Singapore, Singapura

From Miracle to Complacency

Nicholas Walton

A rich portrait of the ultimate globalised city.

Bibliographic Details
Singapore, Singapura Hardback
October 2018£20.00

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Modern Singapore is a miracle. Half a century ago, it was thrown out of the Malay Federation and unwillingly became an independent nation. It was tiny, poor, almost devoid of resources, and in a hostile neighbourhood. Now, this unlikely country is at the top of almost every global national index, from high wealth and low crime to superb education and much-envied stability. But have these achievements bred a dangerous sense of complacency?

Singapore now faces challenges, from the constraints of authoritarian democracy to changing geographic realities and migration. Walking across this tiny island state, Nicholas Walton teases out its story from British rule and the war years to independence and beyond, exploring the problems and prosperity of the real Singapore.


Nicholas Walton is a former BBC World Service journalist who worked and reported from around the world for fourteen years before moving to the European Council on Foreign Relations. He previously lived in Singapore, where he wrote reports for the Economist Intelligence Unit on education and media. He is now based in the Netherlands, and works for the World Resources Institute. His first book, Genoa, ‘La Superba’ , is also published by Hurst.



‘Duly pays tribute to the way Singapore and its 5.6m inhabitants have come to top the charts that define success in the modern world. … [Walton’s] conclusions are more nuanced than either Singapore’s detractors or its cheerleaders would like.’ — The Financial Times

‘By traversing this island city state on foot, Walton explores questions worth asking  . . . he is clear-eyed and unflinching in his portrayal of Singapore and its people.’ — The Times Literary Supplement

‘Walton writes fluently and engagingly . . . his book is an excellent one-volume primer on the country.’ — Literary Review

‘In this lively account of the republic. . . [Walton] writes engagingly . . . with a light touch and with a sense of humour, making judicious use of anecdotes which reveal the subterranean cracks in Singapore’s society.’ — South China Morning Post

‘A rare jewel of a book—enchanting, illuminating and at times bloody funny. Much more than a travelogue or history, this is the story of a grand adventure, told in the tradition of Conrad with the eye of Theroux and the wit of Bryson. Brilliant.’ — James Brabazon, journalist, documentary filmmaker and author of The Break Line

‘What better way to discover Singapore than to walk across it? In this splendid book, Walton serves up the island’s riches—its history, geography, economics, and, most of all, serendipity.’ — Tyler Cowen, author of The Complacent Class and Average Is Over

‘Walton vividly traces the roots of Singapore’s miraculous emergence as a global economic hub, warning that its past successes may blind it to the need to evolve in tune with a rapidly changing world. This fascinating book is an evocative guide to the past and future of a remarkable country.’ — Alex Beard, author of Natural Born Learners

‘Join Nicholas Walton on his intriguing voyage of discovery across the length and breadth of Singapore, exploring the island’s history from the fourteenth century to the present day.’ — Mark Leonard, Director of the European Council on Foreign Relations