The NUS Singapore Prize for History

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The NUS Singapore History Prize was introduced in 2014 as part of the SG50 programme to celebrate the country’s 50 years of independence, and is the first prize here devoted to the nation’s history. Administered by the NUS Department of History, it is awarded every three years and comes with a S$50,000 award.

Prof Miksic was one of the five shortlisted authors for the prize. He said he did not expect to win the award because his work is still in its early stages and he had only published it in 2013. Nevertheless, he felt honoured that his book was recognised for making significant contributions to Singapore’s history.

He is an archaeologist who specialises in Southeast Asian studies, and has participated in archaeological excavations at Fort Canning, Empress Place and Old Parliament House. His work sheds light on the question of when Singapore began. He said that bits of historical information, such as the mention of a place called Temasek in Chinese accounts by Wang Dayuan in the 13th century, had been debated for decades. His research has shown that the area was a trading port for 2,000 years.

Ms Hidayah spent about five years researching her book Leluhur: Singapore Kampong Gelam. She is a resident of the Gedung Kuning district where she grew up, and she interviewed more than 100 people for the book. She believes that the prize is an affirmation that ordinary people have meaningful stories to tell about their country’s past.

She also hoped that the prize would inspire more residents of Singapore to pursue careers in history. She also urged the government to consider expanding the range of works that can be nominated for the prize in future, to include novels and movies that can help people understand their nation’s history better. “There are times when history can be told more effectively through fiction than in academic journals,” she said.

In his speech at the event, Mr William, who was born and raised in the United States, praised Singapore for its commitment to the common good. He recalled John F Kennedy’s 1962 Moonshot speech, which challenged Americans to send a man to the moon within 10 years, as an inspiration for his own goal of solving some of the world’s biggest environmental problems. He also cited the work of Nobel laureates and Pulitzer winners, including Singapore’s very own Lee Kuan Yew. Mr William said he was looking forward to seeing how Singapore’s leaders could continue its work in developing solutions to the world’s most challenging issues.