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Raffles

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Raffles, Victoria Glendinning, book reviewWhen I visited Singapore in 2009, I was of course aware of the world famous Raffles Hotel. I even visited it, as many tourists do, to enjoy a Singapore Sling or two in the renowned Long Bar. During the course of my trip, I began to notice that the name Raffles popped up in many other places around the city-state: a hospital, a leading school, a shopping mall and numerous businesses, not to mention the elegant statue on the quayside of the man who bore this name, Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles. For a man who was an imperialist – something we generally frown upon now – he seemed remarkable popular in the country that he played a key part in establishing. He was viewed not as a man imposing one country’s governance upon another, but rather as a founding father, without whom the Singaporeans of today would not be enjoying such prosperous lives. This attitude intrigued me. It was therefore with considerable interest that I read Victoria Glendinning’s Raffles and the Golden Opportunity, the first biography of Raffles to be written in over forty years.

While not full of the unequivocally glowing praise of earlier biographies, Stamford Raffles does come out of this book looking rather good.


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