In publishing the book, the editor not only pays tribute to a distinguished historian but also makes a contribution to the historiography of Singapore and to ongoing debates about Singapore’s past.

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Singapore: The Battle that changed the World

Singapore: The Battle that changed the World
by James Leasor
James Leasor Limited, 2011

When Singapore fell to the Japanese on 15 February 1942, it was a devastating blow to the Allies, the British Empire and signalled a significant turning point in history. James Leasor’s story begins as far back as the early nineteenth century, with imperialism and the settlement founded by Sir Stamford Raffles. He charts the years leading up to Singapore’s defeat and the realisation that the West was not invincible. It includes direct, personal input from some of the main players involved including that of Lt-Gen Percival, the British commander who signed the surrender document, shortly before he died.

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Singapore: A Biography

Singapore A Biography
by Mark Ravinder Frost, Yu-Mei Balasingamchow
Editions Didier Millet, 2011

Singapore: A Biography takes you there — to those critical moments in the island’s past, as captured through the personal accounts of people who actually lived through them. Encounter violent unrest on the city’s streets, the jostling down its corridors of power, the high life of its up-and-coming elites, and the daily struggles of existence that lay beyond its five-foot ways, in an epic drama that stretches back over seven centuries. Grounded in scholarship yet fired by the imagination, this book tells a new Singapore story — one more dramatic, complex and engrossing than you might expect. Singapore was not always the orderly and successful city-state that it appears to be now. Over the last seven centuries, the island has undergone several changes of identity. In this entertaining and wide-ranging account, drawn from research undertaken in collaboration with the National Museum of Singapore, Mark Ravinder Frost and Yu-Mei Balasingamchow present Singapore’s mercurial life-story as experienced by the people who participated in it.

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From Third World to First

From Third World to First
by Lee Kuan Yew
Harper; First Edition, 2000

Few gave tiny Singapore much chance of survival when it was granted independence in 1965. How is it, then, that today the former British colonial trading post is a thriving Asian metropolis with not only the world’s number one airline, best airport, and busiest port of trade, but also the world’s fourth–highest per capita real income?

The story of that transformation is told here by Singapore’s charismatic, controversial founding father, Lee Kuan Yew. Rising from a legacy of divisive colonialism, the devastation of the Second World War, and general poverty and disorder following the withdrawal of foreign forces, Singapore now is hailed as a city of the future. This miraculous history is dramatically recounted by the man who not only lived through it all but who fearlessly forged ahead and brought about most of these changes.

Delving deep into his own meticulous notes, as well as previously unpublished government papers and official records, Lee details the extraordinary efforts it took for an island city–state in Southeast Asia to survive at that time.

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When there were Tigers in Singapore

When there were Tigers in Singapore
by Edmund M. Schirmer
Marshall Cavendish Trade, 2012

Japan invades and captures the British colony of Singapore in 1942. All Europeans on the island are being interned. Edward Schirmer, the author’s grandfather, faces a dilemma–he is German but born as a British subject. In a strange stroke of fortune, he finds himself friends with General Tomoyuki Yamashita, the famed “Tiger of Malaya.” Seeing the fate of the other Europeans, Edward reluctantlylets the Japanese assume he is a friendly German national. But when politics removes the protective Yamashita from the picture, betrayal ensues and Edward finds himself in prison, his family scattered.

This true-life account then moves on through the eyes of Edward’s son, Hans Schirmer–a six-year-old boy’s hellish quest for survival, alone on the streets of a war-torn vanquished nation. Where everyone is hungry and racial tension is rife. Where martial law allows the occupiers to summarily execute at will. Amid these horrors, this young boy learns to live, while witnessing an epic moment in history.

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