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Masters and servantsCultures of empire in the tropics$
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Claire Lowrie

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780719095337

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: September 2016

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719095337.001.0001

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A ‘second Singapore’? The connected histories of Darwin and Singapore, 1860s–1930s

A ‘second Singapore’? The connected histories of Darwin and Singapore, 1860s–1930s

(p.13) Chapter One A ‘second Singapore’? The connected histories of Darwin and Singapore, 1860s–1930s
Masters and servants

Claire Lowrie

Manchester University Press

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’.

Keywords:   Tropical colonialism, Exploitation colonialism, Settler colonialism, Domestic service, Colonial domesticity, Plural society, Port city, shipping, Multiethnic, Chinese houseboys

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