Five new Singapore Chronicles titles hit the bookstores

By Sim Jui Liang

THE INSTITUTE OF POLICY STUDIES (IPS) has published five more titles in its 50-volume Singapore Chronicles series, bringing the total to 30 so far. These titles are: Japanese Occupation, Malays, Pre-colonial Singapore, Religion and Trade Unions.


Written by Dr Leon Comber, who had served as a Major in the British-Indian Army in World War II and is currently Visiting Senior Fellow at ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute, Japanese Occupation describes “a time of living dangerously” as characterised by economic hardship and deprivation, and the constant fear of being identified by masked informants at screening centres. The volume also discusses the important role of Japanese and British intelligence in the fall of Singapore in February 1942.


An introduction to one of Singapore’s smaller yet resilient and remarkable communities, the volume on Malays offers a glimpse of how the community has responded to the myriad of historical, social and political changes. Such obstacles and opportunities are evident in aspects of education, religion and Syariah laws, among others. The book is co-authored by Dr Noor Aisha Abdul Rahman, Head of the Malay Studies Department at the National University of Singapore (NUS), and Dr Azhar Ibrahim, a lecturer from the same department.


Singapore’s history has long been regarded as beginning with the arrival of Sir Stamford Raffles in 1819. The volume on Pre-colonial Singapore by historian Kwa Chong Guan, a Senior Fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University, makes a compelling argument that there were significant developments on and around the island prior to 1819, beginning from at least 700 years ago. 


Singapore is home to a plethora of religious faiths, traditions and practices, but did you know that syncretic worship (an example being that of Chinese Taoists visiting the Tua Pek Kong Temple and the Malay/Muslim keramat on Kusu Island) is an integral facet of the country’s religious landscape? The volume on Religion, written by Dr Lai Ah Eng, Adjunct Senior Fellow at the University Scholars Programme in NUS, recognises the strengths of this diversity, while highlighting the challenges of growing religiosity and religious diversity.


Finally, the Trade Unions volume by veteran journalist Ivan Fernandez lends a historical context to the concept of tripartism as pursued in Singapore, while chronicling the challenges and accomplishments of the labour movement. It also raises the pertinent question of whether trade unions will remain potent in an era of accelerating technological change and disruption to jobs. 

The Singapore Chronicles series, as a whole, explains what makes Singapore, Singapore. It is a quick and easy read, written by experts in a way even a lay person can enjoy.

The above books, as well as the 25 titles published in 2015 and 2016, are available in major bookstores as well as the online portal of Straits Times Press, the book series’ co-publisher.

Sim Jui Liang is a Research Associate (Special Projects) at IPS. He is also the Assistant Editor of the Singapore Chronicles series.