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Singapore from Temasek to the 21st Century

Reinventing the Global City

Edited by Karl Hack and Jean-Louis Margolin, with Karine Delaye

Publication Year: 2010

Once a centre for international trade and finance, Singapore has become a "global city." Singapore from Temasek to the 21st Century: Reinventing the Global City examines its evolution from trading port to city-state, showing how Singapore has repeatedly reinvented itself by creating or re-asserting qualities that helped attract capital, talent and trade. In the 14th century, the island's prosperity rested on regulating the regional carrying trade passing through the Straits of Melaka. In 1819, after a long period of decline, the British East India Company revived the island's fortune by making Singapore a "free" port, and trade sustained the city until the Japanese occupation and the postwar collapse of colonial rule. After independence, Singapore resumed its role as a major commercial and financial center, but added facilities to make the island a regional centre for manufacturing. More recently, it has transformed its population into an educated and highly-skilled workforce, and has made the island an education hub that is a magnet for research and development in fields such as biotechnology. Singapore's dramatic evolutionary struggle defies description as a sequentially unfolding narrative, or merely as the story of a nation. In this volume, an international group of scholars examines the history of Singapore as a series of discontinuous and varied attempts by a shifting array of local and foreign actors to optimise advantages arising from the island's strategic location and overcome its lack of natural resources.

Published by: NUS Press Pte Ltd

Title Page, Copyright

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List of Illustrations

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pp. vii-ix


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pp. x-xi

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pp. xii-xiv

First, Jean-Louis Margolin and Karine Delaye organised a panel at the European Association of Southeast Asian Studies conference at the Sorbonne in 2006. This looked at the role of “centralité et singularité” (centrality and singularity, or uniqueness) in maintaining Singapore’s role as a global city. Several of the contributors to this volume delivered...

Part I: The Global City: Structures, Themes and the Long Duration

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1. Singapore: Reinventing the Global City

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pp. 3-36

Historically, it served as a nodal point between Southeast Asia and the wider world. Even in the recent past, it focused narrowly on entrepôt facilities, being a manufacturing base, and hosting regional headquarters for foreign companies. Yet from the 1990s, it has tried to establish itself as much more: as a hub for services such as...

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2. Singapore between Cosmopolis and Nation

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pp. 37-54

Singapore is often seen from a postcolonial perspective as one of the anomalies left behind by the British empire; a port city trying to become a state. This paper takes an opposite perspective, grounded in the long history of “central Southeast Asia”, the corridor between Bangkok and Jakarta. The Peninsula, and the hinterland of the two vital Straits of Melaka...

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3. Casting Singapore’s History in the Longue Durée

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pp. 55-75

Since Singapore attained its independence in 1965, it has been obsessed with the struggle to become and remain a successful city-state and global city. Having been regarded by much of the world, and its founding fathers, as a political anomaly, as too small to survive in a world of large nation-states linked to economic hinterlands, it focused on future...

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4. Singapore’s Strategy of Regionalisation

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pp. 76-99

The terms “International City” and “Global City” are used regularly throughout the development plans of the State of Singapore, and in numerous planning documents produced for it. Hence, one report presented in 2003 to the Minister of Commerce and Industry by the “Economic Review Committee” (composed of representatives of the...

Part II: Singapore: Visions and Remakings

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5. Temasik to Singapura: Singapore in the 14th to 15th Centuries

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pp. 103-132

Singapore was a city before it was even called by this name. Long before the settlement was revived by Stamford Raffles in 1819, the north bank of the Singapore River was linked to regional flows of people, culture, religious ideas, and trade. This chapter asks: who were the inhabitants of 14th- to 15th-century “Singapore” (or Temasik, Banzu, or...

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6. Singapura as a Central Place in Malay History and Identity

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pp. 133-154

In 1703, country trader Alexander Hamilton called at Johor en route to China, and visited the recently elected Bendahara Sultan ‘Abdu’l-Jalil Ri’ayat Shah, whom he had known before the latter’s elevation to the Sultanate. Hamilton recorded that the sultan...

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7. Imagined Centrality: Sir Stamford Raffles and the Birth of Modern Singapore

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pp. 155-184

Crawfurd was a member of the British expedition, which a few days earlier had landed on the mouth of Singapore River. The party was led by Sir Stamford Raffles, who had immediately taken up negotiations with the local chief, the Temenggong of the Sultanate of Johore, for permission to set up a British factory on the island...

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8. Singapore: A Model for Indochina? (1860–1920s)

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pp. 185-209

Assaults on European missionaries led to escalating French involvement in Indochina in the mid-19th century culminating, in 1862, in the establishment of the colony of Cochinchina. This incorporated three (later six) provinces of what is now southern Vietnam. The neighbouring Cambodian monarchy became a French protectorate by 1863. In...

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9. Singapore as a Central Place between the West, Asia and China: From the 19th to 21st Centuries

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pp. 210-242

China’s reopening to the capitalist world and its continuous expansion have revived in Singapore the ambition of bringing the city-state to the rank of a “global city”, and of making it an unavoidable mediation centre between the West, China and Asia. This central position on a global scale, which is being reaffirmed today, cannot be dissociated from...

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10. The Malayan Trajectory in Singapore’s History

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pp. 243-291

Most stories have a beginning, middle, and end. In the modern history of Singapore, however, the middle seems to have gone missing. In the 1970s, the beginning of Singapore’s “modern” history could still be presented as part of a Straits Settlements Story, as in Mary Turnbull’s...

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11. The People’s Action Party Blueprint for Singapore, 1959–1965

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pp. 292-322

On the eve of the crucial 30 May 1959 Parliamentary elections, the People’s Action Party (PAP) was confident of victory. Having made a strong showing at the 1957 City Council elections, it now embarked on a wide-ranging revamping of its doctrine. One of the reasons such changes were necessary was that previous programmes reflected the...

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12. Singapore’s Changing International Orientations, 1960–1990

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pp. 323-344

Singapore’s development from the 1960s to the 1980s, and especially after its separation from Malaysia on 9 August 1965, was one of increasingly international orientation. In a sense, this might seem to be a statement of the obvious. After all, modern Singapore has always been outwardly oriented. Singapore was a major entrepôt port in...

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13. Remaking Singapore, 1990–2004: From Disciplinarian Development to Bureaucratic Proxy Democracy

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pp. 345-383

1990 and 2004: these two dates precisely demarcate Goh Chok Tong’s time as Prime Minister of Singapore — from Lee Kuan Yew’s retirement to become Senior Minister in 1990 to Lee’s son, Lee Hsien Loong, becoming Prime Minister on 12 August 2004. But these dates demarcate something more important than the mere passing of time...

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14. Singapore’s Holistic Approach to Urban Planning: Centrality, Singularity, Innovation and Reinvention

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pp. 384-408

Singapore is unique amongst Southeast Asian cities in that its urban dimension has come to encompass all aspects of its social and economic system, and the entire space of the state has been integrated into a single overall planning framework. These characteristics are further enhanced by the way the People’s Action Party (PAP) government has...


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pp. 409-435


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pp. 436-439


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pp. 440-458

E-ISBN-13: 9789971695897
Print-ISBN-13: 9789971695156

Page Count: 472
Illustrations: 37 images
Publication Year: 2010

Edition: New