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An ecological history of the Singapore river: With particular reference to the lighterage industry

Dobbs, Stephen (1999) An ecological history of the Singapore river: With particular reference to the lighterage industry. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

PDF - Whole Thesis
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This thesis is a history of the Singapore River. Using a combination of archival and oral history sources the thesis reconstructs the ecological history of the river and the lighterage industry. Temporally, it encompasses the period 1819 (the founding of modem Singapore) to the present. In reconstructing life along the river, emphasis is placed on the lightermen who earned their livelihood plying the waterway.

In the first section of the thesis (The Singapore River and City) I examine the river across time, locating it in the broader context of Singapore’s development as an entrepot. The aim of these early chapters is to highlight the role of the river and its significant influence on the city of Singapore. Chapters one to four demonstrate the integral part played by the river not only as a trading artery of considerable importance but in actually shaping the city of Singapore. As the river became the centre of trading activity so it became the centre of the city.

The second part of the thesis (Life on the River) focuses on the day to day experience of individuals on and along the river, providing both social and cultural dimensions. Using oral history archives and personal interviews in these chapters, I draw individuals from the shadows of the river’s history by examining, with case studies, life as lived along the river. The emphasis here is on the lightermen who not only worked the waters of the river, but made it their home.

The final section of the thesis (Looking to the Future) examines the transformation of the river from trading artery to tourist attraction, it looks at changes that have occurred since the decision was made to remove lighters from the river, clean up the water and refurbish historical sites along its banks. This marks the dawn of a new era for the river, as restored godowns, shop houses and wharves become bars, ‘pubs’, nightclubs, shopping arcades and other venues of commerce and entertainment on the eve of the next century.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Division of Social Sciences, Humanities and Education
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: Thank you.
Supervisor(s): Warren, James
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