Can the Subadar speak? The Malay States Guides in November–December 1914

22 January, 2015 • 4) Contemporary – C. XIX, XX, XXI, History 1383

Jin Li Lim,  Stevenson Prize in International History 2011
London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)

This paper is an attempt to contribute to the Military History of Singapore through a deliberate and focused critique of the existing historiography of a specific event in Singapore’s martial past—namely, the refusal of the Malay States Guides regiment to obey their deployment orders in 1914. It demonstrates the sweeping historical inaccuracies of existing historical narratives through the critical analysis of existing and available primary evidence, further explaining the prominence of such narratives in the light of British imperial rationalisations that allowed, if not enabled, such narratives to assume a position of accuracy in historical discourse. In so doing, this paper asserts an especial epistemological importance in terms of its implications on the practice of ‘subaltern’ histories, arguing that its imputed subalternity demonstrates one way of answering the historical problem of essentialism in ‘subaltern’ histories.

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