About the book (from jacket flap):
When this book was first published in 1839, the Singapore Free Press objected that the ‘whole affair is in over proportion’, that ‘the petty native states’ could have been despatched in twenty pages instead of two hundred and it felt that the author would have done better to produce something ‘more lively and cheap’.
However, what bores contemporaries is often of value to future generations and the real importance of Newbold’s book lies not in his accounts of Penang and Singapore, which were sketchy and sometimes misleading, but in his ambitious attempt to describe the Malay states, their organization and society in the 1830s. The result may be viewed as the first attempt by a westerner to write history from an indigenous point of view, a study which, although largely suspended, has in many aspects been accepted as correct.
Newbold was a man of immense industry and hungry curiosity. He learned the Malay language, talked with local people, officials and missionaries, travelled widely in Malacca and the neighbouring states and read every possible written source; most of which are now difficult to come by. In his book he ranges over every matter relating to the peninsula: its history, politics, commerce, geology, linguistics, botany, anthropology and law; and, unlike his contemporaries, he did not view the Malays as curiosities but took a more honest and balanced view of the Malay character.
Dr. C. M. Turnbull’s lengthy introduction to this facsimile reprint is valuable not only as an Introduction to the book itself but also for what it tells u about its author.