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Raffles: And the Golden Opportunity by [Glendinning, Victoria]
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Raffles: And the Golden Opportunity Kindle Edition

3.6 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews

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Length: 369 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Review

Spirited, fluent and immaculately researched ... Glendinning's book, with its breezy prose and brisk judgments, makes a splendid tribute to a great British character - the kind of man who gives empire a good name (Sunday Times)

Marvellously readable, personally illuminating and highly entertaining (Guardian)

Magnificent ... By honing in on such a great life for her first non-literary biography Ms Glendinning is in danger of giving imperialism a good name (The Economist)

At last. A truly magnificent biography of the most incorrigible of empire-builders. Victoria Glendinning has produced a judicious and utterly compelling account of the man who would change the map of South East Asia (John Keay)

A sparkling new life of Raffles . . . compellingly related by Glendinning . . . unputdownable . . . Glendinning has rescued Raffles from decades of neglect and post-colonial guilt. Vivid, beautifully written and a terrific read, this is a wonderful biography (Literary Review)

Glendinning's gift is delivering a story that moves with the alacrity of an absorbing novel (Scotsman)

Glendinning's great gift for story and fine feeling for character brightens this analysis of Raffles' still ambiguous reputation (Times)

Magical and meticulous . . . Raffles had achieved something which would change both the economic and political geography of South-east Asia and as we learn from these exotic yet careful pages he did a great deal more besides (Daily Express)

a fascinating, sympathetic portrait of an enigmatic figure (Observer)

easy paced, absorbing (Independent)

a compelling rollercoaster (Daily Mail Books of the Year)

Engaging... shows Glendinning's sympathetic understanding of the human drama at the heart of this story of imperial adventure. (Anne Chisholm Sunday Telegraph)

Book Description

The first biography in decades of the 'Father of Singapore'

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 6351 KB
  • Print Length: 369 pages
  • Publisher: Profile Books (1 Nov. 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B009R7PYRQ
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #123,442 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
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.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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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