I, KKK: The Autobiography of a Historian is the authorised story of Khoo Kay Kim, a formative and controversial ﬁgure in the ﬁeld of Malaysian history. Many may still recall the uproar over Khoo’s sensational claim, in 2012, that there was no evidence that legendary Malaysian warrior Hang Tuah, or his friends, ever existed. Amidst the storm of controversy, he calmly responded to his critics by asking why people in this country preferred to play up mythical figures instead of people who really contributed a lot to the country. Many Malaysians can’t tell you who the first Malay to be absorbed into the civil service was. Neither do they remember who the first Malay doctor was too, for example. “Many of these real role models are forgotten. Western society remembers its historical figures and separates legend and history. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said here.” Whatever one thinks of him, Khoo is one historian who isn’t afraid of telling the truth, however politically incorrect or unpopular it may sound.
Born in Kampar in 1937, Khoo’s seminal work has shaped the post-independence study of history in modern Malaysia. Author of The Western Malay States 1850-1873, among countless works in the English and Malay languages, he has also had an illustrious career in public life. He was among those instrumental in the formulation of the Rukun Negara (National Principles) following the aftermath of the 1969 race riots. Emeritus Professor of Malaysian History, he has served for over ﬁfty years at the Department of History, University of Malaya. Khoo Kay Kim is widely regarded as the country’s National Historian.
“When I think of my earliest memories, they are shaped in the form of pictures; the maternal ancestral home, for example, on the main Kampar road where I was born on March 28, 1937. It was a double-storey shophouse with a long hallway, a wooden staircase that led to the rooms above and barred windows which refracted the afternoon light. Like many of my generation, my earliest memories were forged by conﬂict — the War and the Japanese Occupation. Soon after my birth, Father, who was a civil servant in the British administration of Malaya was posted to Batu Gajah, Perak. After a brief period in my maternal ancestral home, I was taken along to Batu Gajah and we eventually moved as a family to Teluk Anson, a town by the banks of the Perak River.”
Khoo is one historian who isn’t afraid to give his interpretation of history, however controversial it may sound. (from our newsletter)