Why write William Farquhar and Singapore? A simple question, yet one involving a more complex response.
“In the 1990s, when I was researching the history of the Armenian community in Singapore, I was surprised to read an article in the Journal of the Indian Archipelago describing how William Farquhar had founded Singapore. Soon afterwards I came across two letters claiming a pivotal role for him. This was in such marked contrast to the prevalent view that Sir Stamford Raffles had founded and developed Singapore that I decided to keep copies of the material. Had Farquhar’s real role in Singapore’s founding been misrepresented in Singapore’s history?” ― Nadia Wright
When the achievements of great individuals are exaggerated, an enormous shadow is cast over the work of their subordinates. This has been the case in accounts of the founding of the British settlement at Singapore in 1819 — in which Sir Stamford Raffles has been aggrandised at the expense of Major General William Farquhar. Venerated by contemporary Bugis, Chinese and Indians for his character and accomplishments, Farquhar maintained that he was largely responsible for Singapore’s rapid growth and commercial success. But his claims have been obscured for the most part by the gloriﬁcation of Raffles. In this groundbreaking and carefully documented study, Nadia Wright re-examines East India Company records and other historical documents to offer a fresh analysis of the roles of Raffles and Farquhar in Singapore’s founding and early development. William Farquhar and Singapore reveals new and sometimes startling insights into the achievements and personalities of both men, and explains why Farquhar has been overlooked for so long.
About the author: Nadia Wright is a retired teacher living in Melbourne, Australia, having migrated from New Zealand. Her research focuses on the Armenians in Southeast Asia as well as the founding of British Singapore. She is the author of Respected Citizens: The History of Armenians in Singapore and Malaysia, co-authored Vanda Miss Joaquim Singapore’s National Flower & the Legacy of Agnes & Ridley, and has published related scholarly articles.