Episode 39: The Malayan Dream

The desire of the overwhelming majority of Singapore’s people was the reunification of both parts of Malaya, known as “merger”. Why was merger so important to Singapore’s people? Why did they identify as Malayan? Why was it so intimately bound up with the hopes and aspirations of Singaporeans? In this episode, PJ Thum discusses the reasons driving (and complicating) merger, and describes how a desperate Lee Kuan Yew convinced the leadership of UMNO to agree to merger. Please send questions, comments, and feedback to thehistoryofsingapore@gmail.com or visit thehistoryofsingapore.com. Support the show at patreon.com/pjthum .

Episode 38: Pride Cometh Before The Fall

At the end of the People’s Action Party’s first year in power in May 1960, they were widely popular and riding high. One year later, they were absolutely crushed in a crucial by-election, which party leader Lee Kuan Yew had declared to be a referendum on his government. In this episode, PJ Thum narrates the second year of the PAP’s time in office, including the Ong Eng Guan affair and the end of Lee’s secret conspiracy with the Malayan Communist Party, how Lee fell victim to a situation largely of his own making, and the desperate gamble he would embark on to restore his authority. Please send questions, comments, and feedback to thehistoryofsingapore@gmail.com or visit thehistoryofsingapore.com. Support the show at patreon.com/pjthum.

Episode 37: The Nature of Colonialism

What is the nature of colonialism? What does it mean to be a colonised country? What does it mean to behave in a colonial manner? Can we be both part of an independent country and yet still be oppressed like a colonial one? These questions would underpin the conflicts of the final phase of Singapore’s decolonisation. In this episode, PJ Thum discusses the question in the light of the act that was most associated with the tyranny of colonialism: detention without trial. Please send questions, comments, and feedback to thehistoryofsingapore@gmail.com or visit thehistoryofsingapore.com. Support the show at patreon.com/pjthum. Learn more about “1987: Untracing the Conspiracy” at 1987untracing.wix.com/1987untracing

 

Episode 36: Winning’s Easy. Governing’s Harder.

The PAP won the 1959 general election, but now their leaders had to govern Singapore. They would find this to be much harder than anticipated. They churned out legislation with the twin goals of creating an ideal socialist state in Singapore and consolidating control, but in the process began to alienate their colleagues and the people of Singapore. In this episode, PJ Thum describes how they went about achieving their two aims (starting even before they entered government), the mistakes they made, and how their decisions continue to impact Singapore today. Please send questions, comments, and feedback to thehistoryofsingapore@gmail.com or visit thehistoryofsingapore.com. Support the show at patreon.com/pjthum.

Episode 35: The Turning Point

Singapore’s 140th year was arguably its greatest. For the first time, all of Singapore was under the control of a fully elected, locally responsible government. A popular left-wing party won the election, and proceeded to launch its self-proclaimed People’s Revolution. An independent, socialist, non-communist, prosperous Singapore seemed in the grasp of Singapore at last. In this episode, PJ Thum recounts the elections of 1959, explains why the People’s Action Party won, and discusses the significance of 1959 as a turning point in Singapore history.  Please send questions, comments, and feedback to thehistoryofsingapore@gmail.com or visit thehistoryofsingapore.com. Support the show at patreon.com/pjthum.

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.