By Tom Benner
The top-selling book at the recent Singapore Writers Festival offers a controversial reassessment of Singapore’s founding father. Sir Stamford Raffles comes off as the brutal face of British imperialism – far from the high-minded English gentleman and heroic figure of popular conception – in Tim Hannigan’s new book Raffles And The British Invasion Of Java.
The author, who will discuss the book at Select Books on Armenian Street in Singapore on 15 December 2012 at 5 pm, portrays Raffles as a wildly ambitious opportunist who could be manipulative, devious, thieving, jealous, and petty.
Hannigan, a British-born freelance journalist and photographer who divides his time between Cornwall, UK, and Indonesia, says he was motivated to write the book by a commonly held view among Indonesians that their country would be more advanced today – more like Singapore – had it been colonised by the British, not the Dutch.
The short-lived and largely forgotten British period of Indonesian history started with the Raffles-led British seizure of Java from the Dutch in 1811. With Raffles assuming the post of lieutenant-governor at age 30, the turbulent, five-year rule known as the British Interregnum was marked by thievery, brute force, and wanton destruction, Hannigan asserts. Continue reading