Telling the stories of convicts, ordinary folk who built early Singapore

The Istana was formerly known as Government House and was built in 1869 by convicts. They played a role in building other monuments such as St Andrew’s Cathedral, and infrastructure including North and South Bridge roads, Serangoon Road and Keppel
The Istana was formerly known as Government House and was built in 1869 by convicts. They played a role in building other monuments such as St Andrew’s Cathedral, and infrastructure including North and South Bridge roads, Serangoon Road and Keppel Road. PHOTO: ISTANA/NATIONAL PARKS

This is the final article covering the Singapore History Series - Seven Centuries In Six Episodes, organised as part of the SkillsFuture Festival in collaboration with the Singapore Bicentennial Office

The present-day narrative on Indian convict labourers of 19th-century Singapore generally focuses on their material contributions - their role in building monuments such as St Andrew's Cathedral and the Istana, and infrastructure such as North and South Bridge roads, Serangoon Road and Keppel Road.

The belief that the penal policy had been liberal, pragmatic and reformatory was common.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 08, 2019, with the headline 'Telling the stories of convicts, ordinary folk who built early S'pore'. Print Edition | Subscribe