First 10 primers chronicling S'pore's evolution launched

The people behind the first 10 titles of the 50-volume Singapore Chronicles series are (back row, from left) Dr Kevin Tan for Constitution; Dr Daniel Chua, co-author of Diplomacy; Mr Kennie Ting for Heritage; Prof S. Gopinathan for Education; Dr Alex
The people behind the first 10 titles of the 50-volume Singapore Chronicles series are (back row, from left) Dr Kevin Tan for Constitution; Dr Daniel Chua, co-author of Diplomacy; Mr Kennie Ting for Heritage; Prof S. Gopinathan for Education; Dr Alexius Pereira for Eurasians; Prof Vineeta Sinha for Indians; and (front row, from left) Mr Ho Shu Huang and Dr Samuel Chan for Defence; Prof Goh Yihan for Law, and Prof Thio Li-ann for Presidency. Prof Evelyn Goh, co-author of Diplomacy, and Dr Nicholas Tarling, author of Colonial Singapore, were not present.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

A series of books that records Singapore's evolution on various fronts such as heritage and diplomacy, written to mark the nation's 50th year of independence, was launched yesterday.

Each title in the 50-volume Singapore Chronicles series is a primer on one of the subjects and penned by experts from the public sector, academia and journalism.

The first 10 books were launched at the National University of Singapore's Bukit Timah campus by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat.

Another 40 titles will be published over the next year.

The books, between 100 and 150 pages each, are jointly published by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) and Straits Times Press.

  • The 10 books launched

  • These are the first 10 titles in the Singapore Chronicles series launched yesterday.

    •Colonial Singapore by Dr Nicholas Tarling, a veteran historian, of the New Zealand Asia Institute

    •Constitution by Dr Kevin Y.L. Tan, an adjunct professor of law at the National University of Singapore (NUS) and Nanyang Technological University (NTU)

    •Defence by Mr Ho Shu Huang of the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies (IDSS) at NTU and Dr Samuel Chan of the Australian Defence Force Academy

    •Diplomacy by Professor Evelyn Goh of the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre at the Australian National University and Dr Daniel Chua of the IDSS

    •Education by Professor S. Gopinathan, adjunct professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy and a researcher in teacher education and education policy

    •Eurasians by Dr Alexius Pereira, deputy director of research and statistics at the Ministry of Home Affairs and previously assistant professor for sociology at NUS

    •Heritage by Mr Kennie Ting, group director for museums and development at the National Heritage Board

    •Indians by Professor Vineeta Sinha, who heads the sociology department and the South Asian Studies programme at NUS

    •Law by Associate Professor Goh Yihan,

    a contract law expert at the Singapore Management University

    •Presidency by Professor Thio Li-ann, a constitutional law expert at NUS' law faculty

The project received grants from the SG50 steering committee chaired by Mr Heng, who told the 120 guests at the launch that the Singapore Chronicles series is unprecedented in its scope.

He said it was important for Singaporeans to know their history and the key events that got Singapore to where it is today.

He also noted that as the Golden Jubilee year comes to a close, the conversation is shifting towards the future.

However, he added: "You cannot build towards the future without a deep understanding and appreciation of the past. The Singapore Chronicles serve not only as a reminder of how far we have come, but as a reference for our way forward.

"My hope is that as we work towards the future, we and our young will draw out our best from our history, build upon it, and grow the Singapore spirit."

The set of primers in the Singapore Chronicles series is written in a manner that is accessible to the lay reader, providing a factual analysis of events, institutions and processes, Mr Heng added.

"These are not polemical threads that argue one way or the other. The point is not to establish a definitive point of view, but to make available our history - readers are free to form their own impressions."

Several titles in the series cover the pre-Independence years, touching on pre-colonial Singapore stretching back 700 years, as well as historical milestones such as the Japanese Occupation, the Emergency, Merger, Confrontation and Separation.

Others focus on institutions such as the Constitution, the Presidency, Governance, Law, Policing, Multiculturalism, the Economy and Transport.

Other topics covered include identity, civil society, housing, water, food, flora and fauna, urban planning, literature and sports.

IPS special research adviser Arun Mahizhnan, one of two co-editors for the project, said the series seeks to record, explain and offer objective insights into what has made Singapore tick.

Mr Heng said he found the whole series tells the story of the Singapore spirit, which is made up of the qualities shown by pioneers and developed among citizens as friends and neighbours over the years.

"In our institutions, we see our integrity, honesty, striving for excellence. In our external and economic affairs, we see our principles, our adaptability, our strength in spite of our size, and our openness to the world," he said.

"In our social and cultural histories, we see the everyday ruggedness and resilience of ordinary Singaporeans, and we see the care we have for one another regardless of race, language or religion.

"Throughout, we see our determination to build, defend and grow a multiracial, meritocratic society of our own - our own Singapore, our own home," he added.

The books are available at major bookstores for $16 each (after GST).

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 11, 2015, with the headline 'First 10 primers chronicling S'pore's evolution launched'. Print Edition | Subscribe