Jean Marshall’s Pahang Letters, 1953-54: Sidelights on Malaya during The Emergency
by Jean Marshall
edited by Mandakini Arora
About the book
“Life generally is a bit hedged in with precautions at the moment,” Jean Gray wrote, with characteristic understatement, to her parents in England. Twenty-seven years old, Jean was in rural Malaya working as a field officer with the British Red Cross for a year in 1953–54.
At that time, Malaya was in a state of Emergency. Communist insurgents, using the jungle as cover, engaged in guerilla war against the colonial state. Under the Red Cross scheme, Jean was appointed to provide medical and welfare services in the New Villages—guarded settlements of villagers relocated from the jungle fringes in a government move to cut off aid to the militants.
From west Pahang, where she was posted, Jean wrote weekly to her family and occasionally to her friends, sharing with them her impressions of Malaya and minutiae of her daily life and work while reassuring them that she was safe.
These all-but-forgotten letters with accompanying photographs were rediscovered and returned to their sender after 60-odd years. As historical documents, they illuminate the social and professional world of a young and perceptive Englishwoman who was in small-town Malaya at a historically critical time—during the Malayan Emergency and the last days of empire.
About Jean Marshall
Jean Marshall was born Jean Mary Gray in Orpington, Kent, in 1926. She read Economics and Sociology at the London School of Economics. After training as a medical social worker and working in England and Malaya, in 1957 she joined the University of Malaya in Singapore to develop a course in medical social work. In 1961, Jean married the renowned lawyer, David Marshall, who had been Singapore’s first elected chief minister and was later its first ambassador in France. Their four children and six grandchildren live in Singapore, London and Paris. Jean sees her year in Pahang (1953–54), from where the letters in this book were written, as the start of her Singapore Story.
About the editor
Mandakini Arora is a historian of gender and colonialism with a penchant for oral history. She started life in tea country in the northeast of India and went to boarding school in Darjeeling followed by college in Delhi. She has a master’s degree in Indian history from Jawaharlal Nehru University and a PhD in Russian history from Duke University. Mandakini moved in 1999, with her husband and daughter, to Singapore where she has lived since.
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Dimension: 130mm x 200mm