Marshall of Singapore: A Biography

Marshall of Singapore: A Biography
Kevin Tan, author
Date of publication:  2008
Publisher:  Institute of Southeast Asian Studies
Number of pages:  614
Code:  BM358


"Kevin Tan is highly qualified to write this book as a law professor and a historian both of law and politics, and an experienced author having unique access to Marshall's papers via his widow Jean. The book is simply superbly written. It does perfect justice to the man and all those around him, friends and enemies. It maintains a wonderful balance between recording the detail of an important life and fitting that life into the particular historical and social setting in which it was lived. It is far from a hagiography. Marshall is painted richly and convincingly, warts and all. The book should indeed be compulsory reading for Singapore law students, for in so many ways Marshall was the lawyerly ideal both in method and in his deep revulsion against injustice of all kinds" (Journal of Current Southeast Asian Affairs).

"This is the first 'three-in-one' biography of David Marshall -- as lawyer, politician, and diplomat -- viewed against the background of the life and times of Singapore. Dr Kevin Tan is well placed to write this biography. He brings his lawyerly research skills, his knowledge of Singapore's constitutional law and history, and his own independent research into many areas to fill the 'gaps', to set the historical context, and provide an insightful analysis. This has contributed to a masterly chronicle of the life and times of David Marshall -- as a university teacher, legal practitioner, politician, diplomat, and much else besides. Tan has perused piles of materials, including Marshall's diary entries, books on him, press reports, documents, and countless interviews of people who had worked with him or knew him well. Tan treats us to an intimate account of Marshall's hopes, fears, strengths, weaknesses, and his rise and fall as a politician against the tumultuous political backdrop of the day. In so doing, Tan catches the 'fire in my [Marshall's] belly', a phrase that Marshall used to describe his passionate disposition" (JMBRAS).

About the publication

David Marshall (1908-1995) was one of Singapore's most remarkable sons. The eldest son of migrant Sephardic Jews, Marshall's brilliant academic career at Raffles Institution was brought to an abrupt end when he collapsed from tuberculosis. Sent away to recuperate in Switzerland, Marshall not only learnt the French language but also imbibed the French ideals of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity and returned a strong opponent of colonialism. Qualifying as a barrister in half the normal time, he rose to become Singapore's greatest criminal and constitutional lawyer. In 1955, he unexpectedly found himself the leader of the Labour Front and Singapore's first Chief Minister. His fourteen tumultuous months in office led to the eventual withdrawal of the British from Singapore but his emotional personality and impatience made him an unlikely politician. In the twilight of his career, Marshall was appointed Singapore's first ambassador to France. This is the story of this extraordinary man who was, for many, Singapore's "missionary of democracy". Using previously unavailable sources, author Kevin Tan chronicles the remarkable life, times and achievements of the man many regarded as "Singapore's Conscience".


Similar Publications