A People’s History of Malaysia: With Emphasis on the Development of Nationalism presents a brief people’s history of Malaysia (formerly Malaya). Its approach is different from that which is often regarded as Official History because it focuses upon the process of making history from below, through the contribution of everyday people to the history of Malaya and Malaysia, and is written in a popular and not academic style.
In focusing on the contribution of the people to the making of history, A People’s History of Malaysia chronicles the development of nationalism and the rise of mass-based politics and people’s independence movements alongside movements related to workers, women, students and indigenous peoples in the formation of a Malaysian nation-state.
History is a very important field of knowledge. It helps individuals and societies to recognise themselves. Knowing our national history enables us to better understand the roots of some of our present-day problems. And understanding present-day problems can help us to anticipate, although not necessarily very accurately, what holds for the future. So, history is an important subject not just for all students everyone should be encouraged to know more about it.
The objective of this book is to present a brief People’s History of Malaysia. The author’s approach is different from that of most books that may be regarded as works of Official History. It is written in a more popular and non-academic style so that it can be easily read by the general public, young and old. To make it less complicated, no footnotes are provided.
This book is mainly based on secondary sources, as listed in the bibliography, and not primary materials such as the official records, documents and reports on Malaysian history which may be found in various libraries and archives in Malaysia, Singapore, the United Kingdom and elsewhere. This book is a preliminary step to writing a more complete and carefully researched people’s history, based on primary as well as secondary sources.
The aims and scope of A People’s History of Malaysia: With Emphasis on the Development of Nationalism are very wide and it is not possible to handle them all adequately in a small volume such as this. As such, the author has chosen to concentrate on one aspect of this country’s history, namely the development of nationalism, particularly in Chapters 3 and 4. Nationalism and the formation of the modern Malaysian nation-state both involved and has changed the lives of all its various peoples.
Nationalism can be a contentious concept of course. Some scholars view that the development of nationalism, especially in its birthplace, Europe, is related to the growth of capitalism. This would be quite difficult to apply to Malaysia, and even perhaps to most developing countries. Here, nationalism grew and flourished even before capitalism developed. The author has chosen to trace the origins of nationalism in this part of the world to local acts of resistance to colonialism. There were two phases in the development of a Malayan national consciousness.
The first phase dates back to the sixteenth century, when various rulers or chiefs and their followers began to oppose the foreign powers trying to establish themselves over their territories, for example, the Portuguese in Melaka and later, the British in the Malay states in the nineteenth century. The second phase was when various leaders, groups and ordinary people in different parts of Malaya began to oppose and work towards ending British colonial rule in order to achieve Merdeka, or independence.
There are several approaches to the writing of national history. In this book, these are categorised according to three types of history, namely: Official History, Alternative History and People’s History. Each has its strengths and limitations and implies different methods or approaches to the writing of history; as explained in this book.