From Our Archives

The Capture of Malacca, A.D. 1511 (NEW!)

The Malacca Sultanate

Meteorological Report, 1885

Notes on Names of Places in Singapore and its Vicinity

History of the Translation of the Bible into Malay

The Philippine Claim to Sabah

 

 

   ANNOUNCEMENT

A Fund to Commemorate the Life and Work of Dr Cheah Boon Kheng (1939-2015), Editor Emeritus, Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society and Historian

  Dr Cheah Boon Kheng, former Vice-President of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, passed away on 27 July 2015. He first joined the Society in 1976 and became its Vice-President in 1991, a post he relinquished in 2014 upon being diagnosed with cancer. Boon Kheng also served as editor of the JMBRAS for nearly two decades, and handled the production of a large number of Monographs and Reprints.

The Society announces the creation of a Cheah Boon Kheng Memorial Fund, to be used to support MBRAS publications. The first volume financed by the Fund will be a selection of Boon Kheng’s articles that will reflect his major scholarly concerns.

The Society is inviting contributions to this fund. Remittances can be sent through PayPal, or by a bank transfer or a cheque payable to the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society. Details for a bank transfer are as follows:

Name of Bank : Maybank
Address : 66, 68 & 70 Jalan Maarof, Bangsar Baru, 59000 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Account number: 514123165660
Account name : Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society
Swiftcode : MBBEMYKL

For payments made by bank transfer, we ask that donors send MBRAS a scanned copy of the receipt by e-mail at mbrasmsb@gmail.com along with their postal mailing address so that we can publicly acknowledge the donation and send a receipt.

 

 

EXCLUSIVE EVENT

"Searching for Ali Wallace":
a film by Jamie Curtis Hayward and June Thio

Date: 13 May (Saturday) 2017

Time: 4 p.m.

Venue: Badan Warisan Malaysia, Jalan Stonor, Kuala Lumpur


  An exclusive screening of the new docu-drama film "Searching for Ali Wallace" will be held on Saturday, 13 May 2017 at 4 p.m. at Badan Warisan Malaysia, 2 Jalan Stonor, Ampang, Kuala Lumpur.

"Searching for Ali Wallace” documents the attempt by Dato' Sri Dr Gathorne Gathorne-Hardy, the Earl of Cranbrook and film-maker Jamie Curtis Hayward to shoot a documentary in Bahasa Indonesia to celebrate the standing of Ali Wallace (as he named himself) as a self-taught naturalist-collector and Indonesian hero, whose endeavours saved the life and helped to create the reputation of his employer, Alfred Russel Wallace.

Ali joined Wallace on his famous expeditions in Southeast Asia (1855-1862) after the resignation of Charles Allen, Wallace’s young English assistant. In his contemporary journal, his letters home and in later publications, Wallace consistently referred to Ali in terms such as “My Borneo boy”, or “My Sarawak lad” but gave no other clues to his background.

Co-directed with June Thio, this ‘behind-the-scenes’ film is a light hearted account of the journey that the Earl, Jamie and their crew made in retracing the footsteps of Wallace and Ali from Sarawak to Ternate. With the help of an amateur actor, Rafael, a professional Hal Scardino, and many helpful others whom they met, they acted out scenes from Wallace’s accounts of his trip with varying degrees of success!

The film's first screening in Kuching in October 2016 was sponsored by Friends of the Sarawak Museum, where Lord Cranbrook is the honorary curator of mammals. Its premiere in the United Kingdom, at the Aldeburgh Documentary Festival in Suffolk the following month, was presented by the Earl himself. Most recently, in March 2017, at a joint meeting of the Sarawak Association and the British Malaysia Society at the Royal Overseas League in London, the film was once again exhibited, prefaced by an introductory talk by Lord Cranbrook.

Further information on Alfred Russel Wallace, including details of the documentary film in question, may be obtained from The Alfred Russel Wallace Website specifically devoted to the life and work of the great naturalist.

Admission to the event is free and is open to all. MBRAS and BWM members are graciously invited to attend.

As places may be limited, please confirm your attendance by telephone to MBRAS at +603-22835345 or BWM at +603-21449273, or by email at mbrasmsb@gmail.com

 

 

   Our New Patron

Chan Sek Keong, Esq.

  Following the tragic passing of our former Singapore patron Mr Lee Kuan Yew in March 2015, a new Patron for the MBRAS has been found in the eminent person of Mr Chan Sek Keong, the former Chief Justice of Singapore and one of the region's most respected legal minds. Mr Chan hails from Ipoh where he was born in November 1937. When he graduated in 1961 from the University of Malaya (then in Singapore), Mr Chan became among the first batch of 22 locally-trained law graduates who had completed the inaugural law degree programme.

Mr Chan has had wide-ranging experience in the legal and judicial services, coupled with a successful private practice. As the Attorney-General of Singapore, Mr Chan served in this capacity for 14 years. A considerable part of his life was spent on the Bench, first as Supreme Court judge before being elevated as Chief Justice in 2006, in which capacity he served for three terms before retiring in 2012. Mr Chan is married to Elisabeth Eber, herself a foremost legal practitioner and a sister of Cambridge-educated lawyer-activist John Eber, a colourful figure in the post-war political landscape of Singapore. A rather more detailed biography of Mr Chan may be accessed HERE

Mr Chan was formally introduced to the Council during the Singapore round of the meeting in September 2016 when, together with Mrs Chan, he attended the MBRAS Lecture by Dr Tim Barnard on H.N. Ridley at the Singapore Botanic Gardens. The Council feels privileged to obtain the patronage of such an illustrious personality as Mr Chan and would like to extend a warm and sincere welcome to him.

 

 

   Latest Journal Issue

JMBRAS December 2016

  The December 2016 issue of JMBRAS is out and copies would have found their way to members' post boxes by now. Members may have noticed that the new JMBRAS covers since the June 2015 issue have been graced by photographs of historically significant buildings, primarily of Malaysian, Singaporean or Bruneian origin. On the cover of this month's issue is the Sultan Azlan Shah Gallery in Kuala Kangsar, the royal town of the state of Perak in Malaysia. Formerly known as the Istana Ulu or Istana Kota, it was built by Sultan Idris I (1849-1916) and was later occupied by him upon its completion in 1903. Restoration work begun by Sultan Azlan Shah (1928-2014) on the palace was completed in its centenary year of 2003 and it is now a shining architectural gem exhibiting styles wrought from Acheh and South Asia.

The year end issue features a highly engrossing article by Timothy Barnard on shifting ideas surrounding the death of the infamous Mahmud Syah II of the Johore-Riau Empire, followed by a thrilling account by Nadia Wright of the fluctuating fortunes in the professional career of Francis James Bernard, the first Master Attendant in the newly established port of Singapore. David Phillips proposes a fresh reexamination of different phases of Borneo history in his stimulating piece. A fascinating article originally penned by Fujio Hara dips into an obscure aspect of the Japanese Occupation by focusing on Imperial troops who enlisted as Communist guerillas to avoid indictment on war crimes at the end of the occupation. Mahani Musa follows up on the theme of the occupation but this time looks at the conditions of Malayan women during the period. Finally, Martha Kaplan takes an anthropological view of the water issue and its place in postcolonial Singapore.

Our Hon. Editor Dr Kratoska has revived the long-defunct Notes and Queries section found in the older, pre-Independence issues of the journal, and this section now makes its millennial debut in December 2016. There are also documents on Singapore history in the form of an original essay by William Farquhar describing the establishment of Singapore as a port and a short note on the history of the Singapore water supply, highlighting once again the significance of water in the ethos of the island republic.

CLICK HERE to view the list of contents of the June issue.

 

 

   New From MBRAS

MBRAS Index 1878-2016

  The fully updated Index to the JMBRAS, between the first issue of its precursor the Journal of the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society (JSBRAS) in 1878 and the latest issue of December 2016 can now be accessed on this site. The Index - virtually an extension of the Index Malaysiana and its Supplements, of which printed copies are still available - has now been published in PDF format and will enable users to refer to all published JSBRAS/JMBRAS articles under relevant headings.

Please click on the title above to download the entire Index.

 

 

   IN MEMORIAM

Dr KG Tregonning MBE (1923-2015)

  Dr Kennedy Gordon Phillip Tregonning MBE, historian, educationist and the oldest Life Member of of the Society, passed away peacefully on Monday, 20 July 2015 at the age of 92. Dr Tregonning's memorial service was held on Tuesday, 28 July 2015 at The Memorial Hall, Hale School, Wembley Downs, West Australia.

Born in 1923, Dr Tregonning attended first Christ Church Primary School and later Hale School, then located at West Perth. At Hale he proved an ardent sportsman, excelling among others in swimming, cricket and athletics. Upon leaving school in 1941 - a period which coincided with the outbreak of the Second World War - Dr Tregonning joined the Army to serve in the 109th Tank Regiment briefly before being transferred to the RAAF where he was commissioned and eventually sent to the UK via the USA.

Dr Tregonning resumed his studies after the war at Adelaide University on the Tinline Scholarship, graduating with highest honours in Political Science and History. His athletic prowess shone equally as in Hale when he was made captain of the varsity rugby team. Dr Tregonning lectured for a time at the university and was even employed briefly as a reporter with the West Australian but by this time it was evident that Dr Tregonning's scholastic attainments would mark him out for greater things in future. In 1950, Dr Tregonning went up to New College, Oxford as a Gowrie Scholar where he earned a Bachelor of Literature. He married his wife Judy Manford that same year and was blessed with five daughters.

Upon coming down from Oxford, Dr Tregonning found himself in Singapore where, after joining the University of Malaya (then in Singapore) as lecturer in 1953, he succeeded C.N. Parkinson as Raffles Professor in History in July 1959 following the latter's resignation. Dr Tregonning's PhD - on the first forty years of British occupation in Malaya - had the singular honour of being the first degree awarded at the first convocation ceremony of the university in Kuala Lumpur in 1958. His Singapore spell - a tenure lasting some 14 years - counted among the happiest periods of his life, according to his daughter. Away in a foreign land for 14 years and with five growing daughters, Dr Tregonning soon decided to return to Australia. He was fortunate as it was during this time that the headmastership of Hale became vacant. Dr Tregonning, at a friend's suggestion, decided to apply for the position despite having no previous experience managing a school. Nevertheless, the school's Board of Governors to their eternal credit, decided to appoint Dr Tregonning - an Old Haleian - to the post, marking an exceptionally brilliant 22-year period when Hale flourished under Dr Tregonning's able stewardship.

Dr Tregonning's direct involvement with the Society went as far back as 1954 when he was made its Life Member. At the time of his demise, Dr Tregonning, at 92, was its oldest Life Member. However, Dr Russell Jones of Cornwall - the eminent Orientalist - has the honour of being Life Member for even longer than even Dr Tregonning, as the former was elected in 1949. Dr Tregonning's scholastic contributions to the Society's Journal amounted to no less than eleven significant articles over a period of 47 years on subjects as diverse as the elimination of slavery in North Borneo, a historical account of the Straits Trading Company and a bird's eye view of tertiary education in Malaya during the colonial period. In these terms, few can match Dr Tregonning's brilliant output with the exception of earlier scholars associated with the Society such as R.O. Winstedt or R.J. Wilkinson.

In a 1988 interview, Dr Tregonning admitted to having vague notions of being a writer when young. In fact, he was a gifted writer armed with a razor-sharp intellect as evinced by his prodigious literary output, all of which were characterised by a distinctive style in which clarity, brevity and smooth flow of narrative were paramount. Among them we may especially mention North Borneo Under Chartered Company Rule, A History of Modern Sabah 1881-1963 and Home Port Singapore, a history of the Straits Steamship Company, all of which were written during his years as Raffles Professor of History. Much less known were Dr Tregonning's output after his retirement years, namely The Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club 1896-1996, a centennial account of the local yacht club; Young Hearts Run Free, a history of his alma mater Hale School and also Merdeka and Much More, a brief memoir of his years in Singapore as Raffles Professor of History between 1953 and 1967, which was probably among his last works to be published.

In private life, Dr Tregonning was known as a quiet, unassuming gentleman with a sense of humour coupled with a modest demeanour. He was a dedicated yachstman all his life, having joined the Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club in 1938 and at his demise, also its longest serving member. He continued to retain a lifelong affection for Hale by being an active member of the Old Haleians and was frequently invited to its annual functions.

The Council extends its sincere condolences to his family members and notes with gratitude and humility his immeasurable contributions to the Society in particular, and to the discipline of History, in general. May his soul rest in peace.

The Council also notes with sorrow the tragic passing of three very eminent historians, all torchbearers of the Society, in quick succession one after the other, in the month of July 2015. The death of Dr Badriyah Haji Salleh on 2 July 2015 was followed by that of Dr KGP Tregonning on 20 July 2015 and Dr Cheah Boon Kheng on 27 July 2015, a week after Dr Tregonning's death. May their deeds and thoughts live on eternally to shine a beacon on Malaysian history and guide future historians to tread in their illustrious footsteps.

An obituary notice on Dr Tregonning may be published in the upcoming JMBRAS issue. Meanwhile the Society welcomes any of its members, or indeed anybody at all, who have had the good fortune to be acquainted with the late Dr Tregonning to write in and supply us with anecdotes or recollections that will help celebrate his memory and his outstanding scholarship as historian.

 

 

   NEW Featured Article : The Capture of Malacca, A.D. 1511    

  The rise and fall of nations and governments are usually of mere passing interest to most of us. However when a formidable regional power like the Malacca Sultanante crumbles to the ground after holding sway for over a century, it represented a turning point that triggered a major political realignment in Southeast Asia in the 16th century and had far-reaching geopolitical consesequences for the region at the time and for several centuries thereafter.

The second part to our earlier featured article on "The Malacca Sultanate" offers an engaging account of the military campaign to capture Malacca by the Portuguese in July 1511. Its author, R.J. Wilkinson, was one of the finest scholar-administrators that British Malaya ever produced whose works on Malay subjects continue to be standard reference to this day. In this article, Wilkinson takes the reader through developments which set in motion events that eventually led to Malacca's rapid decline and spectacular downfall. Wilkinson's article illustrates the fate that awaits a major regional actor like Malacca when an emerging naval power like Portugal takes advantage of its weakness brought about by administrative decay, incompetence, internal dissent and damaging games of court intrigue.

CLICK HERE to view the article and summary.

As usual, comments and corrections are much sought after. Meanwhile we hope readers will enjoy this rather short article and our brief notes accompanying the article.

 

 

   NEW From MBRAS

Monograph 48: Perniagaan Haji dan Dokumentasi Sultan Kedah

  The Society's latest publication is Monograph No. 48: 'Perniagaan Haji di Pulau Pinang dan Dokumentasi Sultan Kedah', two joint winners of the Tan Sri Mubin Sheppard Memorial Prize for the best-written academic essays from Malaysian and Singaporean universities.

Both essays are written in Bahasa Malaysia. The first one describes the Haj trade in Penang between the 19th century and its decline in the 1970s. The second essay builds on earlier scholarly efforts to study the Royal Correspondence of Sultan Abdul Hamid of Kedah (1864-1943, r. 1882-1943) while attempting a socio-economic survey of Kedah under his reign. The volume has been deftly edited by MBRAS Council member Dato Prof Abu Talib Ahmad, who also introduces the subject matters to readers.

CLICK HERE for more details.

Edited and introduced by Abu Talib Ahmad
RM40, inclusive of postage, within Malaysia only
For other postage options, please contact us for details.

 

 

   NEW From MBRAS

Reprint 33: Glimpses of Penang's Past

  Latest in the series of MBRAS Reprints, Reprint No. 33: 'Glimpses of Penang's Past' offers a collection of 14 mostly rare pioneering studies of Penang's history, specially selected and painstakingly prepared for easy reference with present-day readers in mind. Reprint No. 33 has been made possible through the generous support extended by urban regeneration vehicle Think City.

Fourteen articles have been judiciously handpicked by scholars Loh Wei Leng and Badriyah Haji Salleh - both specialists to some extent on certain aspects of the island's history - from back issues of the JSBRAS and the JMBRAS, articles long unobtainable and mostly inaccessible to the general public. This engaging collection of mostly rare articles - many inexcusably overlooked and forgotten - have been made available to the public yet again in an attempt to provoke a fresh reinterpretation of Penang history and to supplement, wherever possible, existing gaps in current Penang historiography. The new MBRAS reprint is expected to fulfill the growing public appetite for historical material on Penang, particularly during its 170 years of eventful colonial occupation.

CLICK HERE for more details.

Selected and introduced by Loh Wei Leng and Badriyah Haji Salleh
RM35, inclusive of postage, within Malaysia only
For other postage options, please contact us for details.

 
 
 
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