Written in the 14th century and set during the last days of China’s Han dynasty and the tumultuous Three Kingdoms period (circa AD 220–280), the Romance of the Three Kingdoms is a well-known Chinese classic of epic proportions and a cast of thousands. In the late 1800s, a Baba Malay version of this classic was published in Singapore – making this popular tale more accessible to the Peranakan (Straits-born Chinese) community.
A 455-year-old map of Southeast Asia tells of the seafaring adventures of 16th-century voyagers, whose journeys took them to exciting, uncharted territories waiting to be explored. As the intrepid voyagers discovered new trade routes in Asia, these unknown lands slowly came into prominence. We are familiar with most of them today; one, in particular, stands out – a place indicated on the map as C. Cinca Pula.
An Indian migrant brings his wife to Singapore in the late 19th century to watch the island’s horse races. As the couple travel around the British colony, the husband,N. V. Rengasamy Dasan, describes each building and street they pass to his wife, painting a verbal picture of turn-of-the century Singapore.
For a tiny island known more for its skyscrapers than its sea-faring adventures, Singapore has a surprisingly bloody history. And while most of this history has been lost over time, one record that tells of a particularly ferocious battle between the Dutch and Portuguese armadas in the early 17th century is found in the National Library.
Travel guides are more than just books that tell you about interesting sights in a destination, or where to eat, and how to get from one place to another. As a guidebook becomes worn and dated over time, it turns into a bona fide history book, providing valuable insights into the past. This is exactly what Handbook to Singapore has become: a history book of sorts documenting life in the colony in the late 19th century.
The Sejarah Melayu is considered by scholars as an important literary work on the history and genealogy of the Malay kings of the Malacca Sultanate (1400–1511). Partially composed in the 17th century in Jawi – the modified Arabic script used to express the Malay language – the title is derived from its original Arabic name, Sulalat al-Salatin (Genealogy of Kings). But few are aware that its first English translation in the early 19th century, the Malay Annals, was actually undertaken by a Scotsman.
For a brief period in its history – 43 months to be exact, during World War II – Singapore was known by a different name.
A 1946 photograph from the opening of the War Crimes Trials held in Singapore is a grim reminder of the atrocities committed by the Japanese during the Japanese Occupation of Singapore (1942–45) – a dark period in Singapore’s history.
By John Henry Moor’s reckoning, the book he published in December 1837 was beset with failures. Notices of the Indian Archipelago, and Adjacent Countries had been intended as the first part of a magnum opus that the Singapore newspaper editor had grandly announced in 1835. Moor’s goal was to print a massive compendium comprising two volumes: one compiling reprints of articles first published in the Singapore Chronicle newspaper from 1824 to 1834, and a second volume featuring papers on key topics about Singapore and Southeast Asia.
By the late 16th century, the Portuguese had dominated the trade in Southeast Asia for nearly a hundred years. Its monopoly depended on closely guarded knowledge about the best sailing routes to the region, known as the East Indies at the time.