Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://scholarbank.nus.edu.sg/handle/10635/144892
Title: ASSESSING THE HISTORY WAR: A HISTORIOGRAPHICAL STUDY OF THE 1963 OPERATION COLDSTORE
Authors: SIM GUO CHEN
Issue Date: 23-Apr-2018
Citation: SIM GUO CHEN (2018-04-23). ASSESSING THE HISTORY WAR: A HISTORIOGRAPHICAL STUDY OF THE 1963 OPERATION COLDSTORE. ScholarBank@NUS Repository.
Abstract: In the 1963 Operation Coldstore, over one hundred individuals suspected of involvement in a communist conspiracy were preventively detained in Singapore. This event has since generated much controversy and historical debate. The conventional, government-endorsed narrative justifies the mass arrests with the security imperative of neutralising the potentially violent, subversive and antinational communist threat. In contrast, ex-detainees and “revisionist” historians contend that Operation Coldstore was a neo-colonial plot hatched by Lee Kuan Yew, Federation leaders, and the British, for political gain. Since 2000, the debate has been polarised and politicised into a “history war” which relies on caricatures and personal denigration rather than engagement in scholarly discussion. The current state of scholarship and recent proliferation of views therefore provide an opportune moment to consolidate our understanding of this controversial episode. This thesis strives to provide a pioneering historiographical review which attempts a reasoned assessment of the debate. Hence, this work traces the trajectory of the scholarship to understand the context and intention of each work before evaluating the security and political explanations, as well as their respective evidential bases. While the conventional narrative is more historically substantiated, any attempt at overcoming the “history war” must go beyond the either/or false dichotomy to recognise the merits of competing perspectives. Ultimately, Operation Coldstore involved pre-emptive arrests justifiably aimed at forestalling a potential security threat from the communists who could resort to violence and subversion due to their desperation after being defeated at the 1962 merger referendum. Nonetheless, this security threat was intertwined with political fears of a possible communist electoral victory, which could then lead to an overthrow of the democratic system and even racial conflict. Moreover, the PAP, Federation leaders, and British colonial power also negotiated the timing and method of the mass arrests to optimise their respective political reputations.
URI: http://scholarbank.nus.edu.sg/handle/10635/144892
Appears in Collections:Bachelor's Theses (Restricted)

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