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A Year of Discovery

As we mark the 200th anniversary of Raffles’ arrival in Singapore,
we also look at our time leading up to, and beyond 1819.

Our history is richer and more diverse than we imagine, and understanding our place in the past helps to chart our future together. This year, we invite you to join us on a journey of discovery from Singapore to Singaporean.

In 1942, a man named Lim Bo Seng, along with his team, blew up the Causeway to stop the Japanese from invading Singapore. He didn't look like an action hero, but he did heroic deeds."
Jaron Tia (pictured with his grandfather)
7-year-old Singapore Bicentennial Volunteer
The 1800s marked a turning point for Singapore with Raffles’ arrival along with the waves of pioneers and migrants. With this in mind, we want to infuse a sense of wonder in visitors by capturing unique stories from this century as well as the periods leading up to, and beyond it."
Michael Chiang and Beatrice Chia-Richmond
Creative Directors, The Bicentennial Experience
In the 1700s, the port in Riau welcomed free trade among all: Malays, Javanese, Chinese and the English. Bent on monopoly, the Dutch destroyed trade there, forcing the English to establish their own in Singapore."
Dr Imran bin Tajudeen
Assistant Professor, National University of Singapore
On 25 February 1603, the Dutch attacked the Portuguese ship Santa Catarina off the coast of Changi, seizing a fortune in goods. To justify their actions, they created one of the first papers on the freedom of trade, maritime navigation and prizetaking. Suffice to say, Singapore was the birthplace of modern international maritime law."
Peter Borschberg
Associate Professor, National University of Singapore
Around 1513-15, the Portuguese chronicler Tomé Pires noted that Singapore was of little commercial importance. But by the end of the 1500s, the merchant Jacques de Coutre wrote to Portuguese authorities noting that Singapore was one of the “best ports” in the East Indies. Singapore, at that point, had become a port to the Johore Sultanate."
Kwa Chong Guan
Visiting Fellow, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies
Before the 1400s, Indians and Arabs had visited this part of the world long before the Europeans. But what interests me are the motivations of the Europeans. Raffles and company were certainly not aimless but purposeful. How much did they know of Singapore as a naval base, and later as an emporium of the East?"
Arun Mahizhnan
Special Research Adviser, Institute of Policy Studies
In the 1300s, Temasek must have had a ruler important enough to be recognised by China’s emperor! We found evidence of this in our excavations in Empress Place: imperial grade ceramics that could only have come from 14th century Ming Dynasty Emperor Hong Wu."
Lim Chen Sian
Archaeologist
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