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 III: "Singapore’s Story: A Port City in Search of Hinterlands"
Professor Tan’s lecture will offer a fresh perspective on how Singapore’s evolution as a port city has fundamentally shaped its economy and society for over 700 years. Along the way, he explores concepts of hinterlands, arguing that Singapore has had a history of shifting hinterlands. From the 14th to 19th centuries, its hinterland was maritime Southeast Asia. It was only from the 19th and 20th centuries, particularly with the completion of the Causeway in 1923, that the Malay Peninsula became a key land-based hinterland for Singapore. After 1965, the situation changed again. One of the main plots of the Singapore story is flux and a restless search for hinterlands.