Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Books on Malaysia History and Heritage

This is a selection of 5 recent books on Malaysian history and heritage that examines lesser known areas. Click here for our large online catalogue of books on Malaysian history.
  • Penang and its Region: The Story of an Asian Entrepot edited by Yeoh Seng Guan, Loh Wei Leng et al. From its beginnings in the late 18th century, the vibrant colonial port of Penang attracted a diverse range of peoples, enabled pioneering commercial enterprises, and fomented inter-ethnic collaboration and inter-cultural borrowings. The island came to be known as the "Pearl of the Orient", and for many travellers, it was their first port of call in Southeast Asia. In the early 19th century, Singapore displaced Penang in international trade, but the island remained a major focus of regional trade. For this reason, the story of Penang's relations with the Malay Peninsula and other parts of Southeast Asia reveal a great deal about conditions within the region. This collection discusses the personal networks that have linked prominent individuals in Penang with neighbouring areas and considers the position of the island as a whole within the Southeast Asian region. Specifically, the authors write about local entrepreneurs, mutual help associations, cross-border trading and political networks, and aspects of how the cosmopolitan population of the island negotiated the transition from British colony to Malaysian state.
  • Johor: Local History, Local Landscapes, 1855-1957 by Lim Pui Huen. Archival documents, maps and photographs as well as many family albums and personal memories contribute to this treasure chest, a multi-faceted account of the history of Johor, which became e a separate entity and state in 1855. The 19th century's "opening up" is shown to have included: international export of estate agricultural production of gambier, pepper and rubber; the building of modern palaces, mosques, schools and government offices in the capital Johor Bahru (formerly Iskander Puteri) and in other towns; its own military force and Civil Service; a measure of external independence as an Unfederated Malay State; a range of sports and pastimes which included a Grand Prix; to local writers and an active Press in English and other languages; and a railway that linked Johor Bahru to Penang in 1909 and on the Causeway to Singapore in 1924. Johor's confusing experiences in the period just before, during and after the Japanese Occupation 1942-45 are seen as contributing to its role in the 1957 achievement of Malaya's political independence. With bibliography, glossary and index.
  • 13 May 1969: The Darkest Day In Malaysian History by Leon Comber. In his refreshingly insightful and sensitive work, 13 May 1969, Leon Comber offers an account of the events and influences - be they social, economic or political - which culminated in the breakdown of Sino-Malay relations, and erupted into the violent racial riots of 13 May 1969. The work has been produced for the benefit of the general public. Set out in terms the layman can understand with ease, still it manages to convey the full significance of the events, and clearly defines their place in contemporary Malaysian society. Reissue of a 1983 publication.
  • Making and Unmaking the Asylum: Leprosy and Modernity in Singapore and Malaysia by Loh Kah Seng. This book recounts the entangled stories of leprosy in colonial and postcolonial Malaya/Malaysia and Singapore, the decades of heavy-handed biomedical policies and laws enacted in the name of modernity, science and development, interwoven with the personal accounts of those who were sent to the asylums. The leprosarium was a living hell for many, and it is no coincidence that the majority of patients were poor and working-class. Yet this book also richly demonstrates how patients resisted being victims - creating new families, forging friendships, working, joining unions, and actively engaging in their communal religious and cultural lives.
  • Malaya's First Year at the United Nations, As Reflected in Dr Ismail's Reports Home to Tunku Abdul Rahman compiled by Tawfik Ismail & Ooi Kee Beng. Tun Dr Ismail (1915-1973) was Malaya's first Ambassador to the United States and to the United Nations. This is a collection of his notes to Prime Minister Abdul Rahman and speeches given 1957-58 while he was a Ambassador. These, apart from dealing with urgent issues facing the newly-independent Malaya, also offer sidelights on international issues during the Cold War period and on diplomatic life and procedures. With chronology, appended documents, black-and-white photographs, bibliography and index.

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