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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A superb biography of a rather flawed character
Has been very helpful for a biography I am writing about someone who was a close friend of William Farquhar, who was Raffles' great rival in claiming credit for the foundation of Singapore. Would recommend this to anyone interested in early development of the Malay archipelago.
Published 13 months ago by Dr N Hervey

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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Map of Malaysia upside down ?
Starts like an interesting read, but placing Penang hundreds of miles South of Malacca
can only mean she has her map upside down, and then praising the strategy of placing Penang at the southern end of the Straits of Malacca, whilst it is actually about as far north as possible close to the Thai border
stands the entire narrative on its head and makes nonsense...
Published 19 months ago by C. Roma


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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Map of Malaysia upside down ?, 24 Jan 2013
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Starts like an interesting read, but placing Penang hundreds of miles South of Malacca
can only mean she has her map upside down, and then praising the strategy of placing Penang at the southern end of the Straits of Malacca, whilst it is actually about as far north as possible close to the Thai border
stands the entire narrative on its head and makes nonsense of the entire explanation. So how can one trust the rest of the story when it starts with such glaring errors.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars too much "what" and not enough "why", 27 Dec 2013
The author obviously did a mass of research. I'm not sure how long she spent writing the book and how involved her editor was.

The parts of the book that are set in England and - to a lesser extent- Europe - are, to my mind, far better than much of what is written about SR's time in South East Asia.

Other reviewers have pointed out the geographical eccentricities which suggested to me haste in writing or editing.

Perhaps in a desire to provide detail, the author spends a great deal of time on factual minutiae from about the time SR left for Java until he left finally for England. It is hard at times to stay interested in all the detail of his daily life and his disputes with his colleagues.

I think the book would have worked better if the "what" had been reduced by 50% and the "why" increased proportionately. Quite why the Settlement in Java was so readily given up isn't really explained. Why was he such a success and why was he ultimately brought low ? This could have done with more time in the searchlight.

I think the discovery and growth of Singapore needed more not less of the author's time.

Anyone who is interested in the region and has a good deal of patience will be rewarded but it's quite hard going.

Parts of the book are very colloquial and seem to me to be a kind of advocacy piece for SR in some of his disputes.

"melt the heart of adamant"; "much chuffed by" ; "peeved"; "Sepoys clanked out"; "insanely creative accounting" "this kind of double vision was common" "after more verbiage" "philoprogenitive"; "an enormous of verbiage" ; "the principle (sic) texts" - are the job of editor to weed out. Some will soon be dated slang.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars An opportunity missed, 24 Jun 2014
This review is from: Raffles: And the Golden Opportunity (Kindle Edition)
This should have been a fascinating read, but, alas, the author was compelled to include every last syllable of her very extensive research, which resulted in a veritable quagmire of detail, much of it extraneous to the main subject.I have always wanted to know about Raffles but I gave up having ploughed half way through......Way way too much information!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Ms Glendinning can write very well but this is not her finest, 27 Aug 2013
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This review is from: Raffles: And the Golden Opportunity (Kindle Edition)
If this was the first book I had read by this author I would not buy a second. Edith Sitwell, Vita, Trollope are all equisite. This seems to be at a date too distant to give a real feeling of the man and his acomplishments so I was dissapointed. It is not one of those books I regret reading but it is not on my re-read list.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Creator of Singapore - man of vision and achievement, 16 Sep 2013
By 
M. Hillmann "miles" (leicester, england) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Raffles: And the Golden Opportunity (Kindle Edition)
Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles first landed in Singapore in 1819 and with his genius and perception changed the destiny of an obscure fishing village to a great and modern metropolis. All completed by his forties.

This biography almost loses you in the detail of all the people with whom he came in contact. But, with no previous knowledge or interest in Singapore, that I kept reading is a credit to the book's substance. Its fascination lies not just in the biography but in the insight into the operation of the East India Company.

Raffles was not just the founder of Singapore, he was an ambitious visionary, an able administrator, a workaholic, a barefaced networker, an able linguist and a naturalist. He had two wives and comes across as a pleasant and considerate man. That is unless you were McFarquar - the governor of Singapore with whom he worked closely for many years and then sacked.

Raffles came from humble beginnings. His father was an unsuccessful sea captain who died destitute. At the age of 14 he joined the East India Company as a scribe. The East India Company was a combination of a trading company and a colonial administration operation backed by naval might and an imperialist government. .

Britain was at war with France. Napoleon had conquered the Low Countries and Dutch possession of the East India Archipelago was taken over by France. So when Lord Minto, planned with his lieutenant, Raffles, the invasion of Java they were ousting France, not the Dutch, though the Dutch were the colonists. Raffles executed the invasion with aggression and ruthlessness.

He spent 8 years as governor of Java. Life was hard and 7 of his 9 children died. He not only ran the colony but he wrote the History of Java and discovered, collected and named a vast array of plants unknown in the west.

It is his foresight in recognising the potential of Singapore for which he is remembered today. He sent out ships to find a navigable passage, and he invaded, shaped and planned the colony but only spent 9 months of his life living there.

Bearing in mind the communications of the day, and that it took 8 weeks or more to sail to England, he had an independence of action of which he took great advantage. The authorities in the UK were very ambivalent to him. No-one could fail to recognise his zeal and, especially towards Singapore, his genius - but so much of what he did outrageously exceeded his authority. The East India Company refused him a pension of retirement and he died in poverty, although recognised in scientific circles holding many honorary positions.

Singapore, with Shanghai and Rotterdam, remains today one of the three leading ports in the world. So Raffles can lay claim, as the author does, to be a man who shaped the modern world.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A superb biography of a rather flawed character, 24 July 2013
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Has been very helpful for a biography I am writing about someone who was a close friend of William Farquhar, who was Raffles' great rival in claiming credit for the foundation of Singapore. Would recommend this to anyone interested in early development of the Malay archipelago.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Breezy enjoyable style but basic errors grate, 30 April 2013
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It's an enjoyable read, although the style can be frustrating. Descriptors like "lovely" and "fashionable" are fairly tedious to encounter.

As another reviewer mentioned, the basic errors can drive you to stress. In the earliest instance, the entire geography is upside down as Penang is described as being southwards of Melaka. This is repeated soon after. In a slightly later chapter, thankfully, the author comes to her senses with Melaka as "down the coast" (from Penang). Thank goodness! However, that very same chapter ends, unbelievably, with Raffles then sailing "up the coast" to Melaka.
The inconsistencies are annoying and make you wonder if the book is lacking proof reading, editing, or even worse perhaps the author does not have a firm grasp on the geography of the area and perhaps has never even visited.

Another error is that "nonya" is said to be a "Malay word". This is not really true.
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3.0 out of 5 stars 'Singapore...this, my almost only child', 29 April 2014
By 
sally tarbox (aylesbury bucks uk) - See all my reviews
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I knew absolutely nothing about Raffles when I started this - had a vague image of an English colonial striding about Singapore's Raffles Hotel. Nothing could be further from the truth!
Can't say this was a hugely gripping read, but it certainly is informative, following our hero from his youth in London (his father died in the workhouse), and years as a lowly clerk for the East India Company before finally getting sent out east...
There's an awful lot of jealousy and sniping, he and his fellow officials firing off letters of criticism about one another to the slow-moving bureaucratic Company.
But action too - war in Java and finally arriving in Singapore which he foresaw would make an excellent trading post for Britain, though at the time it had only around 150 occupants including the Malay sea-gypsies 'whose activities were evident from the human skulls bobbing around in the shallow waters.'
With two devoted wives, a large family, and a senior role in local rule, Raffles' star seems in the ascendant...
Feel I've learned a great deal.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Return to Singapore, 18 April 2014
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This review is from: Raffles: And the Golden Opportunity (Kindle Edition)
I PERSONALLY FOUND THE BOOK UNEVEN WITH INTERESTING LIVELY SECTIONS INTERSPERSED WITH DULL MONOTONOUS SECTIONS. IT TOOK TIME TO READ AND DIGEST.
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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good subject but only a journeywoman product., 7 Dec 2012
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The scholar and adventurer Stamford Raffles almost single-handedly gave the British Empire and imperialism in general a good name. Born in 1781, he is best known for founding of the city of Singapore and yet he was a quite exceptional governor of Java, the main island in the Indonesian archepelico which he had taken from the Dutch and French military forces during the Napoleonic Wars. In fact he made a truly remarkable contribution in his short career to the expansion of the British Empire in the Far East. Unlike his contemporaries who were little more than later day Viking plunderers, Raffles learned the local languages, led archeological excavations and collected native artifacts. On the tropical islands he explored, he studied birds, animals and plants thus making a significant advance in scientific knowledge of the entire region which rightly led to his being made a fellow of the Royal Society. He even found time to write “The History of Java”, a book that has been of lasting value to both European and Asian historians. This most recent biography was written by Victoria Glendinning, the veteran British novelist, biographer and broadcaster. She is a Sheffield born Quaker and daughter of a distinguished banker - Frederic Seebohm - in the days before that became a term of abuse and granddaughter of the great economic historian of the same name. I have to say I found it a disappointing book written in a kind of 'People’s Friend' style and there are much better books in the field.
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