Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Co-publication by Hong Kong University Press

We always intended Singapore: A Biography to be a 'crossover' work of history, and so it's nice to be able to confirm that the book will be co-published in Hong Kong, China, Australia and the United States by Hong Kong University Press (and distributed in the US through the University of Washington Press).

This means that the book is now officially academic popular history.

(For history students, this also means that if our book gets onto some reading lists you might have to read it, or at least pretend you have read it. Why not be cool and get ahead of the pack? Who wants to be lining up in the university library for the book to finally become available 'on reserve', and then for only a few hours? Invest in a copy now!)

Seriously though, while the references will remain tucked away at the end of the book with the bibliography, so that readers won't have to be bothered by them while gripped by the flow of the narrative, we still believe they are well worth following up on – especially if you want an even fuller picture of the island's history.

For more on the joys of venturing down the murky trail of footnotes in this book (be careful of where they might lead you), watch this blog.

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Monday, September 28, 2009

Book preview: Farquhar and Raffles fall out

In the run-up to the launch of our book Singapore: A Biography in mid-October 2009, we'll be releasing a short book preview on this website every Monday. Today's preview is from the 'Settlement' section, which covers the years 1819 to 1824.

In 1819 Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles founded a British port in Singapore. But ‘like a man who sets a house on fire and then runs away’ (as one contemporary observed, but read our book for more details), Raffles returned to his post in Bencoolen, Sumatra, leaving the settlement to its first Resident Major William Farquhar. Farquhar was Raffles's trusted aide, but things didn't quite work out smoothly. Our story picks up in 1823, on Raffles's last visit to Singapore.

Farquhar and Raffles fall out
Within a year of Raffles’s return, relations had soured between both men to the extent that not even Farquhar’s near-fatal stabbing at the hands of Sayid Yassin could salvage them. In January 1823, Raffles wrote a letter to his East India Company (EIC) superiors in which he felt compelled to tell them that he considered Farquhar ‘totally unequal to the charge of so important and peculiar a charge as that of Singapore has now become’. He then struck out at Farquhar’s undesirably close involvement with the locals. In a thinly-veiled reference to Farquhar’s Melakan wife Nonio Clement, Raffles argued that the Resident’s ‘Malay connexion’ afforded ‘an opening for such an undue combination of peculiar interests as not only to impede the progress of order and regularity but may lay the foundation of future inconvenience which may hereafter be difficult to overcome’.

The growing distaste that Raffles felt towards Farquhar even extended to the Resident’s appearance. In March 1823, Raffles commented to Farquhar on his ‘departure from the usual etiquette in dispensing with the Military Dress of his rank’. The next month, he told Farquhar that he had written to Calcutta on the matter and was awaiting the Company’s judgment. Farquhar’s response was to claim that he was only required to wear his uniform when he acted in his capacity as military Commandant. Presumably, he felt that when acting as Resident he should be allowed to forego clothes that made him uncomfortable in the local humidity. However, the matter of the Resident’s dress was perhaps symptomatic in Raffles's mind of a general lack of discipline. By the end of the month, Raffles had Farquhar informed (by proxy!) that he was to be relieved from his official duties.

The way Raffles treated Farquhar certainly invites condemnation. But to be fair to Raffles, he returned to Singapore in 1822 practically a broken man, worn down by his grief and seemingly subject to the onset of brain disease. To find his ‘almost only child’, as he called Singapore during his final visit, in a less than ideal state, bustling with activity, yet unkempt and vice-ridden – apparently through the decisions of a colleague who seemed to have let himself go a little too ‘native’ – was an added pressure on an overwrought mind. And, in one respect, Raffles was justified in his condemnation of Farquhar. The Scot had chosen to turn a blind eye to slave-trading and thus to a practice outlawed across the British Empire. One slave-trader had been so delighted to carry out his business undisturbed in Farquhar’s Singapore that he sent both Raffles and Farquhar the gift of a couple of slaves as a mark of gratitude.

The acrimony between both men continued after they returned to Britain – and in Farquhar’s case even went on after Raffles’s death. Though the EIC formally decided in Raffles’s favour over Raffles’s assertion that he was the sole founder of the settlement at Singapore, Farquhar continued to fight for equal recognition, publicly criticising Sophia Raffles’s Memoir for the way it accorded Raffles ‘exclusive merit’ for Singapore’s establishment. Indeed, Farquhar might be said to have literally carried his case to the grave. When he died in Scotland in 1839, his tombstone read:
During 20 years of his valuable life he was appointed to offices of high responsibility under the civil government of India having in addition to his military duties served as Resident in Melaka and afterwards at Singapore which latter settlement he founded…
Unfortunately for Farquhar, it took at least another century for historians to sit up and take notice. Sophia Raffles’s heroic narrative, combined with the prevailing ‘great man’ theory of history (in which, with his untidy appearance and Eurasian mistress, Farquhar must have appeared a raggedy misfit) ensured that Raffles continued to receive the sole credit as modern Singapore’s founder. Today, the island city-state bears no street or place or edifice which remembers Farquhar, whereas those dedicated to Raffles are numerous. Ironically, the one street that did bear Farquhar’s name used to lie in the Malay suburb of Kampong Glam, but it was demolished by the inheritors of Raffles’s urban legacy – Singapore’s modern town-planners.

Yet modern scholars have begun to re-appraise Farquhar’s contributions. If Raffles was the founding father of the Singapore settlement then, as historian Ernest Chew puts it, ‘it was really Farquhar who had to play the role of mother and nurse to the infant during its first four years’. Or as another scholar Karl Hack argues, it was Farquhar’s knowledge of the Malay rulers and their dynastic disputes that provided Raffles with his vital ‘entry-point’. Though Raffles was brilliant he was also ‘utterly impractical’ and it would have been ‘a disaster’ if he had set about the establishment of the modern entrepôt by himself. Indeed, the trust that local people had in the Raja Melaka was what brought many of them to Singapore in the first place, and ensured the settlement’s survival.

We perhaps gain a glimpse into the judgment of the time when we compare what we know about both men’s departures from the island. Munshi Abdullah tells us that Raffles departed Singapore on 9 June 1823 with tears in his eyes, sent on his way by ‘hundreds’. Mr Farquhar eventually left six months later and in Abdullah’s account was bade adieu with much greater fanfare. Thousands came to say farewell, bearing different kinds of gifts, including ‘some who did not have a dry eye for the whole of those two days’. As Farquhar’s ship pulled out of harbour ‘people of all races put out in their boats’, gaily decorated with ‘flags flying’ and with ‘bands playing’, trying to follow him as he set sail for the horizon.

© Mark Ravinder Frost & Yu-Mei Balasingamchow 2009. Singapore: A Biography will be published in mid-October 2009 by National Museum of Singapore, Editions Didier Millet & Hong Kong University Press.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

10 quick questions: Yu-Mei asks, Mark answers

1. Who was your favourite author when you were growing up, and why?

I am most definitely still growing up, and during this process there have been many favourites. When I was about 16 I discovered the Russian 'greats' - Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Gogol, Turgenev and Chekhov. The drama of their sometimes manic narratives definitely left a deep impression.

As I grew up a bit more, I began to enjoy a cooler, more controlled prose style. In my late 20s I got hooked on Evelyn Waugh and Graham Greene. Now, in my late 30s, I like reading works that provide some meditative calm (it must be the contrast with the bustle of family life and work). I read far more popular non-fiction than I used to (in addition to what I have to read as an academic), and I am even considering starting on Proust.

Nonetheless, the narrative intensity of the Russian 'greats' probably still influences what I write the most, even when it comes to popular history. Nabokov might have described Dostoevsky as an outrageous 'hack'(and to some extent he was) but he remains a genius 'hack' all the same.

2. What is the most common assumption people make about historians that really annoys you?

It's an assumption that is so annoying because it can be true - that historians are dusty and boring. The problem is we train ourselves to be walking repositories of the past, which no matter how you try to project yourself is not exactly sexy. Even within academia, I think history has an image problem. Compare us with other experts in the humanities and social sciences with their greater penchant for theory and we appear like party-poopers who have turned up at the fancy dress ball in plain clothes. (Indeed, many of us secretly hold that this is our role in life - to puncture grand social and economic theories through our deeper acquaintance with historical detail).

Things are, of course, changing. Many historians have embraced theory. At the same time, narrative history is now back with a bang (and selling fast) while big-name historians are all over the box.

All the same, I will never forget the first time I met my (now) wife in Singapore. It was at a family dinner where her parents were so interested in the fact that I was interested in Singapore history that they didn't give me a chance to talk about anything else. Wife-to-be thought I was boring and dusty, and I had to spend a lot of effort convincing her that I wasn't.

3. Of all the personalities in Singapore: A Biography, who would you invite to dinner and why?

Hardly original, but for a good old gossip and bitch over several bottles of wine (and provided he was not in a bad mood) it would have to be David Marshall.

4. What would you talk about?

Well, first up, did he enjoy jazz? When we did the Companion Guide episode in the National Museum, I lobbied to have his 'Under the Apple Tree' speech mixed over Dave Brubeck's 'Take Five'. I still wonder if he would have enjoyed this or hated it. (Perhaps he'd have preferred a more momentous soundtrack like Beethoven or Wagner.)

I'd also ask him about the best post-war bars in Singapore - especially, what he recalled of the Liberty Cabaret on South Bridge Road. The other important stuff about politics is all in his oral history interview at the National Archives so there would be no need to go back over it.

5. If someone made a film about 1950s Singapore politics, which actors would you like to see cast as David Marshall and Lee Kuan Yew?

(Ha, is this revenge for my WWF historical smackdown question?)

I think with modern SFX, Lee could be played by a digitally slimmed-down and youthful looking combination of two actors: Glen Goei and Sir Anthony Hopkins. After Nixon, Hopkins could play any major leader (given the right prosthetics) and since both actors have worked together they could probably each "inhabit one another's space" and "really get inside each other" to create Lee on the big screen. Hopkins could give Goei a few Hannibal Lecter tips on ruthlessness and Goei could teach Hopkins how to be ... more Chinese?

Marshall would have to be played by Singapore-based Malaysian actor and playwright Huzir Sulaiman - who has written a play about Marshall and must be just waiting for the call.

6. Which two personalities from different time periods in Singapore: A Biography could have been best mates, and why?

Best mates for how long? Like anywhere else, Singapore's political history is so fraught with big egos and break-ups. Remember Raffles and Farquhar, Lee Kuan Yew and Lim Chin Siong?

Okay, then, probably Dr Goh Keng Swee (self-governing Singapore's first Finance Minister) and Dr John Crawfurd (Singapore's second British Resident). They'd be able to spend hours together discussing domestic growth figures, moaning about the expensive and unrealistic idealism of some of their associates, and comparing who could go longer without wasting money by washing his underpants.

7. One of our reviewers said we seemed to have a lot of fun writing this book. What was you favourite part?

It was also the most difficult: weaving the various sources and individual life-stories into a flowing narrative through effective transitions.

When these transitions worked, it was very satisfying. I especially enjoyed the Chettiar/Little India section that comes just before the outbreak of World War II (Yu-Mei's original idea to place it here) and the filmic indulgences (cut tos, freeze-frames, rewinds etc.) that are employed at crucial moments in the 1950s Merdeka chapters. These were meant to evoke the new mass media that dominated this period (and I know that you at least, illustrious co-author, really liked them).

For more on these, go buy the book.

8. If you hadn't elected to read history when you were an undergraduate, what do you think you would be doing now?

Very simple - English Lit. My family is like an English Lit. mafia.

I was tossing up between English and History, and it was simply the encouraging words of my history teacher (the revered Charles Malyon, regarded by many - me included - as during his career the best history teacher in the UK) that sealed it for me. At the time, my parents thought English Lit. as a subject was going down the plughole anyway, what with the death of the author.

I'd like to say that an alternative life-choice would have meant I'd now be writing great novels and making great films. But, in reality, I'd probably still be sitting here in Hong Kong University, only just a few offices down the corridor, dreaming of the big break-out from the English Department.

9. After living in Singapore for over six years and writing Singapore: A Biography, what is the one thing about Singapore that you still can't get enough of?

Strangely enough, it's not the food. I have a sense Singaporeans are getting a bit short-changed these days when it comes to their culinary delights. A quick trip to Penang might make more people realise something is amiss.

No, for me the answer to that question (sentimental as it may sound) is definitely the people. Beyond the government, the 'system' and the cleanliness, Singapore is defined for me by an extraordinarily diverse range of wonderful people, past and present. This was the main motivation for writing a 'biography' of the island.

And btw, though there are all these courtesy campaigns and repeated self-criticisms in the press about the lack of graciousness in Singapore society, my own experience is that Singapore is a far less aggressive and unfriendly place than many others I have lived in.

10. Please explain your name?

It's partly thanks to Google again.

Mark Frost is a well-known historian, novelist and screenwriter, especially in the US, who is perhaps best known for collaborating with filmmaker David Lynch.

One day, while working on the National Museum project, a curator called me up to congratulate me on my new novel The Six Messiahs (though on the phone I heard him say 'The Sex Messiah' - which took a while to work out and was all rather embarrassing). So I started adding my Indian name Ravinder to become Mark R. Frost or, in the case of our book, Mark Ravinder Frost (so Yu-Mei does not feel so alone with her own epic name).

My mother is from South India (my father from South London) and she gave me the Tamil name Ravinder after her favourite Indian poet, the Bengali Rabindranath Tagore.

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Sunday, September 20, 2009

10 quick questions: Mark asks, Yu-Mei answers

1. Why did you take on a job as a researcher with the National Museum of Singapore project?

Because it was the most interesting job offer I had at the time. One of my friends calls me an 'accidental historian' as a result. It's a catchy label and the 'accidental' part is true, but I wouldn't call myself a historian. More a writer who appreciates history, a good story and a confluence of the two.

2. Why the sudden interest everywhere in Singapore history? Is it media-led or a genuine popular interest?

A lot of the current interest seems to be in the post-war period and Singapore's initial years of independence. A whole generation is getting nostalgic, I think – specifically, the generation that was told in the 1960s and 1970s that certain things had to go in the name of progress and development. Now that generation is reaching retirement age, maybe starting to think about their choices, their experiences and their legacy. There is a profound sense of loss in some quarters, or a feeling of urgency to claim or "reclaim" the recent past before all the actors pass away. Plus the fact that our physical landscape keeps changing – the recent accelerated developments in the Marina Bay area and Orchard Road, to say nothing of the constant "upgrading" of HDB estates – is a relentless reminder of how quickly and thoroughly things can be erased or replaced.

So some of the interest is in nostalgia, and some of it is in history. And this interest in digging up or rehabilitating the past has its spillover effects. I think more people now are curious about the past, where Singapore "came" from, and some want to question or hear alternatives to the official narrative. And on the official side, government money is flowing into museums and the "heritage" sector.

3. Of all the personalities featured in Singapore: A Biography who would you invite for dinner and why?
4. What would you talk about?

Oooh, tough one. Right off the bat I'd say Munshi Abdullah, who was Raffles's scribe. He was impressively multilingual – in Malay, Arabic, Tamil, Hindi and English – and very curious about what the colonials were bringing into his world. I imagine he'd be a sparkling raconteur and I'd love to buttonhole him and find out if he really thought the British were all that.

If I could have a second guest, I'd sneak in Constance Goh, the charismatic and tireless family planning pioneer from the post-war period. If she had the chutzpah in the 1950s to convince an English supplier to halve the price of contraceptives for her family planning clinics, I'm sure she'd waltz in to dinner with even more incredible stories. Also, I'd be very curious to hear her response to Singapore's population policies of today.

5. Singapore appears (to a non-Singaporean like me) to be a highly status-conscious place. What is your response to people who say 'Hey, you are not a PhD! How can you write my nation's history?'

I think there are different types of books that can be written about a nation's history. Singapore: A Biography tells one kind of story – reviving eyewitness accounts, piecing together interesting and complementary experiences, revealing some of the different faces of Singapore over the centuries. You could say I write for a reader such as myself: a non-specialist who's nonetheless curious about history and interested to unravel some of the complexities behind it.

6. Who would win in a historical smack-down between Yamashita and Lee Kuan Yew (and why)?

Yamashita would press Lee Kuan Yew into a corner, kiromoni sakuren-style, at which point Lee might seem outmatched, outgunned – but wait, the British referee calls a time-out, or rather, summarily dismisses from the ring those armies standing to the left of Yamashita. Now Yamashita is the one outnumbered, and Lee charges back with his party, pummelling Yamashita with a renewed, unfaltering one-two rhythm (the radio commentator seems to be on his side, too). Yamashita falls hard and loud. The round – and match – go to Lee.

7. One of our reviewers said we seemed to have a lot of fun writing this book. What was your favourite part?

I'm big on social history, so I liked writing about aspects of Singapore life that let me step away from the political and the economic, to take a peek at people's inner lives. Moments like recreating from James Warren's books the daily 19th-century routine of rickshaw coolies or karayuki-san (a euphemism for Japanese prostitutes), or looking at contending notions of education for girls in the early 20th century. I suppose you could say my favourite part is putting the people back into the history.

8. Imagine you had to pitch this book to a Hollywood executive.

It's a historical epic, retold Paris, Je T'aime-style, but with much more action-packed sequences. Imagine nine vignettes, with nine different directors, each dramatising the story of a particularly vivid eyewitness to Singapore's history. There's the magic realism of the 14th-century Sejarah Melayu world, the rough-and-tumble derring-do of the 19th-century port-city, the fierce frontline action of World War II and the sly political manoeuvrings of the post-war era. Our protagonists will run the gamut from swashbuckling colonials and intrepid pirates, to baby-faced soldiers and ingenious women from all levels of society. Nine surprising stories, and they all happen to take place on one small island called Singapore.

9. What are you going to do next?

I'm going to continue doing some travel writing, which is great for gaining some perspective on what's going on in Singapore, but from outside Singapore. I also have a couple of non-fiction and fiction ideas at the back of my head, which I'll need a bit of time to disentangle and prioritise.

10. Please explain your surname (family name).

My surname Balasingamchow (or, in its original formulation, Balasingam-Chow) combines names from my father's Sri Lankan heritage and my mother's Cantonese one. My parents, it appears, were prescient about what would be useful in the Internet age: a readily Google-able name.

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Friday, September 18, 2009

The Singapore NDP: A National Day or 'Naughty Diva' Parade?

By now, I think I can claim to be a bit of a Singapore National Day Parade (NDP) connoisseur. The NDP features right at the conclusion of the Singapore History Gallery of NMS in a video installation using that old favourite of exhibition designers ('they're simple and never fail') – mirrors. For a while, the curatorial team, the designers and myself had been stuck for an ending to this gallery and then a friend showed me a documentary called A State of Mind about North Korea's Mass Games. The idea for a visual tour through 40 years of NDPs stuck and we took the treatment – which I'd entitled 'Rites of the Nation' – to local filmmaker Tan Pin Pin, who agreed to make it.

Eventually, Pin Pin's film explored a much broader emotional range than I'd expected and it also brought out how much has remained the same in the NDP as well as how much has changed over time. (Although, for an example of Singapore's transition from state-led socialism to state-led consumerism, compare the earlier massed industrial workers carrying hammers and other tools to the later floats featuring bodybuilders modelling the latest lime-green Lycra.)

In my work with Yu-Mei on Singapore: A Biography, the NDP also crops up: it features in the Epilogue to the book and we also trace some of its historical antecedents back to the Japanese Occupation and even earlier to the Royal Visit of 1901 (for more on this, go buy the book!).

The point is, after the former NMS curator Cheryl-Ann Low and Pin Pin herself, I've probably watched footage of more NDPs than anyone I know. And what has struck me about the last decade of NDPs is how gloriously CAMP they've become. In particular, Glen Goei's efforts as Creative Director seemed to fully explore Singapore as a 'Rainbow Nation' in every way.

But surely this year's NDP – a disco-diva celebration of nationhood – took the biscuit! Sure, I tuned in after all the macho, military display (which itself can always be given an alternative reading). All the same, wasn't this NDP rather subversive? I can't have been the only one who clocked the Big Brother eye looking down us at all. But did I really hear, in a nation that still ranks 151st out of 195 nations in terms of press freedom, a small girl vowing to defend Singapore's 'freedom of expression'? Moreover, in a country where (unlike Albania) homosexual sex remains illegal, were those really inflatable pink hearts that the Cabinet and Prime Minister were waving?

My mother-in-law felt I was reading too much into things, but then when the credits rolled I discovered that both Ivan Heng and Alfian Sa'at were the creative minds behind this camp masterpiece. (If you don't know who either is, try Googling them - they both have extensive resumes as dissident voices.) Anyway, this got me thinking about the whole question of dissent in Singapore and whether the brains behind this year's NDP could be seen as belonging to a longer historical tradition of what I call embedded Singaporean dissent.

If you'd like to hear me waffle on some more about this topic then do come to a talk I'm giving at the National Museum of Singapore on 24 October at 2 pm, entitled 'Heroes, Villains and Ordinary Citizens: A short history of Singaporean dissent'.


For further details and registration info, see the National Museum website (or click on the image above).

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

The story behind the book - PS

Just to add to Yu-Mei's last post, the story behind the book was not quite so smooth as that, let's be honest. Even though there was all this wonderful material left on the cutting-room floor from NMS, we didn't actually intend to write a 'new' history of Singapore, originally. As I remember, we proposed to NMS a mere companion volume to the History Gallery that would flesh out the Companion scripts a little and have lots of nice pics – a kind of gallery guide, a bit like an Insight Guide or the Asian Civilisations Museum A-Z Guide.

I remember at the time, illustrious co-author, assuring you we'd be done in six months! Well, then someone gave me Simon Schama's Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution for Christmas (the nice two-volume Folio Society edition with lots of nice pics) and having seen how it worked, and fuelled by new ambition, we went back to pitch a quite different book.

I didn't realise then that it would take another two years to write. (Remember, I apologised on more than one occasion about what we'd got ourselves into). But history called and it's all done now – a 450-page blockbuster, which if you don't read it you can always use as a burglar deterrent!

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The story behind the book

When I joined Mark on the National Museum of Singapore project in 2006, one thing that kept hitting us, as we waded through mounds of notes, interviews, audio clips and TV archives, was how there were all these dramatic and gripping stories that didn't seem to have been given due recognition as part of Singapore history. There were intriguing personalities from Munshi Abdullah, the Jawi Peranakan scribe from Melaka who recorded his impressions of early Singapore, to Mrs Seow Peck Leng, one of Singapore's first woman Parliamentarians – yet none of these people had become household names. Singapore history still meant the 'great men of history', such as Sir Stamford Raffles and Lee Kuan Yew, who loomed large in the popular imagination, and on the shelves and covers in any Singapore section of a bookstore.

So while we were pleased with what became the Singapore History Gallery of the National Museum, we were all too aware that there were numerous pieces of Singapore history left, as it were, on the cutting room floor. What better format, then, than a book – one that could be long enough to give some heft to the Singapore story, yet also punchy enough to keep a modern reader happy? Something, Mark and I envisioned, that would bring out the drama and spirit of the stories that had excited us in the first place – a work of popular history, but most definitely not a textbook.

Thus was born the book project that became Singapore: A Biography, which the National Museum is publishing in Singapore with Editions Didier Millet. Two years of writing, rewriting, additional research and rethinking later, we think we've come up with a narrative that raises a new babble of voices alongside the ones that most people already know. Good scholarship underpins our efforts, but this is a book that packs in much more as well.

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Sunday, September 6, 2009

Yu-Mei: A Biography

So here's my dirty little secret: I didn't like history when I was in school. My teenage self would have blamed this firmly on an uninteresting teacher, even less interesting school textbooks, and a preference for the kaleidoscopic world of fiction, as opposed to the dreary world of dates and dead people.

My adult self knows better. I simply hadn't hit the right books yet.

It was only as a liberal arts student in an American university that I was required to take a couple of history classes – and was startled to discover that history could be compelling and enjoyable. I wound up taking many more history classes than I was required, enough to make it my second major (in addition to English).

Then I came back to Singapore and became a literature teacher; subsequently I worked in the ministry of education. Any more formal explorations of history got put on hold for a while.

In 2006, I left teaching and was trying to figure out how I could make a living as a writer. A friend introduced me to the exhibition design firm GSM, which had been hired by the National Museum of Singapore to produce its Singapore History and Living Galleries. GSM hired me as a senior researcher and script editor, which is how I ended up working with Mark, who was already Content Director for the project. Amidst all the research, interviews and storytelling that I was thrown into, I was repeatedly struck by what fascinating (hi)stories Singapore has, and how much we do know, despite the gaps, about this funny little island.

In the work I've done since the National Museum experience – whether it's this book or other research and writing projects – I find myself still intrigued by historical accounts and ideas about history. I'm not sure what my next big project will be, but I'm sure these are ideas that I will keep poking at and writing about for a while yet.

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