The NUS Singapore Prize for History

A healthy civil society depends on people committed to their communities and who, at pivotal times, put the common good above their own interests. These are the types of people who deserve recognition for their selfless acts. The President’s Volunteerism & Philanthropy Awards (PVPA) 2023 is one such award that recognises individuals and organisations who have demonstrated exceptional altruism. This year, the awards were presented at a ceremony on 17 October at the Istana.

The prize was established in memory of Christopher Bathurst KC, Viscount Bledisloe, who died in 2009. A leading member of Fountain Court Chambers, he developed a substantial practice in Southeast Asia, including Singapore. He was a distinguished advocate, a renowned teacher and a dedicated public figure.

In order to qualify for the Singapore Prize, the book must be a non-fiction work of historical significance about Singapore. Submissions can be written in English or translated and can be published between January and December of the preceding calendar year. The winner of the Singapore Prize receives a cash award of S$50,000.

The winner will be chosen by a panel of judges comprising historians, academics and members of the general public. Submissions will be assessed on their ability to make the complexities and nuances of Singapore history more accessible to non-academic audiences. The Department of History at NUS launched the prize in 2014 in a bid to spur interest in and understanding of Singapore’s rich heritage.

NUS will manage the endowment fund which will yield an annual income of S$50,000. The NUS Singapore History Prize will be awarded every three years and is open to works of history, both fiction and non-fiction, penned by authors of any nationality. The prize is administered by the Department of History at NUS and shortlisted books will be publicly announced and featured on the prize website.

The NUS Singapore History Prize was created in 2014 and was previously known as the National University of Singapore (NUS) Book Award. The winning work is selected by a Prize Panel consisting of NUS history professors and scholars, members of the general public, and other academics and experts. The book that is deemed to be the best work of history in the previous three-year cycle will win the prize.

In an interview with The Straits Times, NUS historian Prof Mahbubani said that the book that eventually wins the prize would have a “humanist approach to Singapore history” that forgoes the traditional view of history as a record of big movers and shakers. This year’s contenders include academic tomes such as Seven Hundred Years: A History of Singapore and historical novels like Kamaladevi Aravindan’s Sembawang, which focuses on the lives of ordinary residents over five decades.

Temasek Trust is a founding partner of the Earthshot Prize and has provided funding support since May. It will work with the prize to bring together local stakeholders to support innovative solutions for climate change, and connect the winners with its range of partners committed to scalable solutions for people and planet.