Philip Holden


In his recent memoirs, former Singapore Primer Minister Lee Kuan Yew notes a surprising connection between himself and other leaders of newly independent Commonwealth states in the 1960s. Recalling his studies at Raffles Institution, the colony's premier Anglophone secondary school, and his sitting for the Junior Cambridge and Senior Cambridge School Certificates, Lee notes that he was following a syllabus taught throughout the Empire. 'Many years later, whenever I met Commonwealth leaders from far-flung islands in the Caribbean or the Pacific. I discovered that they had gone through the same drill with the same textbooks and could quote the same passages from Shakespeare'. The institution of English Studies in former British colonies has often been studied with reference to the projection of colonial power. Lee's testimony hints that it may also be readily analysed to explore occluded continuities between colonial and post-independence states, thereby providing a certain discursive leverage on national narratives of modernity and development.



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