The IPS-Nathan Lecture Series by Professor Tan Tai Yong
In 2019, Singapore will be marking 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 II: "Circulations, Connections and Networks: Early Globalisation and Cosmopolitan Singapore"
In 1972, then Foreign Minister Mr S. Rajaratnam declared that Singapore would aspire to be a “Global City”. The projection of Singapore as a global city-state may have been necessitated by the political realities and challenges of the day and was aspiration for the future, but Mr Rajaratnam might have inadvertently articulated a return to the past for Singapore. This lecture will explain that Singapore was “globalised” long before the idea of globalisation became popular. Trade, social, religious, cultural and intellectual flows all featured in the making of a cosmopolitan culture in a port city that was sustained by trans-regional connections and networks. Singapore then was a “site of interactions” where diasporas met and multiple identities intersected.