Wang Gungwu's book among 6 works shortlisted for S$50,000 NUS S'pore History Prize

The prize is awarded once every three years.

Matthias Ang | July 15, 2021, 01:22 PM

The Department of History at the National University of Singapore's (NUS) Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences has announced six works that have been shortlisted for the second run of the NUS Singapore History Prize.

The prize hopes to stimulate "engagement with Singapore's history broadly understood", make the nuances of history "more accessible", and  generate a greater understanding among Singaporeans, a press release by NUS stated.

The History Prize, which is administered by the NUS Department of History, is awarded every three years and carries a cash award of S$50,000 for the winner.

What has been shortlisted?

The shortlist includes both fiction and non-fiction works.

Non-fiction works include Wang Gungwu's Home is Where We Are, which explores his university education in Singapore and UK, and his early academic career in Malaysia.

State of Emergency, a debut novel by Jeremy Tiang about leftist movements and political detentions in Singapore and Malaysia, was also in the shortlist.

The full list:

  • State of Emergency by Jeremy Tiang, published by Epigram Books in 2017,
  • Singapore's Kampong Gelam by Hidayah Amin, Leluhur, published by Helang Books in 2019,
  • Imperial Creatures: Humans and Other Animals in Colonial Singapore, 1819-1942 by Timothy P Barnard, published by NUS Press in 2019,
  • Seven Hundred Years: A History of Singapore by Kwa Chong Guan, Tan Tai Yong, Peter Borschberg and Derek Heng, published by Marshall Cavendish and National Library Board in 2019,
  • Sembawang: A Novel by Kamaladevi Aravindan, published by Marshall Cavendish in 2020, and
  • Home Is Where We Are by Wang Gungwu with Margaret Wang, published by NUS Press in 2020.

Previously, the inaugural prize in 2018 was awarded to Emeritus Professor John Miksic, from the NUS Department of Southeast Asian Studies, for Singapore and the Silk Road of the Sea, 1300 – 1800.

History Prize first created in 2014

The prize had been mooted by Kishore Mahbubani, Distinguished Fellow at the NUS Asia Research Institute, and was created in 2014 in support of SG50.

He also serves as the current jury's chair.

In thanking the nominating committee for nominating six books from the thirty-one works that had been submitted, Mahbubani said:

“The famous American social scientist, Benedict Anderson, said that nations are 'imagined communities'. A shared imagination, especially in history, is a critical glue holding societies today.

Singapore has just begun its journey of discovering its long history. The Singapore History Prize is playing a critical nation-building role by presenting Singaporeans with insightful new understandings of their long and rich history.”

The nominating committee consists of five members drawn from academia, the arts and the civil service. A jury, consisting of five others, will announce the prize winner in Oct. 2021.

Top collage left image via The University of Hong Kong and right image via Global Centre for Technology, Innovation and Sustainable Development Facebook