Singapore: A Biography


Text by Mark Ravinder Frost and Yu-Mei Balasingamchow

Singapore's past comes to life in this thoroughly engaging book ... a pleasure to read from start to finish!

~ Lynn Pan

458 pp, 240 mm x 170 mm

ISBN: 978-981-4385-16-9
RRP USD30.00 buy from amazon

Category: History
Theme: Singapore

Brimming with verve and dramatic incident, Singapore: A Biography offers fresh insights into the life story of this island city-state through the personal experiences of the workers, adventurers, rulers and revolutionaries who have shaped its history over the last seven centuries. The authors, drawing on research undertaken in collaboration with the National Museum of Singapore, have woven together ancient chronicles, eyewitness accounts, oral histories and even modern radio and television broadcasts to create a vivid and compelling narrative that brings the past back to life. Grounded in scholarship yet fired by the imagination, this book reveals the Singapore story to have been as rich, diverse and multilayered as the city-state is prosperous, ordered and successful today.

Singapore's past comes to life in this thoroughly engaging book ... a pleasure to read from start to finish!

- Lynn Pan

Erudite, accessible … the prose sparkles with varifocal narratives that flit engagingly from anecdotal minutiae of individual life stories to panoramic analyses of the country’s most pivotal moments. A compelling read, and a much-needed reminder that Singapore’s national memory needn’t be singularly owned.

Time Out (Singapore)

A masterly combination of rich life stories, public history and cutting-edge historiography … greatly enjoyable

- Tim Harper

Singapore: A Biography is reminiscent of those exciting, colourful city histories of Paris, London or Istanbul… a truly absorbing read for anyone. If you know absolutely nothing about Singapore's history, this is probably the only “Singapore story” you should read.

History News Network
- Rachel Leow

Makes a concerted if subtle attempt to wrest Singapore’s historical memory from Lee Kuan Yew’s unyielding grip … something of a Trojan Horse volume. It masquerades as little more than an interesting collection of stories, while shedding light on the deeper historical roots of modern Singapore.

Global Asia
- Ben Bland

Every city deserves to have one of these. A “biography” so beautifully detailed, written and designed that even its margins are enthralling. What makes this book far more than a straightforward history – therefore justifying its claims to biography – is its refusal to allow the everyday life and minutiae of the metropolis to play second fiddle to the bigger picture of Singapore’s development and its place in world events. In doing so it animates the city … reclaiming – as one reviewer has noted – the underlying humanity of a city for too long swamped by the narratives of its rulers.

Jakarta Java Kini

There are history books and there are history books. Some focus on dates and battles and the men who won and lost them. Others bring a time and a place to life. Singapore: A Biography is one such book … Beautifully written … this is a scholarly yet readable work.

Expat Living (Singapore)

Singapore: a Biography is the best book to emerge on the city-state in recent years … a rich multifaceted exploration of Singapore’s multilayered evolution and development from early times to the 19th century and beyond.

South China Morning Post

The publishers have outdone themselves with this well-written and eminently readable volume that should find a welcome home on shelves throughout Asia and, one hopes, globally as well … Frost and Balasingamchow have, through a judicious selection of anecdote and primary sources, tied together with just the right amount of analysis and a judicious application of drama, teased out a narrative that both interests and flows.

Asian Review of Books

This book marks a turning point in Singapore’s historiography … one that allows for the deconstruction of (often frozen) master narratives, which still tend to dominate the historical panorama of the island, its politics and identity.

- Denis Bocquet

A walk through history, which is at times more akin to walking down an old street than to reading a book … If you want to understand the modern city-state and its rich culture within a historical framework, there is no better book.

Stanford Journal of East Asian Affairs

Respected historian Frost and Singaporean educator Balasingamchow show a deep understanding of the subject matter … well written and engaging … balanced and thorough … Highly recommended!

Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries
- Sarah Maxim

A tapestry of the sights and sounds and tastes and smells of what Singapore is and who the Singaporeans are … Frost and Balasingamchow have given Singaporeans a wonderful gift. For non-Singaporeans, the book is also a 3D, Technicolor, Cinemascope account of a colonial outpost in the East and how life unfolded over the nearly 200 years since the British came.

Hong Kong Economic Journal
- Chan Heng Wing

Mark Ravinder Frost studied history at the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, and has published articles on Asian history in journals such as Modern Asian Studies and the Journal of Southeast Asian Studies. As well as Singapore: A Biography, he is the author of two forthcoming books: A Port-City Enlightenment: Print, Politics and Religion Across Britain's Asian Empire, 1854–1920 and Decolonization in Asia: An Interconnected History. In Singapore, he has been involved in various film and exhibition projects, and between 2005 and 2007 he worked as Content Director and Senior Scriptwriter on the National Museum of Singapore's new Singapore History Gallery. He is currently Lecturer in Regional and Transnational History at the University of Essex.

Yu-Mei Balasingamchow was born and raised in Singapore, before she went to the United States to study English and History at Northwestern University. Prior to writing full-time, she was an English teacher at a local junior college and subsequently worked at the Ministry of Education. In 2006, she was a senior researcher and script editor for the Singapore History Gallery and Living Galleries of the National Museum of Singapore. She is currently based in Singapore, where she writes about history, travel and culture in Asia.


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