07 January 2004

The Hikayat Abdullah on the Englishmen in Old Malacca

'At that time [c. 1810], there were not yet many English in the town of Malacca and to see an Englishman was like seeing a tiger, because they were so mischievous and violent. If one or two English ships called in at Malacca, all the Malacca people would keep the doors of their houses shut, for all round the streets there would be a lot of sailors, some of whom would break in the doors of people's houses, and some would chase the women on the streets, and others would fight amongst themselves and cut one another's heads open ... Moreover, a great number were killed owing to their falling in the river, owing to their being drunk; and all this made people afraid. At that time, I never met an Englishman who had a white face, for all of them had "mounted the green horse," that is to say, were drunk. So much so, that when children cried, their mothers would say, "Be quiet, the drunken Englishman is coming," and the children would be scared and keep quiet.'
SOURCE: The Hikayat Abdullah, as quoted in Nigel Barley, The Duke of Puddledock: Travels in the Footsteps of Stamford Raffles (Henry Holt, 1992).

More extracts from the Hikayat Abdullah are available on the National University of Singapore's Resources for Literary Study website.
The author of the Hikayat Abdullah, Abdullah bin Abdul Kadir, grew up in Malacca at a time of British Imperial expansion into the Malay world, and was present in Singapore from the time of Raffles' arrival in the 1820s onwards. A prolific writer and translator, he is also known as the author of Kesah Pelayaran Abdullah (The Story of the Voyage of Abdullah), an account of a voyage up the east coast of the peninsular in 1837. Abdullah finished his autobiography, the Hikayat Abdullah, in 1843.

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