Raffles Hires Munshi Abdullah

Munshi Abdullah
Munshi Abdullah

A Teacher and Writer

An accomplished Malay scholar who was known for his work as a teacher, interpreter and writer.

Explore

A Teacher and Writer

Ibrahim, Mr. Raffles’ secretary, came to my house and told me that Mr. Raffles wanted to hire a Malay writer who has good handwriting. He asked for a specimen of my writing and took it to Mr. Raffles. That very afternoon, one of his policemen came to tell me that…
An Indian Soldier
Circa 1810
Congratulations dear Munshi! You are a talented fellow, skilled in words and languages. I remember years ago, when you visited the Indian garrison at Melaka Fort. You taught religion to my fellow Muslim soldiers and me, and we taught you Hindustani in return. It became another useful language for you, in addition to Tamil and Malay, which you already mastered. We aptly bestowed upon you the name “Munshi”, the Hindustani word that refers to a teacher of languages. I’ve heard a lot about Mr. Raffles but have never met him! What does he look like
According to Munshi Abdullah, Stamford Raffles was of medium build. He had a broad forehead, a sign of high purpose, and a round head that was prominent in front, which signified his intelligence. His hair was brown, which was considered a sign of courage, and his big ears was a sign that he paid close attention. He also had thick eyebrows. His left eye had a slight squint, his nose were prominent, and his cheeks were somewhat hollow. His lips were thin, which was a sign of eloquence. He spoke gently, his mouth wide. He had a broad chest, a slender waist and his feet were of medium size. When he walked, he stooped slightly.
and what is he like?

A British Singapore

Munshi Abdullah
Munshi Abdullah

A Teacher and Writer

An accomplished Malay scholar who was known for his work as a teacher, interpreter and writer.

Explore

A Teacher and Writer

I heard a great deal about the signing of the treaty
The treaty was read in English by Captain Francis Crossley to the Europeans, English, Dutch, French and Danes present. It was then signed by Stamford Raffles on behalf of the East India Company, and sealed by his Malay secretary with the seals of state belonging to the Sultan and the Temenggong. Three copies of the treaty were made: one for the Governor-General in India, one for the Resident of Singapore William Farquhar, and one for the Sultan. After the ceremony, presents such as opium, arms, and “woollens of a scarlet colour” were handed out.
! It all began when Mr. Farquhar asked Temenggong Abdul Rahman for permission to build a town in Singapore. The Temenggong consented and an agreement was signed. Shortly after, Mr. Raffles arrived in Singapore. Together with Mr. Farquhar, he headed…
A Local Trader
Circa 1819
If I may point out, I’m afraid your account is inaccurate, Munshi Abdullah. Regarding the provisional agreement, it was signed between the Temenggong and Sir Stamford Raffles, not Mr. Farquhar.

The Migration of Melakans to Singapore

Munshi Abdullah
Munshi Abdullah

A Teacher and Writer

An accomplished Malay scholar who was known for his work as a teacher, interpreter and writer.

Explore

A Teacher and Writer

News has spread all over Melaka that Mr. Farquhar is really in Singapore to build a town. Melakans who followed him said whoever brought fowls, ducks and fruit would make great profits. Upon hearing this, people were eager to leave, with some preparing goods to bring over. Others wanted to…
A Melakan Immigrant
Circa 1819
We evaded the pirates and the Dutch, and at long last arrived in Singapore. Little did we know that new threats awaited us. Our houses are infested with pests!

Munshi Abdullah Arrives in Singapore

Munshi Abdullah
Munshi Abdullah

A Teacher and Writer

An accomplished Malay scholar who was known for his work as a teacher, interpreter and writer.

Explore

A Teacher and Writer

I left Melaka and have arrived in Singapore with Reverend Mr. Thomsen. One side of the river has no houses, but is full of mangrove, api-api
Also known as avicennia, api-api was one of the most common species of mangrove trees found in Singapore at the time.
swamps and mud flats, with people living only on the other side. Sultan Hussein Mohamed Shah built his palace at Kampong Glam, but it…
A Sepoy Soldier
Circa 1819
When I arrived in Singapore on the Indiana, not a single brick house was to be found—just dwellings made from attap. Completing the landscape were various species of tropical trees, shrubs and herbs. Crime was rife, with robberies and break-ins taking place in broad daylight. People, even policemen on duty, have been murdered on their way to Kampong Glam.

The Orang Laut of Singapore

Munshi Abdullah
Munshi Abdullah

A Teacher and Writer

An accomplished Malay scholar who was known for his work as a teacher, interpreter and writer.

Explore

A Teacher and Writer

The Orang Laut in Singapore did not use to wear coats, but a skirt of an unrecognisable colour that stayed on their bodies wet and dry. Its vile smell was incredible. They never lived on shore or built houses, but were accustomed to sitting in their boats all their lives.…
An Orang Kallang
An Orang Kallang

They were boat-dwellers who lived in swamps at the mouth of the Kallang River. At the time of Stamford Raffles’ landing, these indigenous inhabitants constituted half of the approximately 1,000 residents.

1820s
It’s true that many members of the Orang Laut have had their lives changed for the better. But for my community, this is not the case. We were instructed by the Temenggong to move to the Pulai River in Johor. There, a smallpox epidemic broke out and many of us perished.
Suggestions For You
The Orang Laut of Singapore
Singapore attracted a lot of migrants from all across the Malay Archipelago. When the British took a census of the people on the island, these new people were simply classified as Malays, despite their diversity.
Find out more

The Institution

Stamford Raffles
Stamford Raffles

An East India Company Officer

An enterprising East India Company (EIC) officer looking to make his mark on the Eastern Seas. He was Lieutenant-Governor of Bencoolen when he controversially set up an EIC trading post in Singapore.

Explore

An East India Company Officer

Munshi Abdullah, I have a certain proposal upon which I wish to act, a project which may be of advantage to us all, and to our children and grandchildren. It is my intention to build a place of learning for all races where they may study their respective languages under…
Munshi Abdullah
Munshi Abdullah

A Teacher and Writer

An accomplished Malay scholar who was known for his work as a teacher, interpreter and writer.

Explore
A Teacher and Writer
Circa 1823
At six o’clock this morning, all the white men, the Sultan, the Temenggong and the Malays, gathered outside a building under construction. A block of stone with a cavity lined with iron plates was fitted underneath the door. Mr. Raffles arrived a moment later, with people crowding round him. He placed a golden rupee in the stone. Other white men also put in money, to the total of some 80 or 90 dollars. A Chinese blacksmith then welded a tin cover on the hole so that nobody could ever open it, and the stone was placed under the doorway. As the door was raised into position, a 12-gun salute was fired from the hill, and Mr. Raffles named the building The Institution.

Munshi Recounts the 1824 Treaty

Munshi Abdullah
Munshi Abdullah

A Teacher and Writer

An accomplished Malay scholar who was known for his work as a teacher, interpreter and writer.

Explore

A Teacher and Writer

At ten o’clock, the Sultan and the Temenggong came up the hill in a carriage. Upon arrival, they were greeted by Mr. Crawfurd and invited to his house. There, they concluded the Crawfurd Treaty, which ceded Singapore to the East India Company for a lump sum of money
According to Munshi Abdullah, John Crawfurd had promised to cancel the chiefs’ debts, continue their allowance for life and pay them an additional lump sum of 20,000 Spanish dollars each. Despite their objection to the treaty terms, the chiefs finally relented after not being paid their allowance for three straight months.
. The next…
John Crawfurd
John Crawfurd

The Second Resident

The second British Resident of Singapore, who held office from 9 June 1823 to 14 August 1826.

The Second Resident
7 Aug 1824
I ordered a proclamation to be read all around Singapore today. This is the message: “Be it known to all men in this Settlement that full judicial and legislative control throughout Singapore has been passed to the East India Company, and that neither Sultan Shah nor the Temenggong retains any power. The Sultan can make no order except on the authority of a magistrate.”

Europe Modernises at Full Steam!

Munshi Abdullah
Munshi Abdullah

A Teacher and Writer

An accomplished Malay scholar who was known for his work as a teacher, interpreter and writer.

Explore

A Teacher and Writer

I went on board the magnificent British warship Sesostris when it stopped by Singapore. It ran on something called steam power. I can’t begin to describe all that I saw on the ship and in those cabins. If I was to attempt to write down all that I saw, I’m…
A Friend of Munshi Abdullah
Circa 1841
You always magnify the prowess of the English and tell us the most impossible things! I am no fool. How can a steamship even exist?
Suggestions For You
The Singapore Sultans from 1819 to 1855
Sultan Hussein’s royal compound in the Kampong Glam area was the epicentre of regional trade after the treaties of 1819. British treaties and financial problems threw his legacy into disarray.
Find out more
The Life and Times of Daing Ibrahim
After his father Temenggong Abdul Rahman died, Daing Ibrahim was forced to take to the high seas to survive.
Find out more
This website is optimised for 1280 x 800 resolution in Chrome 70, Safari 12, Firefox 63, and IE 11.
For the best viewing experience, please expand your window browser or press "Ctrl -" or "Command -".
For the best viewing experience, please rotate your device to portrait mode.