Claire Lowrie
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A ‘second Singapore’?
The connected histories of Darwin and Singapore, 1860s–1930s
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This chapter explores the connected histories of Singapore and Darwin from the 1860s and the 1930s. The chapter begins by acknowledging the marked differences between Darwin and Singapore. Singapore was a key trading port in Southeast Asia and an exploitation colony while Darwin was a colonial backwater and a member of a settler colony. While acknowledging the differences between the sites, shipping records, newspaper articles, trade figures, migration statistics and colonial memoirs are used to show how these neighbouring colonies were connected by an exchange of trade, travellers and migrants. In addition to exploring this forgotten history of connection, Chapter 1 outlines the similarities between Singapore and Darwin. They were both tropical colonial ports and were characterised by having multiethnic populations that included a white minority and large numbers of Chinese migrants. The two colonies also shared a similar tropical colonial culture. In both sites, arguments about the degenerating impacts of the climate and the need to demonstrate colonial prestige as well as a ready availability of affordable ‘coloured’ domestic labour ensured that white colonists and non-white interracial elites, employed a multiethnic entourage of servants in their homes. The favoured servants were Chinese ‘houseboys’.

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Masters and servants

Cultures of empire in the tropics


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