Since the founding of Singapore, many works, articles and books have been published, providing a variety of information into the history of Singapore. When reviewing whether the three sources of articles chosen are useful to the research of Singapore history, some parameters and definitions should be set. The term “scholar” in my definition, will refer to any person who is doing a research into the history of Singapore at a higher level. This will include history students at the university levels, historians and professors, etc. By setting the scope in which the term “scholar” refers to, it is easier to review whether the specific piece of article that is under review could be considered as being useful.Order now
The following article, “Singapore: History” is an internet article. The article, which is published on the internet, comes from the book “Singapore 1994”. The book itself is provided by the Embassy of Singapore in Washington D.C. Judging from the origins of the article; it could be argued that there is a certain level of accuracy in terms of its recounting of the Singapore history. However, although the information stated in the article is of high accuracy in terms of the dates, factual information and chronological narration of Singapore’s major events, the origins of the article, date of publication and its author is unknown.
This could put the credibility of the source in doubt. This is especially so when a student who has completely no background knowledge of Singapore’s history. The student might have some difficulty in accessing its accuracy since the article did not have any author or origins to refer to. For an academic scholar researching on the history of Singapore, he would definitely have no problem in accessing the accuracy of the source, since he has a prior knowledge of the facts and information. However, as the article is too general, it would not have been of much help to the scholar in his scholarly research on Singapore. The article would be more useful to students who are doing some study into Singapore’s history and have enough knowledge to conclude that the article is of certain level of accuracy.
The article however does provide a comprehensive, short and simple narration of the history of Singapore since her founding by Sir Stamford Raffles in 1819, up till 1990 when the second prime minister, Goh Chok Tong took over the office from Lee Kuan Yew. The article stops in 1990 as it believes that a “new chapter” of Singapore’s modern history had begun with Prime Minister Goh taking over. Hence, although it has not been mentioned when this article was written, one could make a guess that it could have been written when Prime Minister Goh had just taken over the office from Lee Kuan Yew. The kind of “history” written in this article could be argued to be the official kind of history which the government would want the nation to believe in, that the history of modern Singapore began in 1819 with Sir Stamford Raffles’ landing at the mouth of the Singapore River.
The article does not provide much opportunity for any forms of intellectual discussion or questioning of the developments of the Singapore history as it is too brief and simplistic. There is no major in-depth discussion of intellectual content with regards to the developments of Singapore as compared to the other two articles under review. Scholars who wished to conduct an intellectual and in depth research on Singapore’s history would not find this article of any use to them. Many details have been omitted from this article. The developments of Singapore since its founding up till the 1990s are each given only a short general description. Furthermore, the article stops at 1990 and hence it would not be very useful for readers who are looking at the period beyond 1990. As such, the article is definitely not sufficient and adequate for use as a piece of scholarly material for the present-day state-of -the-art of scholarship on Singapore history. Instead, this article is more useful to serve as a basic foundation to readers who are keen to have a basic idea of the general history of Singapore. The article is useful for perhaps one’s leisure reading into the history of Singapore, up till 1990.
The second article under review is the book written by K.G. Tregonning who was the then Raffles Professor History, “A History of Modern Malaysia and Singapore”. This revised edition which was published in 1972 wrote about the history of Malaysia and Singapore since the 1500s, before the arrival of the Europeans, up till 1965 whereby Singapore was finally separated from Malaysia and exists as an entity on its own.
The 284-page text written by the historian Tregonning is definitely much more detailed than the previous article. It provides an insight into the early history of Malaysia before the arrival of European influence and effects and challenges the view that Malaysia was a static area before the European’s arrival, for many activities, influence of ideas from Indonesia had occurred in the region as early as A.D.1400,1 giving readers an insight to the early state of the Malay Peninsula before the arrival of the European colonial masters. However, although much has been mentioned about the earlier periods of Malaysia’s history, there is a lack of study on that of Singapore.
In Tregonning’s book, the version of the history of modern Singapore started with that of 1819 too, in line with the general perception of when the history of modern Singapore should start. Nothing has been mentioned about the period before 1819. It pales in comparison with the first article whereby there is at least some mention of the early history of Singapore in the 14th century, such as the various names which Singapore had before the Sanskrit name Singapura was used.
However, bearing in mind that the book was published in 1972 and since we have learnt from our lectures that the archeological works in Singapore has not started until 1984, there could be a high possibility that the lack of archeological evidence or sources is one of the reasons in which Tregonning failed to do a much thorough research on. The first four chapters of the book mentioned quite a substantial amount on the early influence of other Southeast Asian regions such as that of Java, Sumatra, which indicated the “influence of Indonesia”3 in the Malay Peninsula through the various excavation works done. Hence credit has to be given for the writing of early history of Malaysia before the arrival of the Europeans.
Much of the content of the book is concentrated on the developments of Singapore and the Malay Peninsula till 1965. It also contains a great deal on the geographical aspects of the region. It is heavy in content and seems fit as a reference textbook rather than a source for in depth research on Singapore history. The use of this book as a reference text by students is further justified by the fact that past year examination questions from the Local Syndicate of the University of Cambridge have been set at the end of each chapter.
Hence it might seem that the book is written with the intention of being a reference guidebook to students who are planning to sit for their history exam papers. Much of the content is also of similar genre of the first article. When one reads the text, it seems like a storybook rather than an academic research publication. Both of them are factual recollection of the history of Singapore and not intellectual discussion or dissemination of the content. As such, the second article would be more suitable as a guidebook for a more general introduction to the history of the region. History students at the secondary school level or scholars starting on a research at a lower level would perhaps find this book an easier piece of information to understand.
There should not be much doubt on the level of factual accuracy since Tregonning is a renowned historian and specializes in the history of Singapore. The general years in which major events occurred are undisputed. However, the facts and information would have gained greater credibility if there were footnotes and references stating where the statistical numbers and values came from.
The third article under review is the book written by another historian, C.M. Turnbull. The title of the book, “The Straits Settlements 1826-67 Indian Presidency to Crown Colony” traced the “development of the Straits society as a whole, viewed not from London nor from Calcutta, but from the settlements themselves, and particularly from the capital in Singapore”4. This article touched more upon the specific developments of the Singapore, tracing its beginnings from 1826 when Singapore became part of the Straits Settlement, until 1867. Issues such as the structure of the government, society, economy, social conditions, and external defense are being discussed in greater details. The specific time period and region of discussion allow for such a greater in depth research. The chapters provide an elaborate and detailed write-up about the island’s developments in the areas of social, economic and political spheres.
This book could be considered as a valuable source for the scholarly research on Singapore’s history as it went into details of the various problems, developments and contributions of the early settlers on the island. For example, Tan Tock Seng was mentioned to be the “wealthy merchant who contributed $7000 to build a hospital for the diseased paupers”5 It is also more focused with concentration on that of colonial government and developments of Singapore. It would definitely be of great help to scholars who are researching on the early life and developments of the Straits Settlements. It could be used as an academic piece of work for students at the university level.
The information provided in the book is no doubt of a high level of accuracy. Every fact or statistical value that is being mentioned in the book by Turnbull has also been substantiated through the footnotes, ensuring scholars of its credibility and origins of information. It really aids in providing scholars with more areas to look into should he be interested in further research into a particular point that has been mentioned.
All three sources mentioned about the developments of Singapore from the founding years in 1819 up till a certain period. The first article stopped at 1990 when Goh Chok Tong became the second Prime Minister. One could conclude that there are some tendencies for the first article to lean towards the political history of Singapore. The second book under review looks at the history of modern Malaysia and Singapore, providing more details.
The last book narrows down the area of discussion further to that of just the Straits Settlement from 1826-67, which allows for even more in-depth content and knowledge. All three sources serve different purposes and hence it would not be possible to conclude which article is the most useful. However, if we were to go by the parameters set out in the introduction of this essay and define a “scholar” as a history student at the university level doing a scholarly research on the history of Singapore, the third source would definitely be the most useful one whereas the second book could serve as an introduction to the student.