C.M. (Mary) Turnbull's contributions to historical writing on Singapore extended from her 1962 thesis, published in 1972 as The Straits Settlements, 1826-67: Indian presidency to crown colony, to her magisterial history of Singapore, first published in 1977 and reissued in 2009 in an updated edition as A History of Modern Singapore, 1816-2006. Her approach to history involved detailed work with documents and published materials, with a particular focus on political and economic history. One contributor to the present volume described the book as an ""exercise in endowing a modern 'nation-state' with a coherent past that should explain the present.""

As styles in history evolved, younger scholars including some of her former students and colleagues began exploring new approaches to historical research that drew on non-English-language source material and asked fresh questions of the sources. Mary enjoyed controversy and expected debate, and had a deep interest in these accounts, which were in many ways a natural progression from her own publications even when they raised questions about her interpretations and conclusions.

Studying Singapore's Past had its origins in a conference organised to discuss her work. The volume includes ten contributions, some from long-established scholars of Singapore's history, others from a new generation of researchers. Their work offers an evaluation of established understandings of Singapore's history, and gives an indication of new directions that researchers are exploring. In publishing the book, the editor not only pays tribute to a distinguished historian but also makes a contribution to the historiography of Singapore and to ongoing debates about Singapore's past.

Author: Nicholas Tarling
Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 320
Publisher: Nus Press
Publication Date: 31 Mar 2013

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