Primary accounts of Singapore from 1800s to 1942

This select bibliography of primary accounts of Singapore is intended to shed light on the ways of perceiving, understanding and remembering of a Singapore long gone. It is important to note that most of these were written by privileged white men in a land under British colonial rule, during the height of Western imperialism up until the Japanese occupation of Singapore. The accounts should be read with this context in mind, with the understanding that there was much more about local life that was left out of these stories. Some accounts contain racist remarks as defined by society today, but such was the norm back in the day. Nonetheless, these descriptions of old Singapore are invaluable to researchers today.

For local prewar accounts, you could refer to oral history interviews at the National Archives of Singapore. Some of these have been transcribed and made available via the Archives Online website:

Historical newspapers are troves of information if one is trying to piece together life in old Singapore. Do take a look at the National Library’s digital newspaper archive:

For Chinese sources, refer to: Rao, Zong Yi [饶宗颐] (Ed.). 1994. Xinjiapo gu shiji [新加坡古事记]. Hong Kong: Zhongwendaxue chubanshe [中文大学出版社]. This is a compilation of historical Chinese writings that mention Singapore.


1813–1816 Author: Thomas Otho Travers
Title: Diary of Thomas Otho Travers 1813–1814. Volume I–II
[Handwritten diary] See reprint (1960), edited by John Bastin: Call no.: RCLOS 959.802 TRA-[GBH]
1820s Author: [unknown] Title: Memoranda, with miscellaneous remarks, in connection with the incidents of a voyage to India and China [manuscript] : comprehending a brief outline of the principal events which transpired during several years’ occasional intercourse with those countries ; with a view more particularly to the leisure hours of young persons in a series of letters to a lady by visitor
[Manuscript] Letters by a British missionary describing his travels in Java, Singapore and Canton. Singapore-related content on pp. 70 to 74. Written permission required for physical access.
1820s Author: Johannes Olivier
Title: Land- en zeetogten in Nederland’s Indie : en eenige Britsche etablissementen, gedaan in de jaren 1817 tot 1826
Publisher: Amsterdam: C.G. Sulpke, 1827–1830In Dutch. Account of a civil servant in the Dutch East Indies. Volume 3 includes description Singapore (pp. 46-68).
Access via Google Books:
1822–1823 Author: John Crawfurd
Title: Journal of an embassy from the Governor-General of India to the courts of Siam and Cochin China, exhibiting a view of the actual state of those kingdoms
Publisher: London: H. Colburn and R. Bentley, 1828
Access via BookSG:
1824 Author: Colonel Nahuijs
Title: Translated extracts from letters about Bencoolen, Padang, Menangkabau, Rhiouw, Singapore and Poelo-Penang
Edition: 2nd ed.
Publisher: Breda: Hollinger’s Pijpers, 1827
Access via BookSG: / Microfilm: NL11201
1824 Author: Walter Scott Duncan
Title: Singapore sixty years ago: including journal by Walter Scott Duncan, February to June 1824
Publisher: Singapore: Straits Times Press, 1883
Microfilm: NL5406
1832–1834 Author: George Windsor Earl
Title: The Eastern Seas: or, voyages and adventures in the Indian Archipelago, in 1832–33–34, comprising a tour of the island of Java – visits to Borneo, the Malay Peninsula, Siam &c.; also an account of the present state of Singapore with observations on the commercial resources of the Archipelago
Publisher: London: Wm. H. Allen and Co., 1837
The last three chapters are on Singapore, where the author spent nine months. He relates the social, economic and religious situation then. Details include descriptions of the various ethnic groups and their enclaves, trade, administration and the general prosperity of Singapore.
Access via BookSG: / Microfilm: NL259, NL25700
1833 Author: George Bennett
Title: Wanderings in New South Wales, Batavia, Pedir Coast, Singapore, and China: being the journal of a naturalist in those countries, during 1832, 1833, and 1834, in two volumes
Publisher: London: Richard Bentley, 1834Account of Singapore in volume 2, chapters VII to X.
Access via BookSG: (Vol. 1); (Vol. 2)
1837 Author: Howard Malcolm
Title: Travels in South-eastern Asia: embracing Hindustan, Malaya, Siam, and China; with notices of numerous missionary stations, and a full account of the Burman empire, with dissertations, tables, etc
Publisher: Boston [Mass.]: Gould, Kendall, and Lincoln, 1839
Volume II provides a descriptive account of the population, religious practices and the missionary stations in Calcutta, Madras, Singapore, Melaka and Bangkok.
Access via BookSG: / Microfilm: NL25741
1838 Author: Abdullah bin Abdul Kadir
Title: Kisah pelayaran Abdullah ka-Kelantan dan ka-Judah
Publisher: Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, 1960 (originally published 1838)
Call no.: RCLOS Malay 959.5 ABDSee also English translation:
Title: The voyage of Abdullah
Translator: A.E. Coope
Publisher: Singapore: Malaya Publishing House, Ltd., 1949
Call no.: RCLOS 959.5 ABD / Microfilm: NL7466, NL26015
1839 Author: Fitch W. Taylor
Title: A voyage round the world, and visits to various foreign countries, in the United States frigate Columbia; attended by her consort the Sloop of War John Adams and commanded by Commodore George C. Read
Publisher: New Haven: H. Mansfield; New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1842 (2nd ed.)Description of Singapore in Vol. 2.
Microfilm: NL28428, NL27521
1840s–1850s Author: John Turnbull Thomson
Title: Some glimpses into life in the Far East
Publisher: London: Richardson & Co., 1865 (2nd ed.; originally published in 1864)
Access via BookSG: / Microfilm: NL30779
1840s–1850s Author: John Turnbull Thomson
Title: Sequel to some glimpses into life in the Far East
Publisher: London: Richardson & Co., 1865
Access via BookSG: / Microfilm: NL8371
See also reprint with annotations by John Hall-Jones:
John Turnbull Thomson. (1984). Glimpses into life in Malayan lands. Singapore; New York: Oxford University Press.
Call no: RSING 959.5 THO
1840s–1890s Author: W.H.M. Read
Title: Play and politics, recollections of Malaya
Publisher: London: Wells Gardner, Darton & Co., 1901
Access via BookSG:
1840–1843 Author: Abdullah bin Abdul Kadir

Translator: A. H. Hill
Title: Hikayat Abdullah [Originally published 1849].
Publisher: Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1955, 28(3)(171), pp. 3–354

Autobiography of Malay scribe and teacher, Abdullah bin Abdul Kadir, who came to Singapore in 1819.

Access via JSTOR:

1840–1844 Author: Edward H. Cree
Title: The Cree journals: The voyages of Edward H. Cree, Surgeon R.N., as related in his private journals, 1837–1856
Publisher: Exerter, England: Webb & Bower, 1981 (originally published 18??)
Call no.: RDLKL 910.45 CRE
1842 Author: Charles Wilkes
Title: Narrative of the United States’ exploring expedition, during the years 1838, 1839, 1840, 1841, 1842. Condensed and abridged
Publisher: London: Whittaker, [1845] Access via BookSG: / Microfilm: NL25780
1843–1846 Author: Frank S. Marryat
Title: Borneo and the Indian Archipelago: with drawings of costume and scenery
Publisher: London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1848
Access via BookSG: / Microfilm: NL7465
1844–1845 Author: Jules Itier
Title: Journal d’un voyage en Chine en 1843, 1844, 1845, 1846
Publisher: Paris: Chez Dauvin et Fontaine, 1848–1853
In French. Jules Itier took the earliest photographs of Asia, in the form of daguerreotypes. He passed by Singapore four times between 1844 and 1845, and took four known daguerreotypes there.Call nos.: RSING 915.1 ITI-[TRA] (Vols. 1, 3)
Volume 2 access via
1846 Author: Edward Belcher
Title: Narrative of the voyage of the H.M.S. Samarang, during the years 1843–46: Employed surveying the islands of the Eastern Archipelago, accompanied by a brief vocabulary of the principal languages
Publisher: London: Reeve, Benham, and Reeve, 1848
Access via BookSG: (Vol. 1); (Vol. 2) / Microfilm: NL7464
1846 Author: Douglas Hamilton
Title: Records of sport in southern India: chiefly on te Annamullay, Nielgherry and Pulney mountains, also including notes on Singapore, Java and Labuan, from journals written between 1844 and 1870
Publisher: London: R. H. Porter, 1892Chapter IV on Singapore.
Access via BookSG: / Microfilm: NL9938
1846 Author: Ida Pfeiffer
Title: A woman’s journey round the world, from Vienna to Brazil, Chili, Tahiti, China, Hindostan, Persia, and Asia Minor
Publisher: London: Office of the National Illustrated Library, [1850] Microfilm: NL27510
1848 Author: Henry Keppel
Title: A visit to the Indian Archipelago, in H.M. ship Maeander
Publisher: London: Richard Bentley, 1853Singapore is spelt ‘Sincapore’ in this book.
Access via BookSG: (Vol. 1); (Vol. 2) / Microfilm: NL8059
1848 Author: James Thomas Oxley
Title: Advice to invalids resorting to Singapore
Publisher: Journal of Indian Archipelago and Eastern Asia, 1851, 5(3), p. 188
Access via BookSG: / Microfilm: NL25793
1849 Author: Dr. Berncastle
Title: A voyage to China; including a visit to the Bombay presidency; the Mahratta country; the cave temples of western India, Singapore, the straits of Malacca and Sunda, and the Cape of Good Hope
Publisher: London: W. Shoberl, 1850
Access via BookSG: (Vol. 1); (Vol. 2) / Microfilm: NL31915, NL31916
1850–1853 Author: John Davies Mereweather
Title: Diary of a working clergyman in Australia and Tasmania, kept during the years 1850-1853; including his return to England by way of Java, Singapore, Ceylon, and Egypt
Publisher: London: Hatchard and Co., 1859
Covers Singapore in pp. 326–330. Briefly describes the state of law and order in the colony; his trips to places such as St Andrew’s church, Government Hill and Whampoa’s bazaar; the high cost of fresh food; the climate; and the presence of tigers. He also describes in detail the interior of a Chinese temple, possibly the Tian Hock Keng temple.
Call no.: RSING 914.404 MER-[TRA] (reprint)
1851 Author: Ida Pfeiffer
Title: A lady’s second journey round the world : from London to the cape of Good Hope, Borneo, Java, Sumatra, Celebes, Ceram, the Moluccas, etc., California, Panama, Peru, Ecuador, and the United States
Publisher: New York: Harper & Brothers, 1856
Access via Google Books:
1852 Author: A Bengal Civilian [C. W. Kinloch] Title: De Zieke reiziger or, Rambles in Java and the Straits in 1852
Publisher: London: Simpkin, Marshall and Co., 1853
Access via BookSG: / Microfilm: NL11154
1852 Author: M.C. Lavollée
Title: Voyage en Chine : Ténériffe, Rio-Janeiro, Le Cap, Ile Bourbon, Malacca, Singapore, Manille, Macao, Canton, Ports Chinois, Cochinchine, Java
Publisher: Paris: Just Rouvier: A. Ledoyen, 1852
Microfilm: NL27535
1854 Author: A. W. Habersham
Title: The North Pacific surveying and exploring expedition, or, My last cruise : where we went and what we saw, being an account of visits to the Malay and Loo-Choo Islands, the coasts of China, Formosa, Japan, Kamtschatka, Siberia, and the mouth of the Amoor River
Publisher: Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott
Microfilm: NL33655
1854–1862 Author: Alfred Russel Wallace
Title: The Malay Archipelago: The land of the orang-utan, and the bird of paradise : a narrative of travel, with studies of man and nature
Publisher: New York: Harper & Brothers, 1869
Microfilm: NL29063
See also:
Author: John van Whye (Ed.) & Alfred Russel Wallace
Title: The annotated Malay Archipelago by Alfred Russel Wallace
Publisher: Singapore: NUS Press, 2015
Call no.: RSING 959.8 ANN
1855 Author: George Francis Train
Title: An American merchant in Europe, Asia, and Australia: A series of letters from Java, Singapore, China, Bengal, Egypt, the Holy Land, the Crimea and its battle graunds, England, Melbourne, Sydney, etc., etc
Publisher: New York: G.P. Putnam & Co., 1857
Access via BookSG: / Microfilm: NL18273
1857–1859 Author: Laurence Oliphant
Title: Narrative of the Earl of Elgin’s mission to China and Japan in the years 1857, ’58, ’59
Publisher: Edinburgh: W. Blackwood and Sons, 1859
Call no.: RCLOS 951.033 OLI-[GH]
1858 Author: Albert Smith
Title: To China and back: Being a diary kept out and home
Publisher: Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 1974 [Originally published in 1859] Call no.: RUR 828.803 SMI
1860s Author: Fedor Jagor
Title: Singapore, Malacca, Java: Reiseskizzen
Publisher: Berlin: Julius Springer, 1866In German.
Access via BookSG: / Microfilm: NL7466
1860s Author: E. H. Boom
Title: Nederlandsch-Oost-Indië : Overlandreis naar Batavia, zeereis naar Batavia, Batavia en omstreken, van Batavia naar Padang, naar Singapore, naar Sinkawang, naar Samarang en Soerabaija, naar Banjermassing, naar de Molukken, verschillende landreizen op Java enz. enz., met kaarten en plattegronden
Publisher: Zutphen: P.B. Plantenga, 1864In Dutch.
Microfilm: NL33657
1860–1862 Author: Albert Berg
Title: Die Preussische expedition nach Ost-Asien : nach amtlichen quellen : erster band
Publisher: Berlin: Königlichen geheimen ober-hofbuchdruckerei (R. v. Decker), 1864
In German.
Microfilm: NL29076
1862 Author: John Thomson
Title: The Straits of Malacca, Indo-China, and China; or, Ten years’ travels, adventures,   and residence abroad
Publisher: London: Sampson Low, Marston, Low, & Searle, 1875
Access via BookSG: / Microfilm: NL7640, NL25417, NL25426, NL25741
See also reprint by Oxford University Press (1993): Call no.: RSING 915.9 THO-[TRA]
1864 Author: Tom Cringle
Title: Jottings of an invalid in search of health: Comprising a run through British India and a visit to Singapore and Java
Publisher: Bombay: Times of India Office, 1865
Access via BookSG: / Microfilm: NL25750
1863–1868 Author: George Mansfield
Title: The diary of George Mansfield
Publisher: [Unknown], [1963–1979]Call no.: RDLKL 338.09242 MAN
See also microfilm by Bodleian Library, Oxford (1986): A01031803E.
1865 Author: John Cameron
Title: Our tropical possessions in Malayan India : being a descriptive account of Singapore, Penang, Province Wellesley, and Malacca ; their peoples, products, commerce, and government
Publisher: London: Smith, Elder and Co., 1865
Access via BookSG: / Microfilm: NL11224 / Call no.: RSING 959.5 CAM (Reprint)
1866–1867 Author: Cuthbert Collingwood
Title: Rambles of a naturalist on the shores and waters of the China Sea: being observations in natural history during a voyage to China, Formosa, Borneo, Singapore, etc., made in Her Majesty’s vessels in 1866 and 1867
Publisher: London: John Murray, 1868
Microfilm: NL5722, NL25742
1867 Author: Charles Carleton Coffin
Title: Our new way round the world
Publisher: London: S. Low and Marston, 1869
Description of Whampoa Gardens.
Microfilm: NL7979
1867 Author: Hendrik van de Grinten
Title: Mijne reis naar Oost-Indie: Aanteekeningen van dize reis
Publisher: Eindhoven : M.F. van Piere, [1867] In Dutch. Covers Penang and Singapore on pp. 84–95.
Microfilm: NL30525
1869 Author: E.D.G. Prime
Title: Around the world: Sketches of travel through many lands and over many seas
Publisher: New York: Harper, 1874
Microfilm: NL26231
1869 Author: Adolf Bastian
Title: Reisen im indischen Archipel, Singapore, Batavia, Manilla und Japan
Publisher: Jena: Hermann Costenoble, 1869
In German.
Written permission required for physical access.
1871 Author: Frank Vincent
Title: The land of the white elephant; sights and scenes in South-eastern Asia; a personal narrative of travel and : adventure in farther India embracing the countries of Burma, Siam, Cambodia, and Cochin-China (1871-2)
Publisher: London: S. Low, Marston, Low & Searle, 1873
Microfilm: NL9444
See also reprint by Oxford University Press (1988): Call no.: RSEA 959.303 VIN
1873 Author: E.K. Laird
Title: The rambles of a globe trotter in Australasia, Japan, China, Java, India and Cashmere
Publisher: London: Chapman & Hall, 1875
Access via BookSG: (Vol. 1); (Vol. 2) / Microfilm: NL32795 (Vol. 1), NL32796 (Vol. 2)
1875 Author: J.F.A. McNair & W.D. Bayliss
Title: Prisoners their own warders : a record of the convict prison at Singapore established 1825, discontinued 1873, together with a cursory history of the convict establishments at Bencoolen, Penang and Malacca from the year 1797
Publisher: Westminster: A. Constable, 1899
Microfilm: NL12115Or refer to 2016 reprint: RSING 365.95957 MAC
1876 Author: Marianne North
Title: Recollections of a happy life: being the autobiography of Marianne North
Publisher: London: Macmillan, 1892 (2nd ed.)
Microfilm: NL26039 (Vol. 1), NL26014 (Vol. 2)
1877 Author: F.W. Burbidge
Title: The gardens of the sun; or, A naturalist’s journal on the mountains and in the forests and swamps of Borneo and the Sulu archipelago
Publisher: London: J. Murray, 1880
Microfilm: NL7566See also 1989 reprint by Oxford University Press: Call no.: RSING 570.9593 BUR
1869 Author: Eugen V. Ransonnet
Title: Skizzen aus Singapur und Djohor
Publisher: Braunschweig : Druck und Verlag von George Westermann, 1876
In German.
Access via BookSG: / Microfilm: NL7639
1877 Author: Annie Brassey
Title: A voyage in the ‘Sunbeam’: Our home on the ocean for eleven months
Publisher: London: Longmans, Green, 1878 (3rd ed.)
Access via BookSG: / Microfilm: NL25750
1877 Author: J.D. Vaughan
Title: The manners and customs, of the Chinese of the Straits Settlements
Publisher: Singapore: Mission Press, 1879
Access via BookSG: / Microfilm: NL2437
1878 Author: George Norris
Title: Singapore thirty years ago: Paper read at a meeting the Mutual Improvement Society, on 15th July, 1878
Publisher: Straits Times Press, 1878
Microfilm: NL5876 / Call no.: RDLKL 959.51 NOR
1878 Author: William T. Hornaday
Title: Two years in the jungle: The experiences of a hunter and naturalist in India, Ceylon, the Malay peninsula and Borneo with maps and illustrations
Publisher: London: K. Paul, Trench, 1885
Microfilm: NL7981Or refer to reprint (Oxford University Press, 1993) of second half of book, pertaining to author’s experiences in Malay Peninsula and Borneo: Call no.: RSING 910.4 HOR
1879 Author: Andrew Carnegie
Title: Round the world
Publisher: New York: [s.n.], 1879
Description of dress, climate.
Microfilm: NL27616
1879 Author: Isabella Bird
Title: The Golden Chersonese and the way thither
Publisher: London: John Murray, 1883
Microfilm: NL7462
See 1967 reprint by Oxford University Press: Call no.: RCLOS 959.5 BIS
1880s Author: Emily Innes
Title: Chersonese with the gilding off
Publisher: London: Richard Bentley and Son, 1885
Refer to 1993 Oxford University Press reprint: Call no.: RSING 915.951043 INN-[TRA].
1880s Author: Oskar Lenz
Title: Nach Ostasien : Erlebtes von meinen Reisen. Suez, Penang, Singapore, Hongkong, Canton, Yokohama, Tokio, Osaka, Kioto
Publisher: Berlin: Verlag Hugo Steinitz, 1893
1880s Author: Elias Haffter
Title: Briefe aus dem Fernen Osten
Publisher: Frauenfeld: Druck und Verlag von Huber & Co., 1912
In German. Swiss doctor’s account of his time in Singapore.
Microfilm: NL25448
1880s–1890s Author: John Dill Ross
Title: The capital of a little empire: Descriptive study of British Crown Colony in the Far East
Publisher: Singapore: Kelly & Walsh, 1898
Access via BookSG: / Microfilm: NL5829
1880s–1900s Author: John Dill Ross
Title: Sixty years: Life and adventure in the Far East
Publisher: London: Hutchinson, 1911
Vol. 1 contains chapters on Singapore.Call no.: RCLOS 959 ROS / Microfilm: NL15150 (Vol. 1), NL14209 (Vols. 1–2)
1880 Author: Ambrose B. Rathborne
Title: Camping and tramping in Malaya: Fifteen years’ pioneering in the native states of the Malay Peninsula
Publisher: Swan Sonnenschein & Co., Lim., 1898
Microfilm: NL7610 / See also 1984 reprint by Oxford University Press: Call no.: RSING 959.5 RAT
1884 Author: Orfeur Cavenagh
Title: Reminiscences of an Indian official
Publisher: London: W.H. Allen, 1884
Access via BookSG: / Microfilm: NL3560
1887 Author: T.J. Keaughran
Title: Picturesque and busy Singapore
Publisher: Singapore: Lat Pau Press, 1887
Reprint of articles published in The Straits Times in early 1887.Microfilm: NL5829
1887 Author: W.S. Caine
Title: A trip round the world in 1887–8
Publisher: London; New York: George Routledge and Sons, 1888
Chapter XVI on Singapore.Access via
1888/9 Author: B.F.S. Baden-Powell
Title: In savage isles and settled lands: Malaysia, Australasia, and Polynesia 1888–1891
Publisher: London : R. Bentley and Son, 1892
Microfilm: NL8058
1889 Author: Florence Caddy
Title: To Siam and Malaya: in the Duke of Sutherland’s yacht ‘Sans peur’
Publisher: London: Hurst and Blackett, 1889
Access via BookSG: / Microfilm: NL27434
1889 Author: Rudyard Kipling
Title: From sea to sea
Publisher: London: Macmillan and Co. Ltd., 1900
Access via Project Gutenberg:
1889 Author: Henry Norman
Title: The peoples and politics of the far East; travels and studies in the British, French, Spanish and Portuguese colonies, Siberia, China, Japan, Korea, Siam and Malaya
Publisher: [s.n.], 1895
Microfilm: NL25995
1890 Author: R.V.K. Applin
Title: Across the seven seas
Publisher: London: Chapman & Hall, [1937] Call no.: RCLOS 355.00924 APP-[RFL]
1890s Author: M.F. [Minnie Farlow] Title: Singapore skits (in prose and verse): A visitor’s views
Publisher: Singapore: Singapore and Straits Print. Off., 1896
Microfilm: NL5827
1890s Author: Frederick Diodati Thompson
Title: In the track of the sun: Readings from the diary of a globe trotter
Publisher: New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1893
Description of Straits of Malacca, Singapore and Penang: pp. 84–92.
Written permission required for physical access.
1890s Author: Julius Hirschberg
Title: Um die Erde: Eine Reisebeschreibung
Publisher: G. ThiemeIn German.
Access via
1893 Author: John Macgregor
Title: Through the buffer state: Travels in Borneo, Siam, Cambodian, Malaya, and Burma
Publisher: Bangkok; Cheney: White Lotus, 1994 (originally published 1896)
Call no.: RSING 915.90453 MAC-[TRA]
1895–1896 Author: James Boughey Monk Lingard-Monk
Title: Round the world again 1896
[Manuscript]Description of Singapore in Vol. 2, pp. 245–280.
Microfilm: NL32787
1898 Author: Delight Sweetser
Title: One way round the world
Publisher: Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, c1898
Microfilm: NL26236
1899 Author: Walter Del Mar
Title: Around the world through Japan
Publisher: London: Adam and Charles Black, 1904
Access via
1899 Author: Fred Riley
Title: A trip round the world: being jottings made on a tour from London to Liverpool, via Africa, Asia, Australia, and America
Publisher: Darwen, Rossendale and Southport [Lancashire]: J.J. Riley, 1900
In John Bastin (Comp.). (1994). Travellers’ Singapore: An anthology. Kuala Lumpur; New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 158–160. Call no.: RSING 959.5705 TRA-[HIS]
1900s Author: J.A. Bethune Cook
Title: Sunny Singapore: An account of the place and its people, with a sketch of the results of missionary work
Publisher: London: E. Stock, 1907
Access via BookSG: / Microfilm: NL11273
1900s Author: Henri Borel
Title: Wijsheid en schoonheid uit Indië
Publisher: Amsterdam: P.N. van Kampen, 1904
In Dutch. Chapter on Singapore.
Microfilm: NL27619
1900s–1920s Author: J.S.M. Rennie
Title: Musings of J.S.M.R., mostly Malayan
Publisher: Singapore: Malaya Pub. House, 1933
Collection of author’s writings about old Singapore previously published in newspapers.
Microfilm: NL8447
1901 Author: Edwin A. Brown
Title: Indiscreet memories
Publisher: London: Kelly & Walsh, 1935
Microfilm: NL16352 / Call no.: RCLOS 959.51 BRO-[RFL]
1901 Author: Ethel Colquhoun
Title: Two on their travels
Publisher: London: W. Heinemann, 1902
Microfilm: NL25803
1901 Author: William Maxwell
Title: With the ‘Ophir’ round the empire: An account of the tour of the Prince and Princess of Wales 1901
Publisher: London: Cassell and Co., 1902In John Bastin (Comp.). (1994). Travellers’ Singapore: An anthology. Kuala Lumpur; New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 161–164. Call no.: RSING 959.5705 TRA-[HIS]
1901 Author: Mary Macfarlane Park
Title: Greater Britain and the Far East, or 60,000 miles on the ‘Mary Park’
Publisher: London; Glasgow: The Grant Educational Co., Ltd., [c. 1918] In John Bastin (Comp.). (1994). Travellers’ Singapore: An anthology. Kuala Lumpur; New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 165–169. Call no.: RSING 959.5705 TRA-[HIS]
1902 Author: Ernst Heinrich Philipp August Haeckel & H.H. Juynboll
Title: Uit Insulinde
Publisher: Leiden: Sijthoff, 1902
In Dutch.
Microfilm: NL26863
1902 Author: Richard Winstedt
Title: Start from alif: Count from one: An autobiographical memoire
Publisher: Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, 1969
Contains author’s account of one full day spent in Singapore.
Call no.: RSING 959.505 WIN / Microfilm: NL31425
1903 Author: Elias Haffter
Title: Briefe aus dem Fernen Osten
Publisher: Frauenfeld: Huber & Co., 1903
In German. Covers Ceylon, Singapore, China, Japan and the Dutch East Indies.
Written permission required for physical access.
1905 Author: Geo. C. Morant
Title: Odds and ends of foreign travel
Publisher: London: Charles and Edwin Layton, 1913
Call no.: RCLOS 910.4 MOR
1907 Author: J. Johnston Abraham
Title: The surgeon’s log: Being impressions of the Far East
Publisher: New York: E.P. Dutton, 1912
Call no.: RCLOS 915 ABR / Microfilm: NL27556
1907 Author: William George Black
Title: Winter days in India and elsewhere
Publisher: Glasgow: J. Maclehose, 1908
Call no.: RUR 915.04 BLA
1907 Author: James Carter
Title: In the wake of the setting sun
Publisher: London: Hurst and Blackett, Ltd., [1908] Access via
1907 Author: Arnold Wright & H.A. Cartwright (Eds.)
Title: Twentieth century impressions of British Malaya: Its history, people, commerce, industries, and resources
Publisher: Singapore: G. Brash, 1989 (Reprint; originally published in 1908)
Call no.: RSING q959.5 TWE
1908 Author: Fritz von Hochberg
Title: An eastern voyage: A journal of the travels of Count Fritz Hochberg through the British empire in the East and Japan
Publisher: London: J.M. Dent, 1910
Call no.: RUR 950 HOC / Microfilm: NL25414 (Vol. 1), NL26858 (Vol. 2)
1911 Author: Clive Dalton
Title: A child in the sun
Publisher: London: Eldon Press, 1937
Call no.: RCLOS 959.5 DAL-[RFL] / Microfilm: NL18263
1911 Author: Hermann Hesse
Title: Singapore dream and other adventures: Travel writings from an Asian journey
Publisher: Boulder, Colorado; Shambhala Pub. (2018)
Call no.: RSING 915.90451 HES-[TRA]
1911–1912 Author: James Redfern
Title: Looking for luck: The life story of a rolling stone
Publisher: London: S. Low, Marston, 1937
Call no.: RCLOS 959 RED
1920s Author: George L. Peet
Title: Rickshaw reporter
Publisher: Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, 2009 (originally published in 1985)
Call no.: RSING 070.92 PEE
1920s Author: R.J.H. Sidney
Title: Malay land: ‘Tanah Malayu’: Some phases of life in modern British Malaya
Publisher: London: Cecil Palmer, 1926
Call no.: RDLKL 959.5 SID / Microfilm: NL25423, NL20423
1920s Author: Anaughta Liz
Title: Blondes prefer Tuans: The intimate diary of a lady of travel
Publisher: Singapore: Kelly & Walsh
Microfilm: NL28434
1920s–1930s Author: Bruce Lockhart
Title: Return to Malaya
Publisher: New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1936
Call no.: RCLOS 959.57 LOC / Microfilm: NL18264 / Access via
1920s–1942 Author: Maurice Baker
Title: Growing up in British Malaya and Singapore: A time of fireflies and wild guavas
Publisher: Singapore: World Scientific, 2014 (originally published 1995)
Autobiography of former diplomat Maurice Baker covering his life from the 1920s up to 1942.
Call no.: RSING 370.92 BAK
1920–1924 Author: Liang Shaowen (梁绍文)
Title: 南洋旅行漫记 (Nanyang lüxing manji; Random notes on Nanyang travel)
Publisher: 上海: 中华书局 Shanghai: Zhonghua Shuju, 1924
Call no.: RCLOS 969 LSW-[HYT]
1921 Author: Alfred Harmsworth Northcliffe
Title: Chapters from Alfred Viscount Northcliffe’s My journey round the world
Publisher: London: Bodley Head, 1923
Hong Kong to Singapore (pp. 157–159); Singapore and Java (Chapter XIX, pp. 160–171); Java (continued) (Chapter XX, pp. 172–178); Singapore to Cochin China (Chapter XXI, pp. 179–186)
Call no.: RCLOS 910.41 NOR-[JSB]
1922 Author: Charlotte Cameron
Title: Wanderings in the South-eastern seas
Publisher: London: T.F. Unwin, 1924
Call no.: RCLOS 959 CAM-[RFL]
1922 Author: Charles M. Hendley
Title: Trifles of travel
Publisher: Washington, D.C.: Rider Press, 1924
Call no.: RUR 910.4 HEN
1922 Author: Hermann Norden
Title: From Golden Gate to golden sun: A record of travel, sport and observation in Siam and Malaya
Publisher: London: H.F. & G. Witherby, 1923
Call no.: RCLOS 959.3 NOR / Microfilm: NL26040
1923 Author: Harry L. Foster
Title: A beachcomber in the orient
Publisher: London: J. Lane, Bodley Head
Access via BookSG:
1925–1926 Author: Horace Bleackley
Title: A tour in Southern Asia: (Indo-China, Malaya, Java, Sumatra, and Ceylon, 1925–1926)
Publisher: London: John Lane, 1928Mentions Singapore River; Cavenagh Bridge; Botanical Garden; the Gap; riding a rickshaw or driving a motorcar around Singapore; Europe, Raffles and Sea View hotels; ladies’ and men’s fashion; transport; itinerant hawkers; stereotypes of the races
Access via BookSG: / Microfilm: NL25416
c.1926 Author: R.J.H. Sidney
Title: In British Malaya to-day
Publisher: London: Hutchinson & Co., 1927
Call no.: RCLOS 959.5 SID-[RFL]
1926–1927 Author: Alec Dixon
Title: Singapore patrol
Publisher: London: Harrap, 1935
Call no.: RCLOS 915.95 DIX-[ET] / Microfilm: NL15069
1927 Author: Andrew Gilmour
Title: An eastern cadet’s anecdotage
Publisher: Singapore: University Education Press, 1974
Call no.: RSING 920 GIL / Microfiche: MFC NL0030/010-011
1934 Author: Roland Braddell
Title: Lights of Singapore
Publisher: London: Methuen & Co., 1934
Microfilm: NL25437
Also see reprint by Oxford University Press (1982): Call no.: RSING 959.57 BRA-[HIS]
1934–1935 Author: Margaret C. Wilson
Title: Malaya: The land of enchantment
Publisher: Amersham: Mascot Press, [1930s] Microfiche: MFC NL0007/027-028
1935 Author: W. Robert Foran
Title: Malayan symphony: Being the impressions gathered during a six months’ journey through the Straits Settlements, Federate Malay States, Siam, Sumatra, Java and Bali
Publisher: London: Hutchinson, 1935
Microfilm: NL7464
1935–1936 Author: H.D. Harben
Title: Japan and back
Publisher: Welwyn, Garden City: B.N. Langdon-Davies, 1936
Written permission required for physical access.Excerpted in John Bastin (Comp.). (1994). Travellers’ Singapore: An anthology. Kuala Lumpur; New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 231–236. Call no.: RSING 959.5705 TRA-[HIS]
1935–1945 Author: Aisha Akbar
Title: Aisha Bee at war: A very frank memoir
Publisher: Singapore: Landmark Books, 1990
A Malay girl who grew up in Pearl Bank in Outram, then later Geylang Serai, and attended Raffles Girls’ School, St Hilda’s and the Portuguese Convent during wartime.
Call no.: RSING 959.57022 AIS-[HIS]
1936 Author: Thornton Clarke
Title: Round the world without worries
Publisher: London: Heath Cranton Ltd., 1937
Excerpted in John Bastin (Comp.). (1994). Travellers’ Singapore: An anthology. Kuala Lumpur; New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 236–238. Call no.: RSING 959.5705 TRA-[HIS]
1938 Author: Tatsuki Fujii
Title: Singapore assignment
Publisher: Tokyo, Japan: Nippon Times, c.1943
Call no.: RCLOS 959.57 FUJ / Microfilm: NL1888
1939 Author: Mona Gardner
Title: Menacing sun
Publisher: London: J. Murray, 1939
Call no.: RCLOS 959 GAR
1939 Author: Edward Wasserman
Title: Velvet voyaging
Publisher: London: Bodley Head, 1940
Call no.: RCLOS 910.41 WAS
1940 Author: Carveth Wells
Title: North of Singapore
Publisher: New York: National Travel Club, [c. 1940] Microfilm: NL27555
1942 Author: Frank Swettenham
Title: Footprints in Malaya
Publisher: London; New York: Hutchinson & Co. (Publishers) Ltd., [1942] Call no.: RCLOS 959.510330924 SWE-[RFL] / Microfilm: NL15394
1942 Author: R.C.H. McKie
Title: This was Singapore
Publisher: Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1942
Microfilm: NL15151


Written by Mervin Teo