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





"The Krusenstern Manuscript of the Malay Annals (Sejarah Melayu)"


Ahmat Adam

Date: 26 March (Saturday) 2016

Time: 5 p.m.

Venue: Badan Warisan Malaysia, Jalan Stonor, Kuala Lumpur

  Other than the Hikayat Raja-Raja Pasai, and Hikayat Seri Rama and some other less well-known manuscripts, the Sulalat u’s-Salatin or better known in English as the “Malay Annals”, is considered by many to be the oldest Malay manuscript extant. Because of its status as a work of court literature, the Malay Annals have been known for centuries among the elite within the Malay court circles in the Malay world of Nusantara. The manuscripts of the Annals in existence today are nevertheless only latter-day copies of the original. It appears that over the past three centuries or so there have emerged no less than 44 versions – some of them being complete texts while others only incomplete narratives. They have been labelled “versions” due to the fact that several of the copies have undergone interpolations and revisions under different hands, be they copyists or editors. The numerous variant versions of the Annals have led to unending debates among scholars of Malay studies in the determining the original text that the current existing versions are based on or which existing manuscripts are closest to the original. Sir Richard Winstedt (1938) had claimed that the Raffles MS. No. 18 is the oldest version of the Sejarah Melayu since the last narrative in the text ends with the Portuguese attack on Johor Lama in 1535. But is it so?

Unfamiliar to many scholars though, there is another version of the Malay Annals, known as the Krusenstern Sulalat u’s-Salatin. This Jawi manuscript - copied in Melaka in mid-1798 by three known copyists, namely Haji Muhammad Tahir al-Jawi, Muhammad Zakat Long and Ibrahim Jamrut - is now kept at the Archival library of Oriental Manuscripts in St Petersburg, Russia. Until recently, no study has been undertaken by scholars outside Russia (since the manuscript is inaccessible to non-Russians, it has only been critically examined by Russian scholars writing in Russian) except for the Malaysian academic, Emeritus Professor Dr. Ahmat Adam, who has completed an exhaustive study of the Krusenstern manuscript. The fruits of this study will be delivered in the talk.

Emeritus Professor Dr Ahmat Adam, an international authority on Malay manuscripts and history, will share his insights on ‘The Krusenstern Manuscript of the Malay Annals (or the Sejarah Melayu)’, a text he has studied exhaustively and which is the subject of an upcoming book, at 5 p.m. on Saturday 26 March 2016 at Badan Warisan Malaysia, 2 Jalan Stonor, 50450 Kuala Lumpur.

The talk is open to the public at no charge. All MBRAS members are warmly invited to attend.

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

Emeritus Professor Dr Ahmat Adam (born in Melaka, on 24th March 1941) was a graduate of the University of Malaya (1970) and the School of Oriental & African Studies, University of London (1975). A former professor of History at the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, and the Universiti Malaysia Sabah, Prof. Ahmat is particularly known for his work on the early press in Indonesia, the Straits Settlements of Penang, Malacca and Singapore, and the Malay States. He has written several books and articles, published internationally and locally. Among his recent major publications are Between History and Myth: the Sejarah Melayu and Hang Tuah in Malaysian historiography (2016) (published by Gerakbudaya in Malay), Sulalat u’s-Salatin yakni pertuturan segala raja-raja (a study of the Krusenstern manuscript) (Yayasan Karyawan, 2016), Melayu: Nasionalisme Radikal dan Pembinaan Bangsa (University of Malaya Publishers, 2013), Suara Minangkabau (University of Malaya Publishers, 2012), and Letters of Sincerity: the Raffles Collection of Malay Letters (1780 - 1824) published by the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society in 2009.

Prof. Ahmat is currently transliterating and editing William Cooke’s manuscript 23, “Hikayat Hang Tuah”.



   Latest Journal Issue

JMBRAS December 2015

  The December 2015 issue of JMBRAS is out and members who have fully paid up their annual subscriptions will shortly be receiving their copies. Since the June 2015 issue, we have begun to adopt a new look and layout that we hope will appeal to more readers, as well as curious members of the public. If you have any comments or suggestions about the JMBRAS' new look, please write to us and share your thoughts.

Some of the more interesting highlights of the December issue include a riveting article on the little-known Rani of Jhansi Regiment (RJR), an all-female revolutionary outfit formed in Japanese-occupied Southeast Asia by the anti-British leader Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. The article makes use of oral history accounts of the RJR by Dato' Rasammah Bhupalan (more popularly remembered as the legendary Mrs F.R. Bhupalan, a pioneering Malaysian social activist). There are also compelling articles tracing the history of Malaysian heritage NGOs and a unique examination of issues surrounding the Singapore Cenotaph.

In this issue, we also pay tribute to three giants in the field of Malayan history - Dr Badriyah Haji Salleh, Dr Cheah Boon Kheng and Dr K.G. Tregonning - all three of whom left us in July 2015. Personal anecdotes of their friends and contemporaries illustrate the depth of grief and loss felt by all towards these brilliant and irreplaceable scholars.

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



   New From MBRAS

MBRAS Index 1878-2015

  Visitors to the Society webpage will be pleased to learn that the full index to the JMBRAS between its first issue in 1878 and the latest issue of December 2015 can now be accessed on this site. The Index - virtually an extension of the Index Malaysiana and its Supplements - will enable users to discover all published JMBRAS articles under relevant headings.

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




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 mighty empire 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 later.

The second part to our earlier featured article on "The Malacca Sultanate" features 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 and his 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 decline and spectacular downfall. Wilkinson's article illustrates the fate that awaits a major regional power 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.




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.




Reprint 33: Glimpses of Penang's Past

  The latest in the series of MBRAS Reprints is Reprint No. 33: 'Glimpses of Penang's Past', which 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 thoughtfully 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.



This KUL City    

BWM-MBRAS-TCSB engagement launched

This KUL City, a collaborative effort between Badan Warisan Malaysia (BWM), the MBRAS and urban regeneration vehicle Think City Sdn Bhd (TCSB), was launched on 7 April 2015 in Kuala Lumpur and officially took off with the Bukit Nanas Discovery Walk on 25 April 2015.

This KUL City is a multi-dimensional programme with elements of cultural mapping, youth engagement and historical documentation aimed at raising awareness and compiling an alternative history of the capital city of Kuala Lumpur. The programme will run over a period of 18 months.

This KUL City features an exciting programme lined up throughout the year. There will be an engaging Lecture Series on the history and evolution of Kuala Lumpur with vibrant and eminent speakers, KL City Walks to explore the unknown facets of its history on foot conducted by enthusiastic and knowledgeable guides, and the much-awaited KL City Ghost Stories, an innovative event to explore the paranormal history of the capital in October 2015.

For more information on the various events lined up throughout this year, please follow this link on This KUL City.

This Kul City events are open to the public. For any queries regarding This KUL City, feel free to get in touch with BWM via email: heritage@badanwarisan.org.my com or by telephone at +603-2144-9273.

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