Military Government and its Discontents: The Significance of the British Military Administration in the History of Singapore and Malaya

Abstract

The post-war British military government in Singapore and Malaya has often been relegated to a marginal place in historiography. In this article, I argue that this period bears closer study, because its legacies were central to the subsequent turbulent political history of the region, and therefore has much relevance to both researchers and educators.

An Epilogue, a Footnote, and a Case of Historiographical Neglect

In the late summer of 1945, a great reckoning loomed across Southeast Asia. In Burma, a mechanised British army had pursued ragged and demoralised Japanese forces across the Chindwin and Irrawaddy rivers and raced to liberate Rangoon before the monsoon broke. At the other end of Asia, America’s unparalleled transoceanic campaign had arrived at the doorstep of the Japanese home islands. Starved by submarine warfare, its urban centres levelled by firebombing, the Japanese imperium was on its last legs. Throughout the occupied Southeast Asian territories, Japanese garrisons without hope of resupply or evacuation prepared to fight to the end. The battle-hardened British and Indian troops gathered to avenge the disasters of 1942 faced a grim struggle.

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An Inspiring Quote

"[Open-mindedness] includes an active desire to listen to more sides than one; to give heed to facts from whatever source they come; to give full attention to alternative possibilities; to recognize the possibility of error even in the beliefs that are dearest to us."

~ John Dewey, How We Think

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