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Exhibition Spice of Life. Raffles and the Malay world.
Picton Reading Room, Central Library, Liverpool, 9 August - 28 October 2007
Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles (1781-1826) is best known today as the founder of
Singapore, but he was in fact a passionate scholar of all aspects of the Malay world
during nearly twenty years in Southeast Asia in the service of the British East India
Company. Raffles was first posted to Penang and Melaka, and later served as governor
of Java (1811-1816) and of Bengkulu in Sumatra (1818-1824). His monumental work The
History of Java, published in 1817, made his name and earned him a knighthood.
But at the heart of his scholarly legacy is a tragic black hole. When Raffles left
Sumatra for England in February 1824, his ship the Fame caught fire and exploded, and
everything he had gathered over six years was lost. Yet he immediately set about
rebuilding his collections, commissioning new drawings and sending out into the
jungle for new specimens of plants and animals. His last great achievement before
he died on the eve of his 45th birthday was the founding of London Zoo.
Raffles's deep love of the Malay world, extraordinary energy and indomitable spirit
in the face of almost unimaginable adversity are reflected here in his private and
official correspondence in English and Malay, displayed alongside the natural
history drawings which were his greatest pride. Manuscripts and drawings from
the Raffles Family Collection recently acquired by the British Library are shown
alongside books and letters from Liverpool Central Library and Liverpool Record
Office. Volunteers from the Merseyside Malaysian and Singapore Community Association
helped to interpret the Malay letters, and the natural history drawings benefited
from scientific advice from National Museums Liverpool.
Source: Text extracted from the introductory
leaflet by Dr. Annabel Teh Gallop.
See for a list of all twenty-eight exhibits here.