In recent years, the Singapore prize has been awarded to books on history that are either critically acclaimed or make significant contributions to the understanding of Singapore’s past. The prize is open to non-fiction or fiction works in English, or translations thereof, that have a clear historical theme. Nominations can be made by any publisher and are due by 30 November of each year. The winner will receive a cash prize of S$10,000 and a plaque.
The winners of the prize will also be invited to a ceremony in Singapore to accept their prizes. In addition, the winning authors will be encouraged to continue to research and write books on their subjects. They will be supported by the Singapore Book Council in this endeavour, and the NUS Department of History will host talks with the winning authors and other experts. The prize is the latest chapter in NUS’ ongoing commitment to supporting and encouraging the work of historians and writers in Singapore.
This year’s shortlist features a mix of genres and time periods, from the 1950s to the present day. The NUS History Prize is a testament to Singaporeans’ passion for historical writing and the continuing need to understand our own past. In a recent column in The Straits Times, NUS Asia Research Institute distinguished fellow Kishore Mahbubani wrote that a shared imagination of the past is essential to a strong and prosperous future.
Among the titles up for the prize this year are Leluhur: Stories From Kampong Gelam (2019, available here), by Hidayah Amin, which shines a light on the rich heritage of a neighbourhood many now regard as a tourist attraction, and Home Is Where We Are (2018), by Jeremy Tiang, which traces the history of an extended family through their participation in leftist political movements and detentions in Singapore and Malaysia.
Another notable entry is Imperial Creatures (2019, available here), by Timothy P. Barnard, which examines the interaction between humans and animals in colonial Singapore. These are a few of the many exciting and innovative titles up for the Singapore prize this year.
The prize is one of the most prestigious literary awards in Singapore and is given annually. This year’s event will be held on 27 November at the National Museum of Singapore and will feature performances by singers, dancers, actors and choristers.
The first prize winner was a migrant worker from heavy vehicle leasing firm Pollisum Engineering who was rewarded with a cash prize equivalent to over a year’s worth of his salary. The worker, Selvam Arumugam, had not heard of the show before participating, but he did his best to win. He copied what players in front of him were doing and ran as fast he could, The Straits Times reported. The competition was supported by a panel of judges including philanthropists, academics and social entrepreneurs. It is also part of a larger project to empower families to break free from poverty.