The NUS Singapore History Prize 2019 Shortlist Books
In an effort to broaden definitions of history, the NUS Singapore History Prize was launched in 2014 to encourage writings on different perspectives and themes relating to Singapore’s past. Since its inception, the prize has awarded five winning books, each of which is deemed to be outstanding for their contribution to fostering awareness and engagement with Singapore’s history.
This year, a total of 10 books have been shortlisted for the prize. The winners will be announced on November 8, and will receive a cash prize of $10,000. In addition, the shortlisted authors will be invited to take part in a public discussion led by the NUS Centre for Contemporary Chinese Studies.
The book focuses on the history of Kampong Gelam, which was once a bustling commercial hub. Its narrator, who is named after the place where she was born, describes the various communities that settled in the area and how they interacted with each other. It reveals how the people of Kampong Gelam helped each other in times of need, and how they were able to live through war, disasters, and changes to their city’s economy.
The citation for this work calls it “a synthesis of historical evidence and primary sources, thanks to Hidayah Amin’s extensive personal inputs.” It also shows how Kampong Gelam has changed over the years and its significance to Singapore’s history.
NUS Professor John Miksic, the winner of the inaugural NUS Singapore History Prize in 2018, won for his book on Singapore’s maritime trade and its impact on the city-state. The work outlines the ways in which sea-based trade has contributed to Singapore’s development over two centuries, and how the changing global environment and economic policies have affected its operations.
Similarly, the book on which this year’s NUS Singapore History Prize was won traces the social and economic changes in Singapore through the country’s emergence as a global player in the world of trade. The citation for this book points out that it is the first to look at how Singapore’s role in global trade has shaped its socio-economic development over the course of four centuries.
It examines the key factors that have influenced Singapore’s development as a global trading power, including the country’s strategic location and its ties to other major global economies. In particular, the work highlights how trade policies and foreign policy decisions have impacted the development of Singapore’s trade links with China and India.
The book was published by National University of Singapore Press and edited by NUS historians. It explores how the growing importance of the international market shaped the local economy and the city-state’s development into a thriving metropolis. It argues that the city’s success is not just about its political leadership and strategic location but also about its ability to create and sustain effective institutions. Its citation says that the book is the “first study to use quantitative data to demonstrate the importance of domestic trade to Singapore’s overall economic growth.” It was published in 2021.