The Scripting of a National History: Singapore and Its Pasts

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By Hong Lysa and Huang Jianli

The People's Action Party's unbroken mandate to rule in Singapore rests in no small part on how it has explained its lineage and record to the electorate. The Scripting of a National History studies the constructed nature of the country's past as endorsed by the state, and the power vested in it.

The authors trace state discourses on Singapore history starting with the decision taken immediately after independence to recognise the nineteenth-century British acquisition of the island as its founding moment, through the 1980s and 1990s when an essentially Confucian heritage received official recognition under the guise of Asian values, and finally to an emphasis on the history of racial fragility and harmony in response to the threat of terrorism in the twenty-first century. Embedded within these discourses is the story of the PAP as the heir of the economic dynamics of the pax Britannica, as an exponent of the morality and righteousness of the Chinese scholar-gentleman, and as the firm hand that balances the interests of the majority Chinese against those of Singapore s national minorities.

Through discussions of a range of specific issues, including the claim that political leaders are historians by virtue of being the makers of history, the popularization of history through conscription of national heroes, and the vicissitudes of two originally private homes turned into symbols of Singapore s Chinese modernity, the book lays bare the underlying template of Singapore history.

The Scripting of a National History will fascinate Singaporeans interested in a well-reasoned exercise examining their country s pervasive received wisdom, and should intrigue an international readership for whom Singapore is an engrossing enigma.


Hong Lysa was formerly with the History Department of the National University of Singapore and has been an independent scholar since 2000.

Huang Jianli is Associate Professor at the Department of History at the National University of Singapore.


Publication Year: 2008
320 pages, 229mm x 153mm
ISBN: 978-9971-69-433-3, Paperback

NUS Press and Hong Kong University Press