The IPS-Nathan Lecture Series by Professor Tan Tai Yong
In 2019, Singapore marks the bicentennial of a significant turning point in its history – the arrival of the East India Company and the establishment of a British trading settlement on the island in 1819. Marking a bicentennial might suggest that 1819 was a point of origin, where it all began. But, did our history begin in 1819? What was Singapore before the Indiana landed on its shores, and how far back does our history go? The Bicentennial is perhaps an opportune occasion to think more deeply about our history and to reflect on whether that history has meaning for our present and future.
In this lecture series, Professor Tan seeks to explain how Singapore has evolved over a period of 700 years. Throughout its long history, Singapore has taken many forms – trading port, colony, port city and city-state – and its evolution was often influenced by external forces and factors. He will identify some of the underlying continuities to show that history is not merely a thing of the past; but by understanding how our island has been shaped by its history, we will have a better appreciation of our current and continued challenges as a city-state.
Lecture V: "Before Nation and Beyond: Reflections on what we were, what we are, and what we can be"
How do nations relate to their history and histories?
The idea of the nation state itself is a relatively new concept in human history, at least as an organisational unit for the world. Yet, today, nation states have emerged as the key players in our world order, shaping the identities of individuals, families, and societies.
Professor Tan Tai Yong and Professor Wang Gungwu will discuss the idea of the nation state, and the role of history in the development of national and individual identities, looking at examples from China, India and Southeast Asia. They will also consider themes in Singapore’s history, such as the bicentennial, globalisation, separation from Malaysia, and its evolving identity over the years.