Episode 34: Housing the People: An Interview with Dr Loh Kah Seng

One of the most pressing issues facing Singapore in the 1950s was the severe shortage of housing for its rapidly growing population. But imposing a solution on the population of Singapore would have drastic consequences for the identity and culture of Singaporeans, altering their relationship to the earth, to the state, and to each other. In this episode, PJ Thum sits down with Dr Loh Kah Seng, author of “Squatters into Citizens: The 1961 Bukit Ho Swee Fire and the Making of Singapore.” Please send questions, comments, and feedback to thehistoryofsingapore@gmail.com or visit thehistoryofsingapore.com. Support the show at patreon.com/pjthum.

Episode 33: The Apogee of Democracy

Who are the voters of Singapore and what do they want? This is the question that every Singapore politician faces. And this question was particularly apropos in 1957, with an election imminent in which Singaporeans would be fully enfranchised for the first time. With no further repression possible, Singapore’s politicians would actually have to fight and compete with each other for votes. And in these circumstances, Singapore reached the apogee of its democracy. In this episode, PJ Thum describes how the party platforms converged on what Singaporeans wanted; explains the implications of these priorities; and argues that Singaporean democracy worked, laying the foundation for Singapore’s future prosperity. Please send questions, comments, and feedback to thehistoryofsingapore@gmail.com or visit thehistoryofsingapore.com. Support the show at patreon.com/pjthum.

Episode 32: The Cardinals of the Kremlin

The PAP left-wing and its mass base were furious with Lee Kuan Yew’s right-wing adventurism and selfishness. A confrontation with the Lee Kuan Yew faction over the heart and soul of the PAP became inevitable. But with the PAP in pole position to win the next election, this confrontation would have far-reaching consequences: the winner would get the opportunity to define the next government of Singapore. In this episode, PJ Thum describes how the left and right of the PAP manoeuvred to gain the upper hand in the PAP, and the impact of the outcome on Singapore’s future. Please send questions, comments, and feedback to thehistoryofsingapore@gmail.com or visit thehistoryofsingapore.com. Support the show at patreon.com/pjthum.

 

Special Episode 2: A Short History of Sexuality in Singapore

In honour of Pink Dot (on 4 June 2016), PJ Thum sits down with Dr Jun Zubillaga-Pow, a cultural historian whose research focuses on the artistic and sexual expressions of the Malays in twentieth-century Singapore, to discuss LGBT sexuality throughout the post-1819 history of Singapore. Warning: This episode contains adult themes and may be unsuitable for younger listeners. Please send questions, comments, and feedback to thehistoryofsingapore@gmail.com or visit thehistoryofsingapore.com. Support the show at patreon.com/pjthum.

 

Episode 31: The Big Kelong

Working with the British and Lee Kuan Yew, Lim Yew Hock had successfully crushed the left-wing anticolonial movement. But this was strictly temporary. Eventually an election would have to be called, and the left-wing would be able to contest the election, and they would win. What to do? In this episode, PJ Thum explains how British Colonial Secretary Alan Lennox-Boyd, Lim, and Lee, colluded in secret, using legal manoeuvres to fix the 1959 election; and also discusses the international context of Singapore’s decolonisation in the wake of the Suez Crisis. Please send questions, comments, and feedback to thehistoryofsingapore@gmail.com or visit thehistoryofsingapore.com. Support the show at patreon.com/pjthum.

 

Episode 30: Pah Mata

By 1956, Singapore’s left-wing anti-colonial movement had grown into a coherent multi-ethnic, multi-linguistic movement, that threatened the moral right to British rule in Singapore. The British, Labour Front President Lim Yew Hock, and PAP Secretary-General Lee Kuan Yew all saw the movement as a threat to be crushed (for very different reasons). But they had to find an excuse to destroy the movement, while pinning the blame elsewhere (ideally on each other). In this episode of “The History of Singapore”, PJ Thum explains how Lim Yew Hock attempted to destroy the left-wing anti-colonial movement, while trying to escape the blame. Please send questions, comments, and feedback to thehistoryofsingapore@gmail.com or visit thehistoryofsingapore.com. Support the show at patreon.com/pjthum.

Episode 29: Game of Thrones

The most dramatic impact of David Marshall’s tenure of Chief Minister was that the prospect of independence suddenly seemed possible – and soon. The British would be leaving soon – but who would assume power afterwards? Marshall’s resignation kicked off a deadly race for the Iron Throne of independent Singapore. In this episode, PJ Thum explains the political manoeuvering and treacherous alliances that began the moment Marshall stepped down, and how they would shape the next seven years. Please send questions, comments, and feedback to thehistoryofsingapore@gmail.com or visit http://thehistoryofsingapore.com/ Support the show at http://patreon.com/pjthum.

Episode 28: “Christmas Pudding with Arsenic Sauce”

At the end of 1955, Chief Minister David Marshall’s popularity was at an all-time high. Five months and seven days later, after a failure to win independence at the Constitutional Talks with the British in London, he resigned. What happened? In this episode, PJ Thum recounts the events of the Talks, the failings and failures of Singapore’s politicians, and reflects on what David Marshall’s 14 months in office tell us about what makes a great leader. Please send questions, comments, and feedback to thehistoryofsingapore@gmail.com or visit http://thehistoryofsingapore.com. Support the show at http://patreon.com/pjthum.

Episode 27: “The Living Buddha”

If you read English-language sources, David Marshall appears naive, weak, and irresponsible as Chief Minister. If you read Chinese-language sources, Marshall appears as courageous, principled hero, fighting on behalf of the downtrodden and oppressed people of Singapore. Why the difference? In this episode, PJ Thum discusses David Marshall’s tenure as Chief Minister from April to December 1955, how he was seen by Singapore’s various peoples, and how perspectives change historical narratives. Please send questions, comments, and feedback to thehistoryofsingapore@gmail.com or visit thehistoryofsingapore.com. Support the show at patreon.com/pjthum.

Episode 26: The Lion of Singapore

The greatest of Singapore’s leaders – not the best, nor the most accomplished, perhaps not even the smartest – but the *greatest* of the five men who have led Singapore’s government since 1955 – is David Saul Marshall. David Marshall shaped the praxis of power in Singapore, setting a moral standard that no leader since has managed to reach. His actions – and equally importantly, what he didn’t do – irreversibly shaped his office, and have made a significant, lasting, and often overlooked impact on Singapore’s democracy. In this episode, PJ Thum discusses the origins of David Marshall, and how his humble upbringing shaped his principles, his passions, and his courage, and how this thrust a humble Jew, reluctant to take part in politics, into the role of the first Singaporean-born man to lead our government. Please send questions, comments, and feedback to thehistoryofsingapore@gmail.com or visit thehistoryofsingapore.com. Support the show at patreon.com/pjthum.