Studying Singapore Before 1800
by Kwa Chong Guan and Peter Borschberg
with the assistance of Benjamin Khoo
Historians rely on Singapore’s strategic position to explain its great success as a royal trading port in the 14th century, and as a British colony after 1819. What, then, accounts for the many centuries when it seemed not to thrive, and was seen in the words of John Crawfurd as “only the occasional resort of pirates”? This seeming paradox sits uneasily at the heart of Singapore historiography, and over time historians have suggested a variety of ways to resolve it.
This volume collects studies about Singapore before 1800, bringing together different efforts across the 20th century at reconstructing Singapore’s “missing years”. Some authors have found additional details by scouring ancient and early modern texts for references to Singapore, and by reading well-known classics such as the Sejarah Melayu against the grain. Others have built narratives that bridge pre- and post-1800 perspectives by positioning Singapore within long-term global history.
These efforts have yielded a much richer understanding of Singapore’s changing fortunes before 1800. The articles collected in this volume represent key milestones in this effort. Many are hard to locate, and two pieces are translated from Dutch to English for the first time. They are presented here with an introduction from historian Kwa Chong Guan.
Kwa Chong Guan is an adjunct associate professor in the Department of History at the National University of Singapore.
Peter Borschberg teaches history at the National University of Singapore. He is also a visiting professor in Modern History at the University of Greifswald.
Publication Year: 2018
600 pages, 254mm x 179mm
15 colour images
48 b/w images