Thursday, August 22, 2013

Books on Singapore's History and Heritage

These are recent additions to our wide collection of books on Singapore's history and heritage:

Technology and Entrepot Colonialism in Singapore, 1819-1940 by Goh Chor Boon. How did imported technology contribute to the development of the colony of Singapore? Who were the main agents of change in this process? Was there extensive transfer and diffusion of Western science and technology into the port-city? How did the people respond to change? Examining areas such as shipping, port development, telegraphs and wireless, urban water supply and sewage disposal, economic botany, electrification, food production and retailing, science and technical education, and health, this book documents the role of technology and, to a smaller extent, science, in the transformation of colonial Singapore before 1940. In doing so, this book hopes to provide a new dimension to the historiography of Singapore from a "science, technology and society" perspective.

Cords to Histories by Lai Chee Kien. Bilingual In Chinese & English. These ten short and ruminative essays are by an NUS professor of architecture, with many areas of interest. They include: the history of Singapore's railway and associated buildings; the 8 hindu temple complexes originally associated with railway workers; aspects of the uniqueness of the town of Muar; Singapore and Malaya and the London Great Exhibition of 1851 and its successors; botanical interchanges in Singapore; architectural aspects of local international sporting events; and garden enclaves in Singapore's history. With black-and-white archival photographs and book lists. Bilingual in Chinese.

Squatters into Citizens: The 1961 Bukit Ho Swee Fire and the Making of Modern Singapore by Loh Kah Seng. The crowded, bustling, 'squatter' kampongs so familiar across Southeast Asia have long since disappeared from Singapore, leaving few visible traces of their historical influence on the life in the city-state. In one such settlement, located in an area known as Bukit Ho Swee, a great fire in 1961 destroyed the kampong and left 16,000 people homeless, creating a national emergency that led to the first big public housing project of the new Housing and Development Board (HDB). HDB flats now house more than four-fifths of the Singapore population, making the aftermath of the Bukit Ho Swee fire a seminal event in modern Singapore. Loh Kah Seng grew up in one-room rental flats in the HDB estate built after the fire. Drawing on oral history interviews, official records and media reports, he describes daily life in squatter communities and how people coped with the hazard posed by fires. His examination of the catastrophic events of 25 May 1961 and the steps taken by the new government of the People's Action Party in response to the disaster show the immediate consequences of the fire and how relocation to public housing changed the people's lives. Through a narrative that is both vivid and subtle, the book explores the nature of memory and probes beneath the hard surfaces of modern Singapore to understand the everyday life of the people who live in the city.

We Remember edited by Tan Kok Fang. On 2 Feb 2013 a meeting took place at Hong Lim Park, Singapore, to mark the 50th anniversary of Operation Cold Store when at least 110 men and women were arrested under the Internal Security Act when Singapore's People's Action Party government was still under the British colonial umbrella. The speeches of six of the surviving detainees, some of whom were imprisoned for many years, are set out together with an account of the Detention-Writing-Healing Forum organised in February 2006 by The Necessary Stage, Singapore. Six poems written by detainees are included. Bilingual in Chinese. With archival black-and-white photographs.

From the Blue Windows: Recollections of Life in Queenstown, Singapore, in the 1960s and 1970s by Tan Kok Yang. This thoughtful memoir offers descriptions of the author's life and upbringing in Queenstown in the 1960s and 70s. It highlights some almost-forgotten issues and patterns of family life in times past as well as some nostalgia for the early low-rise public housing which has now largely been replaced. Black-and-white photographs.

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