Twentieth Century Impressions of British Malaya: Its history, people, commerce, industries and resources

Twentieth Century Impressions was a series of travel, political and social reference books published by Lloyds Greater Britain Publishing Company between 1901 and 1914. The full series comprises 14 volumes. Each volume is dedicated to a country or region where British power held sway, with the exception of Siam. The titles were typically styled as Twentieth Century Impressions of [country name]: Its history, people, commerce, industries and resources.

20th Century Impressions of British Malaya - cover

Twentieth Century Impressions of British Malaya: Its history, people, commerce, industries and resources is the 5th volume of the series. Published in 1908, it deals exhaustively with the history, administration, peoples, culture, commerce, infrastructures, industries, public services, the land and potentialities of the early life of Straits Settlements and the Federated Malay States.

The book begins with two historical articles written by Arnold Wright. The first deals with the colony of the Straits Settlements; the second with the native states of the Peninsula, with chapters on the Portuguese and Dutch periods contributed by an expert scholar R. J. Wilkinson, author of Papers on Malay Subjects. A wealth of old photos and information accompany this beautifully illustrated rare book.

Today, the book reads more like a paean to the influence and achievement of British in colonial Malaya. In 1909, Charles Otto Blagden, an English Orientalist and linguist who specialised in Malay, wrote in his review that “It is a pity that it is not, as a whole, a really scholarly production”. He also mentioned that the index is, for a book of reference of this size, quite inadequate. His book review was published in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain & Ireland.

 

 

  1. Timothy Auger

    ‘Today, the book reads more like a paean to the influence and achievement of British in colonial Malaya. In 1909, Charles Otto Blagden, an English Orientalist and linguist who specialised in Malay, wrote in his review that “It is a pity that it is not, as a whole, a really scholarly production”. ‘

    Well, taking into account the world in which the book was published, this is a wholly inadequate characterisation of the book, which is absolutely stuffed with invaluable information – as are the others in the series. There is a bit of imperialistic drum-beating in the history sections, and of course science has moved on in some areas, but so what? It’s a book of its time. Don’t be put off. It’s a great reference book, a gateway to Singapore and the Malay Peninsula as they were a century ago.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.