The Comments of a French Visitor in the 1840s

In the mid-1840s -- two decades after the founding of Singapore -- the French photographer Alphonse-Eugène-Jules Itier, who created pioneering daguerreotypes of S. E. Asia, paid the city a brief visit and described it admiringly:

I remained lost in the thoughts aroused in me by the unexpected sight of the commercial achievement of the English. On this shore where not twenty years ago were grouped a few wretched Malay villages, half fishermen, half pirates, where the virgin forest extended to the seashore, where the tiger hidden in the jungle awaited his prey, where a pirate canoe scarcely disturbed an empty sea, has risen today a huge town, bustling with an industrious population. Here the gardens of sumptuous palaces are spread along the water's edge; here the stranger may take a breath of air at dusk, alone and unarmed, as safe from the tigers which have fled into the depths of the jungle as from the bandits who are kept in check by the vigilant eyes of a tireless police; and this hospitable shore has become the centre for ships of all nations. It is this which has raised the cry of freedom in the hearts of Indo-Chinese populations bowed under the yoke of a commercial monopoly only a short while ago.


John Falconer, A Vision of the Past: A History of Early Photography in Singapore and Malaya: The Photographs of G.R. Lambert & Co., 1880-1910. Singapore: Times, 1987.

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