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Records and voices of social history: The case of the great depression in Singapore

Loh, K.S. (2006) Records and voices of social history: The case of the great depression in Singapore. Southeast Asian Studies, 44 (1). pp. 31-54.


This paper discusses the roles of written and oral records in the writing of the social history of Singapore. It takes the case of the early 1930s Great Depression, which has hitherto been treated as a subject of economic history, written from the colonial records. This paper examines how using in conjunction colonial, newspaper, coroner, biographical, and oral records provides a window into the social history of the slump, enabling fresh perspectives into how people were affected by the crisis and how they sought to negotiate it. While a global economic slump might be thought to have severe effects on the residents of a colonial city reliant on entrepot trade, evidence drawn from the wider range of sources suggests that the slump’s impact was not uniformly harsh and that people in Singapore were not hapless victims. Many of them actively negotiated the Depression’s worst effects, utilising family and kinship ties which had developed among the island’s migrant communities.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Asia Research Centre
Publisher: Kyoto University. Center for Southeast Asian Studies
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