The NST, Professor Emeritus Khoo Kay Kim and History

January 29, 2012

The NST, Professor Emeritus Khoo Kay Kim and History

The NST Editorial

Hang Tuah in History

“There should be no question that we should pursue the truth”–The NST

REWRITING or resetting history can be a tricky business, akin to traversing fields dotted with landmines, especially if it threatens to interfere with cherished memories. So, when historian Tan Sri Professor Emeritus  Khoo Kay Kim said there was no written record that the 15th century Malay warrior Hang Tuah, his friend Hang Jebat, or the princess Hang Li Po, existed, the response to this astonishing assertion was not predominantly academic curiosity.

Rather, various parties hastened to debunk Khoo’s theory by contributing their own assertions of why they believed that Hang Tuah and his friends existed. Malaysian Archaeologists’ Association president Datuk Professor Emeritus  Dr Nik Hassan Shuhaimi Nik Abdul Rahman opined that even though the exact era in which Hang Tuah is thought to exist is not really known, that the 15th century tomb attributed to him did not have a specific name on it, and that Hang Tuah and his friends might be mythical figures, this did not mean that studies concerning them could not still continue.

In some ways, although coming from opposing camps, Nik Hassan’s opinion partly echoes Khoo’s, who said that Hang Tuah and company could still be studied, but as mythical figures rather than historical ones. The issue has arisen from work being done by the Education Ministry’s History Review Committee, of which Khoo is a member. The panel was appointed to analyse and review the History curriculum. Khoo opined that school History textbooks should be rewritten so that they contained historical facts and not myths or legends, and that hearsay should not be presented as historical fact.

Although the matter may take some while to resolve, the Hang Tuah debacle is a perfect platform upon which to test how much we value history; more specifically, whether we dare to risk possibly having to give up our sentimental memories for the sake of pursuing and obtaining an accurate and authentic history. From the intellectual perspective, there should be no question that we should pursue the truth.

And, Islamic scholarly culture places the highest value on academic honesty; the complex and technical mechanism for authenticating hadiths (sayings of Prophet Muhammad) are the clearest example of the importance of accurate referencing  — a single questionable link in the chain of authenticity automatically excludes a hadith from being declared sahih (authentic). Ibn Khaldun, a 14th century Muslim philosopher and historiographer, was widely respected for establishing mechanisms by which to authenticate history. In teaching schoolchildren History therefore, we should strive to cultivate in them a scholarly culture that places a premium on honesty and accuracy.

Emeritus Professor Khoo Kay Kim’s Interview

Don’t Ignore Real Heroes

Tan Sri Prof Emeritus Khoo Kay Kim provoked a storm of controversy when he said that there was no evidence that legendary warrior Hang Tuah ever existed. Malaysian Archaeologists Association president Datuk Prof Emeritus Dr Nik Hassan Shuhaimi Nik Abdul Rahman has refuted this claim, saying the tomb of Hang Tuah in Malacca proves the legendary warrior’s existence. Literary figure Dr Kassim Ahmad, who compiled the Hikayat Hang Tuah, also stressed that Hang Tuah was a real person. So did he exist or not?
Arman Ahmad sits down with Khoo to find out.Professor Emeritus Tan Sri Khoo Kay Kim says there’s a lot about our history that we don’t know about.

QuestionCan you tell us how this issue first came about?

Answer: During a talk at a local university, I posed a question to the audience.I asked why in our country today we tend to play up mythical figures instead of people who really contributed a lot to our country.

Very often, when I ask people who was the first Malay to be absorbed into the civil service, they will say they don’t know. Nobody remembers who was the first Malay doctor, too, for example. Many of these real role models are forgotten. Western society remembers its historical figures and separates legend and history. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said here.

QuestionThere has been tremendous hue and cry from the public after you said that Hang Tuah may have been a myth. Many people disagree with you. How do you feel about this? What caused you to speak up?

Answer: Hang Tuah was made popular through the Bangsawan theatre during the pre-war era. There is no doubt that he was very popular. But at the end of the day, what do you want to learn about in school as part of history? Myth or fact?

It is a bit upsetting that around Kuala Lumpur, you can find streets named after Hang Jebat and Hang Tuah but not named after real historical figures of the past. There is a street name Jalan Maharajalela, but was it named after the man accused of murdering J.W.W. Birch?  That man’s name was Maharajalela Pandak Lam. Maharajalela was just an honorific title.

 We all know Jalan Raja Chulan, but do we know who Raja Chulan was? The whole point is there is a lot of history that people don’t know about.

QuestionYou are an academic, but you now have to deal with a very politically charged topic. How are you handling all this?

Answer:  Times have changed. Once, our society was very particular about the truth, and whenever people make statements, they have to be able to back up their statement with facts. Today, you can say anything you like in public. You can read the writing  of bloggers online and they say anything they like.

In the academic field, you are not allowed to do that . When someone writes a thesis, he is not allowed to say anything he likes. He has to back up his statement with facts. Unfortunately, some people have begun to attack me.

I even learnt that someone asked (Malay rights group) Perkasa to report to the police that I insulted royalty, which is rather absurd really.

The great tradition underlying the Malay monarchy was how they could trace their lineage back to Iskandar Dzulkarnain (Alexander the Great). Hang Tuah was just a “Laksamana” and had nothing to do with royalty.

This is also the first time I’m being attacked by Dr Syed Husin Ali, but he is not a historian . He was never trained in history.

Question: The Sejarah Melayu (Malay Annals), which is the primary record of history during the Malacca Sultanate, did mention Hang Tuah. How accurate is it in recording history?

Answer: The Sejarah Melayu is not precise historiography. It is a historical document if you want to know how people used to think in those days. But we cannot confirm how much of it is fact, and how much of it is pure fable. It does not record dates, and has characters that we cannot confirm existed.

For example, it does not tell us when Malacca was first founded or when a ruler ascended the throne or passed away. We have no knowledge when Hang Jebat died. History cannot be like that. It has to be very precise.

On the other hand, Ming records from China are very precise. They recorded the names of the first ruler, second ruler of Malacca, along with the dates of their reign. These facts were recorded at that particular time, and not some time after the incident.

We know from these records that in 1414, Megat Iskandar Shah came to China to report the death of his father, Parameswara. China had close ties and protected Malacca at the time. It is recorded that their first envoy to Malacca left in 1403 and arrived there in 1404. Ming Dynasty records are the best documents on history.

Question In Ming records, was Hang Li Po ever mentioned?

Answer:  Hang Li Po was not mentioned in the Ming records. Sejarah Melayu is not considered historiography. It is a literary text. Hang Tuah was never mentioned in the Ming records.

QuestionWhat does Hang — as in Hang Tuah or Hang Li Po  — signify? Is it an honorary title?

Answer:  This still can’t be concluded from our current body of knowledge.

QuestionCould Hang Tuah and his band of men have been Chinese like some people claim?

Answer: How can we justify that Kasturi is a Chinese name when it’s a common Indian name?

QuestionIf Hang Tuah did not exist, then why is there a tomb that supposedly holds his body in Malacca? Malacca state recognises this as Hang Tuah’s tomb.

Answer:  How come there is a tomb when he did not come back from the mountain (Gunung Ledang)? How come they accept part of the story and not accept the other part?  

QuestionMalacca State Museums Department Director Datuk Khamis Abas said Hang Tuah was a legendary Malay warrior and this was proven in the research. What do you have to say about this?

Answer:  He used the word “legendary”, right?

Question: Heroes like Hang Tuah, King Arthur, Robin Hood or even Braveheart, despite doubts over their historical integrity, have a tremendous impact in uplifting a nation’s spirit. Do you feel bad about deconstructing a national hero?

Answer:  From the time I started studying history seriously in 1956, we never talked about legends. We were always trying our best to find primary sources to write the history of Malaya.

Today, we have great bodies of knowledge at our disposal. There are hundreds of theses written by university students. Most of them are unpublished and in our libraries. Good articles can also be found in contemporary newspapers.

You have to be diligent in going through these sources. We do not encourage historians to sit on a comfortable chair and imagine things. If you are a man of letters, then you can do as you like.

Question:  What other historical figures or facts in Malaysia are myths as well?

Answer:  Not many. But at one time there was a big controversy about whether Mat Kilau was still living. We have British contemporary records that showed he died a long time ago. Then I heard stories, which could not be confirmed, that said this man was actually a Bangsawan actor from Singapore.

QuestionWhat direction will the new history curriculum take after this?

Answer:  It’s not ready yet. They are still discussing it. They have actually dropped him from the school textbooks for some time.  In the last four, five years, we have not seen him in school textbooks.

QuestionWhat other heroes have we forgotten but could be part of the school syllabus?

Answer:  Panglima Awang. He was taken to Portugal from Malacca and actually sailed with Ferdinand Magellan’s fleet. When they came back to Malacca, he had completed the journey around the world. He was the first man to sail around the world.

This is a real hero and his story is proven and recorded in history. It’s worthwhile to bring this back to the school syllabus. Another example is the first Malay doctor, Dr Abdul Latiff Abdul Razak,  from Selangor. In the old P. Ramlee films, you might notice that the doctor is always named Dr Latiff.  

Question: As a work of literature, do you think Hang Tuah the hero was a good role model? 

Answer:  When Tuah lost his weapon, Jebat allowed him to pick it up again. When Jebat lost his weapon, Tuah took advantage. If you want to teach nilai murni (good values),  who is the real hero? But, at the end of the day, it is up to society to decide, not me.

 Of course, for the Malay Muslims,  the Quran will give you the right answer for every situation. Still, Hang Tuah had his good values. But while praising him, it is important that we don’t neglect the real Malaysian heroes of history.

If you have a hero, then a hero must be able to cope with any kind of questions society may ask. Surely, the younger generation, with a scientific mind, must ask many things. You cannot tell them, don’t worry about whether he is real, just accept these values that we put across to you.

QuestionOur people have been very poor recorders of history in the past. Do you think something drastic needs to be done so that we not only record history but correctly interpret it in the future?

Answer:  History in this country has been so neglected. Our history is a jumble   that has not been properly verified by professional and well- trained historians. Our schools must educate the children properly about history. Children must know about their own society as well as country.

Malay history tends to be mixed together with fables. English and even Chinese history had tendencies to build up epics as well. But once they entered the modern age, science and technology became important. It is crucial that young people looked logically and critically at things. A lot of questions need to be answered.

You cannot give answers based on fables. The young people, when they lose confidence, won’t respect their own society.

QuestionHow do we verify the facts of history?

Answer:  We always have to rely on empirical evidence. You can speculate whatever you like, but at the end of the day, you have to admit that it is purely speculation.

In the past, they did not make a distinction between legend and myth when they recorded history. You also have to consider the fact that these hikayat were discovered very much later.

They were not available to the public in those days. One of the first people to collect Malay manuscripts was Sir Stamford Raffles when he came to Singapore in 1819.  If you take Sejarah Melayu, there are no less than about 20 versions.

QuestionDr Kassim Ahmad (left) said that Hang Tuah must have been based on some real person. What is your opinion on this?

Answer: We have no evidence of any kind. That’s the whole trouble. The modern study of history is almost considered a science — you must have proof — without proof how do you draw the conclusions?

QuestionAs a historian since the 1950s, do you think Malaysians appreciate history?

Answer: It is only beginning to be taught in the universities. Universiti Malaya was founded in 1949. The history department was very strong and very concerned about writing history from a Malayan perspective.

Before that, our history concentrated on what British officials did, and neglected the locals. The department of history  began to write the first Malayan-centric history.

QuestionThere are some people who don’t care whether Hang Tuah existed or not. They just want someone who represents their value sets and aspirations. What would you say to them?

Answer:  If we are concerned about studying the values of that period, then it’s a different discipline.

For example, it is very important that Sejarah Melayu and Hikayat Hang Tuah be part of Malay classical literature because they teach the value sets, but we should not confuse them with history.

48 thoughts on “The NST, Professor Emeritus Khoo Kay Kim and History

  1. Could it be that Hang Tuah or its myth is like Tua Pek Kong to the Chinese people in Malaysia? If both are myths, their characteristics are to be followed and revered. We are actually talking mostly about the configurations of the myths.

    Could it be that Malays of yesteryears have learned something from the Chinese immigrants, but within the ambit of religion? Asian cultures have been using many such myths to transmit moral values for ages. Examples are aplenty. Most are represented in pictures so that even the illiterate people can understand. But Islam-dominated Malay pressed it into the written form – such as the “Hikayats” because pictures of humans were not allowed.

  2. No question we should pursue the truth? Yes, including who were the real instigators of May 13 “race riots”. Bring them to justice – even 40 years later !
    Dr. Phua, Malaysian history is spin, not about the pursuit of truth. Everything else is secret(OSA-Official Secrets Act) .–Din Merican

  3. These debacle all happened because of ignorance, lack of vision and transparency that prompted the inquisitive public to speculate. We need people who are expert, who are free from any kind of influences apart from the truth and nothing but the truth.

  4. “Hang Tuah was made popular through the Bangsawan theatre during the pre-war era. There is no doubt that he was very popular. But at the end of the day, what do you want to learn about in school as part of history? Myth or fact?”

    This is professorial BS. Troy, Mohenjodaro, Harappa, Angkor Wat, Borobudur (re-discovered by Raffles), Machu Picch Inca ruins and many, many other facts were traced from mythical references in ancient texts.

    Methinks this BS artiste misses out that myths are as part and parcel of history as are “facts”. Clear references to Hang Tuah are made in the Sejarah Melayu and that he even travelled to South India!

    KKK’s name will be found in every school history book for the last 20 years as part of the committee that “approves” and re-writes history. And you know what they say about committees – a camel is a horse invented by a committee. So, you get rubbish that excludes Yap Ah Loy as founder of KL and glorifies a certain pathetic claim that it was a Malaysian Laksamana who first circumnavigated the world and not Magellan!

    Btw, do they teach in England,USA and France who the first doctor or chief of civil service in their respective countries were? Not unless they were internationally outstanding. Otw, it’s just another statistic.

    “History cannot be like that. It has to be very precise.”

    More putrid BS.

    In the 60’s we were taught Malacca was founded in 1403. Now it’s 1400. Can KKK give a precise date when the Trojan War started and ended, or when the Indus or Egyptian civilizations began – 5,000.013 years ago? 3,500.625 years? Did Shih Huang Ti unite China in 225 BCE or was it BCE 224 years, 240 days, 5 hours and 36 minutes. So, should we delete any references to them from our history books?

    Utter nonsense from someone clearly in his senile years.

    Bah! Bumco artiste!
    we are all of 1 Race, the Human race

  5. “There is a street name Jalan Maharajalela, but was it named after the man accused of murdering J.W.W. Birch? ”

    Everyone and his uncle knows Maha Firaun changed Birch Road to Jalan Maharagalela to thumb a nose at the British and that it refers specifically to Maharajalela, the Malay chieftain from the Peral Royal court who conspired to kill Birch. The man who actually speared Birch under Maharajalela’s orders was an orang asli named Sepuntum.

    This clearly shows our Professor Emeritus has been snoring away while kept in office with taxpayers’ money!

    Put a spin on it will you, KKK? Humbug!

    we are all of 1 Race, the Human Race

  6. Don,

    This Professor is too embarrassed to answer Dr. Syed Husin Ali on a specific topic–the Malaysian Left in History and Ahmad Boestamam. Now he tells us that University of Malaya was founded in 1949, not 1905. What BS is that.

    The VC of UM should answer him or stop claiming that UM is more than 100 years old. After all, it is UM which gave him his Emeritus Professorship, whereas someone outstanding like top flight and award winning Economist Dr. Kwame Jomo Sundaram, now with the United Nations in New York, is not given due recognition for his research and publications, and dedicated service to the University. Am I surprised? No, because I know that we only recognise philistines like KKK and Dr. Kling, and we are envious or scared of brilliant minds.–Din Merican

  7. “Panglima Awang. He was taken to Portugal from Malacca and actually sailed with Ferdinand Magellan’s fleet. When they came back to Malacca, he had completed the journey around the world. He was the first man to sail around the world.”

    Panglima Awang, my ass! He was Enrique or Henry The Black, Magellan’s personal slave bought from Malacca and mentioned in Magellan’s will. And would you credit the Wright brothers or perhaps the mechanic who sat in the back seat of the plane on that inaugural flight? How stupid can one get?

    we are all of 1 Race, the Human race

  8. Don,

    I do not know whether this Kampong professor ever read Carr, Collingwood, Trevor-Roper, Oakeshott, Namier,Trevelyan, Marxist Historian Hobsbawm,and others on “What is History”. Even if he did, I am not sure if he understood what they discussed and wrote.–Din Merican

    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    What is History?

    What Is History? is a 1961 non-fiction book by historian Edward Hallett Carr on historiography. It discusses history, facts, the bias of historians, science, morality, individuals and society, and moral judgements in history.

    The book originated in a series of lectures given by Carr in 1961 at the University of Cambridge. The lectures were intended as a broad introduction into the subject of the theory of history and their accessibility has resulted in What is History? becoming one of the key texts in the field of historiography.

    Some of Carr’s ideas are contentious, particularly his alleged relativism and his rejection of contingency as an important factor in historical analysis. His work provoked a number of responses, notably Geoffrey Elton’s The Practice of History.

    Carr remains notable today for his historiographical work, What is History? (1961), a book based upon his series of G. M. Trevelyan lectures, delivered at the University of Cambridge between January–March 1961. In this work, Carr argued that he was presenting a middle-of-the-road position between the empirical view of history and R. G. Collingwood‘s idealism.[2] Carr rejected the empirical view of the historian’s work being an accretion of “facts” that he or she has at their disposal as nonsense.[2] Carr claimed:

    The belief in a hard core of historical facts existing objectively and independently of the interpretation of the historian is a preposterous fallacy, but one which it is very hard to eradicate.[3]

    Carr maintained that there is such a vast quantity of information in the modern era that the historian always chooses the “facts” he or she decides to make use of.[2] In Carr’s famous example, he claimed that millions had crossed the Rubicon, but only Julius Caesar’s crossing in 49 BC is declared noteworthy by historians.[2][4] Carr divided facts into two categories: “facts of the past”, that is historical information that historians deem unimportant, and “historical facts”, information that the historians have decided is important.[2][5] Carr contended that historians arbitrarily determine which of the “facts of the past” to turn into “historical facts” according to their own biases and agendas.[2][6] Carr stated that:

    Study the historian before you begin to study the facts. This is, after all, not very abstruse. It is what is already done by the intelligent undergraduate who, when recommended to read a work by that great scholar Jones of St. Jude’s, goes round to a friend at St. Jude’s to ask what sort of chap Jones is, and what bees he has in his bonnet. When you read a work of history, always listen out for the buzzing. If you can detect none, either you are tone deaf or your historian is a dull dog. The facts are really not at all like fish on the fishmonger’s slab. They are like fish swimming about in a vast and sometimes inaccessible ocean; and what the historian catches will depend partly on chance, but mainly on what part of the ocean he chooses to fish in and what tackle he chooses to use – these two factors being, of course, determined by the kind of fish he wants to catch. By and large, the historian will get the kind of facts he wants. History means interpretation. Indeed, if, standing Sir George Clark on his head, I were to call history “a hard core of interpretation surrounded by a pulp of disputable facts”, my statement would, no doubt, be one-sided and misleading, but no more so, I venture to think, than the original dictum.[7]

    For this reason, Carr argued that Leopold von Ranke’s famous dictum wie es eigentlich gewesen (show what actually happened) was wrong because it presumed that the “facts” influenced what the historian wrote, rather than the historian choosing what “facts of the past” he or she intended to turn into “historical facts”.[8] At the same time, Carr argued that the study of the facts may lead the historian to change his or her views.[2] In this way, Carr argued that history was “an unending dialogue between the past and present”.[2][9]

    As an example of how he believed that “facts of the past” were transformed into the “facts of history”, Carr used an obscure riot that took place in Stalybridge Wakes in 1850 that saw a gingerbread seller beaten to death.[3] Carr argued that this incident had been totally ignored by historians until the 1950s when George Kitson Clark mentioned it in one of his books.[3] Since Kitson Clark, Carr claimed that several other historians have cited the same riot for what it revealed about Victorian Britain, leading Carr to assert that the riot and the murder of the gingerbread seller was in the progress of going from a “fact of the past” to a “fact of history” that in the future will be regularly cited by historians.[3] Another example Carr used in his theory was the publication in 1932 of the papers of the former German Foreign Minister Gustav Stresemann by his secretary Bernhard.[10] Carr noted when Stresemann died in 1929, he left behind 300 boxes of papers relating to his time in office, and in 1932 Bernhard published three volumes of Stresemann’s papers under the title Stresemanns Vermächtnis.[10] Carr noted that because of the Locarno Treaties, for which Stresemann was a co-winner of the Nobel peace prize, Bernhard devoted most of the papers in Stresemanns Vermächtnis to Stresemann’s work with relations to Britain and France.[10] Carr noted that the documents of the Auswärtiges Amt and Stresemann’s own papers show that Stresemann was far more concerned with relations with the Soviet Union instead of the Western powers, and that Bernhard had edited the selection in Stresemanns Vermächtnis to focus more on Stresemann’s Nobel Peace Prize-winning successes and to make him seem more like an apostle of peace than what he really was (one of Stresemann’s major interests was in partitioning Poland between Germany and the Soviet Union).[11] Moreover, Carr noted that when an English translation of Stresemanns Vermächtnis was published in 1935, the translator abbreviated one-third of the German original to focus more on those aspects of Stresemann’s diplomacy that were of primary interest to British readers, which had the effect of making it seem that Stesemann was almost exclusively concerned with relations with the Western powers and had little time for relations with the Soviet Union.[12] Carr commented that were it only the English translation of Stresemanns Vermächtnis that had survived World War II, then historians would have been seriously misled about what Stresemann had been up to as Foreign Minister.[12] Finally Carr argued that in the conversations between Stresemann and the Soviet Foreign Commissar Georgy Chicherin, Stresemann does most of the talking and says all of the intelligent and original things, leading Carr to suggest that Stresemann himself had edited the papers to place himself in the best possible light.[13] Carr used Stresemanns Vermächtnis to argue for the subjective nature of the documents historians used, which he then used to support his attacks against the idea of the work of the historians being purely that of a totally objective observer who “lets the facts speak for themselves”.[13]

    Likewise, Carr charged that historians are always influenced by the present when writing about the past. As an example, he used the changing viewpoints about the German past expressed by the German historian Friedrich Meinecke during the Imperial, Weimar, Nazi and post-war periods to support his contention.[14] The British historian Hugh Trevor-Roper, one of Carr’s leading critics, summarized Carr’s argument as:

    “George Grote, the 19th-century historian of Greece, was an enlightened radical banker; therefore, his picture of Periclean Athens is merely an allegory of 19th century England as seen by an enlightened banker. Mommsen’s History of Rome is similarly dismissed as a product and illustration of pre-Bismarckian Germany. Sir Lewis Namier’s choice of subject and treatment of it simply show the predictable prejudices of a Polish conservative”.[15]

    In general, Carr held to a deterministic outlook in history.[16] In Carr’s opinion, all that happens in the world had a cause, and events could not have happened differently unless there was a different cause.[16] In Carr’s example, if one’s friend Smith suddenly starts acting out of character one day, then it must be understood that there is a reason for the strange behaviour, and that if that reason did not exist, then Smith would be acting normally.[17] Carr criticized counter-factual history as a “parlour game” played by the “losers” in history.[18] Carr contended that those who engaged in counter-factual speculations about Russian history, such as if Count Pyotr Stolypin’s land reforms were given enough time, would the Russian Revolution have been prevented, were those who were uncomfortable about the fact that the Bolsheviks were the “winners” of Russian history and their opponents were not.[18] Likewise, Carr asserted those who stress the importance of “accidents” as a central causal agent in history were the “losers” of history, who wished to explain away their defeats as the workings of chance and fate.[19] In the same way, Carr argued that historians must concern themselves with the “winners” of history.[20] In Carr’s example, it is those who score centuries in cricket matches who are recorded, not those who are dismissed for ducks, and in the same way, Carr maintained that a preoccupation with the “losers” would be the equivalent of someone only listing the losers of cricket games.[21] Carr dismissed the free will arguments made by Sir Karl Popper and Sir Isaiah Berlin as Cold War propaganda meant to discredit communism.[22] In a similar way, Carr took a hostile view of those historians who stress the workings of chance and contingency in the workings of history.[16] In Carr’s view, such historians did not understand their craft very well, or were in some way identified with the “losers” of history.[16]

    In the same way, Carr argued that no individual is truly free of the social environment in which they live, but contended that within those limitations, there was room, albeit very narrow room for people to make decisions that have an impact on history.[23] Carr made a division between those who, like Vladimir Lenin and Oliver Cromwell, helped to shape the social forces which carried them to historical greatness and those who, like Otto von Bismarck and Napoleon, rode on the back of social forces over which they had little or no control.[24] Though Carr was willing to grant individuals a role in history, he argued that those who focus exclusively on individuals in a Great man theory of history were doing a profound disservice to the past.[25] As an example, Carr complained of those historians who explained the Russian Revolution solely as the result of the “stupidity” of Emperor Nicholas II (which Carr regarded as a factor, but only of lesser importance) rather than the work of great social forces.[25]

    Carr claimed that when examining causation in history, historians should seek to find “rational” causes of historical occurrences, that is causes that can be generalized across time to explain other occurrences in other times and places.[16] For Carr, historical “accidents” cannot be generalized, and are thus not worth the historian’s time.[16] Carr illustrated his theory by telling a story of a man named Robinson who went out to buy some cigarettes one night, and was killed by an automobile with defective brakes driven by a drunk driver named Jones on a sharp turn of the road.[26] Carr argued one could contend that the “real” reasons for the accident that killed Robinson might be the defective brakes or the sharp turn of the road or the inebriated state of Jones, but that to argue that it was Robinson’s wish to buy cigarettes that was the cause, while a factor, was not the “real” cause of his death.[27] As such, Carr argued that those who were seeking to prevent a repeat of Robinson’s death would do well to pass laws regulating drunk driving, straightening the sharp turn of the road and the quality of automobile brakes, but would be wasting their time passing a law forbidding people to take a walk to buy cigarettes.[27] In a not too subtle dig at critics of determinism like Sir Karl Popper and Sir Isaiah Berlin, Carr spoke of the inquiry into Robinson’s death being interrupted by two “distinguished gentlemen” who maintained quite vehemently that it was Robinson’s wish to buy cigarettes that caused his death.[27] In the same way, Carr argued that historians needed to find the “real” causes of historical events by finding the general trend which could inspire a better understanding of the present than by focusing on the role of the accidental and incidental.[28]

    As an example of his attack on the role of accidents in history, Carr mocked the hypothesis of “Cleopatra’s nose” (Pascal’s thought that, but for the magnetism exerted by the nose of Cleopatra on Mark Anthony, there would have been no affair between the two, and hence the Second Triumvirate would not have broken up, and therefore the Roman Republic would have continued).[29] Carr sarcastically commented that male attraction to female beauty can hardly be considered an accident at all, and is rather one of the more common cases of cause and effect in the world.[30] Other examples of “Cleopatra’s Nose” types of history cited by Carr were the claim by Edward Gibbon that if the Turkish sultan Bayezid I did not suffer from gout, he would have conquered Central Europe, Winston Churchill’s statement that if King Alexander had not died of a monkey bite, the Greco-Turkish War would have been avoided, and Leon Trotsky’s remark that if he not contracted a cold while duck hunting, he would not have missed a crucial Politburo meeting in 1923.[29] Rather than accidents, Carr asserted history was a series of causal chains interacting with each other.[30] Carr contemptuously compared those like Winston Churchill who in his book The World Crisis claimed that the death of King Alexander from a monkey bite caused the Greek-Turkish war to those who would claim that the “real” cause of Robinson’s death was his desire to buy cigarettes.[27] Carr argued that the claim that history was a series of “accidents” was merely an expression of the pessimism which Carr claimed was the dominant mood in Britain in 1961, due to the decline of the British Empire.[31]

    In What is History? Carr dismissed the theory of “Cleopatra’s Nose” as an example of the power of accidents in history. In Carr’s opinion, historical works that serve to broaden society’s understanding of the past via generalizations are more “right” and “socially acceptable” than works that do not.[16] Citing Pieter Geyl, Carr argued that as the values of society changes, so do the values of historical works.[16][31] Carr argued that as society continues to progress in the 20th century, historians must change the values that they apply in writing their works to reflect the work of progress.[32] Carr argued during his lectures that Karl Marx had developed a schema for understanding past, present and the future that reflected the proper and dual role of the historian both to analyse the past and provide a call for action for the present in order to create a better future for humanity.[33]

    Carr emphatically contended that history was a social science, not an art,[34] because historians, like scientists, seek generalizations that help to broaden the understanding of one’s subject.[34][35] Carr used the example of the word revolution, arguing that if the word did not have a specific meaning then it would make no sense for historians to write of revolutions, even though every revolution that occurred in history was in its own way unique.[34][36] Moreover, Carr claimed that historical generalizations were often related to lessons to be learned from other historical occurrences.[34][37] Since in Carr’s view, lessons can be sought and learned in history, then history was more like a science than any art.[34][38] Though Carr conceded that historians cannot predict exact events in the future, he argued that historical generalizations can supply information useful to understanding both the present and the future.[34] Carr argued that since scientists are not purely neutral observers, but have a reciprocal relationship with the objects under their study just like historians, that this supported identifying history with the sciences rather than the arts.[34][39] Likewise, Carr contended that history like science has no moral judgements, which in his opinion supports the identification of history as a science.[34][40]

    Carr was well known for his assertions in What Is History? denying moral judgements in history.[41] Carr argued that it was ahistorical for the historian to judge people in different times according to the moral values of his or her time.[41] Carr argued that individuals should be judged only in terms of the values of their time and place, not by the values of the historian’s time and/or place.[41] In Carr’s opinion, historians should not act as judges.[42] Carr quoted Thomas Carlyle’s remark on the British reaction to the French Revolution: “Exaggeration abounds, execration, wailing and on the whole darkness”…”, and complained that exactly the same could be said about too much of Western commentary and writing on the Russian Revolution.[43] Likewise, Carr quoted Carlyle on the Reign of Terror as a way of confronting Western complaints about Soviet terror:

    “Horrible in lands that had known equal justice—not so unnatural in lands that had never known it”.[43]

    Thus, Carr argued that within the context of the Soviet Union, Stalin was a force for the good.[41] In a 1979 essay, Carr argued about Stalin that:

    “He revived and outdid the worst brutalities of the earlier Tsars; and his record excited revulsion in later generations of historians. Yet his achievement in borrowing from the West, in forcing on primitive Russia the material foundations of modern civilisation, and in giving Russia a place among the European powers, obliged them to concede, however reluctantly his title to greatness. Stalin was the most ruthless despot Russia had known since Peter, and also a great westerniser”.[41]

    Though Carr made it clear that he preferred that historians refrain from expressing moral opinions, he did argue that if the historian should find it necessary then such views should best be restricted to institutions rather than individuals.[41] Carr argued that such an approach was better because the focus on individuals served to provide a collective alibi for societies.[41] Carr used as examples those in United Kingdom who blamed appeasement solely upon Neville Chamberlain, those Germans who argued that Nazi-era crimes were the work of Adolf Hitler alone or those in the United States who blamed McCarthyism exclusively upon Senator Joseph McCarthy.[44] In Carr’s opinion, historians should reject concepts like good and evil when making judgements about events and people.[45] Instead, Carr preferred the terms progressive or reactionary as the terms for value judgements.[46] In Carr’s opinion, if a historical event such as the collectivisation of Soviet agriculture in the early 1930s led to the growth of the Soviet heavy industry and the achievement of the goals of the First Five Year Plan, then the collectivisation must be considered a progressive development in history, and hence all of the sufferings and millions of deaths caused by collectivisation, the “dekulakisation” campaign and the Holodomor were justified by the growth of Soviet heavy industry.[47] Likewise, Carr argued that the suffering of Chinese workers in the treaty ports and in the mines of South Africa in the late 19th-early 20th centuries was terrible, but must be considered a progressive development as it helped to push China towards the Communist revolution.[48] Carr argued that China was much better off under the leadership of Mao Zedong then it was under the leadership of Chiang Kai-shek, and hence all of the developments that led to the fall of Chiang’s regime in 1949 and the rise to power of Mao must considered progressive. Finally, Carr argued that historians can be “objective” if they are capable of moving beyond their narrow view of the situation both in the past and in the present, and can write historical works which helped to contribute to progress of society.[49]

    The Price of Progress? Child victim of the Holodomor. In Carr’s view, the suffering and deaths in the Soviet Union during the First Five Year Plan period were justified by the growth in Soviet heavy industry in the early 1930s, which in turn allowed the Soviet Union to defeat Germany.

    At the end of his lectures, Carr criticized a number of conservative/liberal historians and philosophers such as Hugh Trevor-Roper, Sir Karl Popper, Admiral Samuel Eliot Morison, Sir Lewis Bernstein Namier and Michael Oakeshott, and argued that “progress” in the world was against them.[50] Carr ended his book with the predication that “progress” would sweep away everything that Popper, Morision, Namier, Trever-Roper and Oakeshott believed in the 20th century just the same way that “progress” swept away the Catholic Church’s opposition to Galileo Galilei’s astronomical theories in the 17th century.[51] Elaborating on the theme of “progress” inevitably sweeping away the old order of things in the world, in a 1970 article entitled “Marxism and History”, Carr argued that with the exception of the Mexican Revolution, every revolution in the last sixty-odd years had been led by Marxists[52]. The other revolutions Carr counted were the revolutions in Cuba, China, Russia, and a half-revolution in Vietnam (presumably a reference to the then on-going Vietnam War)[53]. This together with what Carr saw as the miserable condition of the Third World, which comprised most of the world led Carr to argue that Marxism had the greatest appeal in the Third World, and was the most likely wave of the future[54]. Carr expanded on this thesis of “progress” being an unstoppable force in September 1978 when he stated:

    “I think we have to consider seriously the hypothesis that the world revolution of which [the Bolshevik revolution] was the first stage, and which will complete the downfall of capitalism, will prove to be the revolt of the colonial peoples against capitalism in the guise of imperialism”.[55]

    In his notes for a second edition of What Is History?, Carr remarked on recent trends in historiography. Carr wrote about the rise of social history that:

    “Since the First World War the impact of the materialist conception of history on historical writings has been very strong. Indeed, one might say that all serious historical work done in this period has been moulded by its influence. The symptom of this change has been the replacement, in general esteem, of battles, diplomatic manoeuvres, constitutional arguments and political intrigues as the main topics of history—’political history’ in the broad sense—by the study of economic factors, of social conditions, of statistics of population, of the rise and fall of classes. The increasing popularity of sociology has been another feature of the same development; the attempt has sometimes been made to treat history as a branch of sociology.”[56]

    About the rise of social history as a subject at the expense of political history, Carr wrote:

    “Social history is the bedrock. To study the bedrock alone is not enough; and becomes tedious; perhaps this is what happened to Annales. But you can’t dispense with it”.[57]

    Through Carr himself had insisted that history was a social science, he regretted the decline of history as a discipline relative to the other social sciences, which he saw as a part of a conservative trend.[56] Carr wrote:

    “History is preoccupied with fundamental processes of change. If you are allergic to these processes, you abandon history and take cover in the social sciences. Today anthropology, sociology, etc, flourish. History is sick. But then our society too is sick”.[56].

    Carr deplored the rise of Structuralism.[56]. Carr wrote there was the structuralist approach, which Carr called a “horizontal” way of understanding history “which analyses a society in terms of the functional or structural inter-relation of its parts”.[56] Against it, there was what Carr called the “vertical” approach “which analyses it [society] in terms of where it has come from and where it is going”.[56] Through Carr was willing to allow that a structural approach had some advantages, he wrote:

    “But it makes a lot of difference which attracts [the historian’s] main emphasis and concern. This depends partly, no doubt, on his temperament, but largely on the environment in which he works. We live in a society which thinks of change chiefly as change for the worse, dreads it and prefers the “horizontal” view which calls only for minor adjustments”.[58]

    Repeating his attack on the empirical approach to history, Carr claimed that those historians who claimed to be strict empiricists like Captain Stephen Roskill who took a just-the-facts approach would resemble a character named Funes in a short story by Jorge Luis Borges who never forgot anything he had seen or heard, so his memory was a “garbage heap”.[59] Thus, Funes was “not very capable of thought” because “to think is forget differences, to generalize, to make abstractions”.[59] In his introduction to the second edition of What is History? written shortly before his death in 1982, which was all that Carr had finished of the second edition, Carr proclaimed his belief that the western world was in a state of despair, writing:

    “The Cold War has resumed with redoubled intensity, bringing with it the threat of nuclear extinction. The delayed economic crisis has set in with a vengeance, ravaging the industrial countries and spreading the cancer of unemployment throughout the Western world [Carr is referring to the recession of the early 1980s]. Scarcely a country is now free from the antagonism of violence and terrorism. The revolt of the oil-producing states of the Middle East has brought a significant shift in power to the disadvantage of the Western industrial nations [a reference to the Arab oil shock of 1973-74 and the Iranian oil shock of 1979]. The “third world” has been transformed from a passive into a positive and disturbing factor in world affairs. In these conditions any expression of optimism has come to seem absurd”.[59]

    Carr went on to declare his belief that the world was in fact getting better and wrote that it was only the West in decline, not the world, writing that:

    “My conclusion is that the current wave of skepticism and despair, which looks ahead to nothing but destruction and decay, and dismisses as absurd any belief in progress or any prospect of a further advance by the human race, is a form of elitism—the product of elite social groups whose security and whose privileges have been most conspicuously eroded by the crisis, and of elite countries whose once undisputed domination over the rest of the world has been shattered”.[59]

    The claims that Carr made about the nature of historical work in What Is History? proved to be very controversial, and inspired Sir Geoffrey Elton to write his 1967 book The Practice of History in response, defending traditional historical methods. Elton criticized Carr for his “whimsical” distinction between the “historical facts” and the “facts of the past”, arguing that it reflected “…an extraordinarily arrogant attitude both to the past and to the place of the historian studying it”.[60] Though Elton praised Carr for rejecting the role of “accidents” in history, he maintained that Carr’s philosophy of history was merely an attempt to provide a secular version of the medieval view of history as the working of God’s master plan with “Progress” playing the part of God.[61] The British historian Hugh Trevor-Roper argued that Carr’s dismissal of the “might-have-beens of history” reflected a fundamental lack of interest in examining historical causation.[62] Trevor-Roper asserted that examining possible alternative outcomes of history was far from being a “parlour-game” was rather an essential part of the historians’ work.[63] In Trevor-Roper’s opinion, only by looking at all possible outcomes and all sides could a historian properly understand the period under study, and those historians who adopted Carr’s perspective of only seeking to understand the “winners” of history, and treating the outcome of a particular set of events as the only possible outcome were “bad historians”.[64] In a review in 1963 in Historische Zeitschrift, Andreas Hillgruber wrote favourably of Carr’s geistvoll-ironischer (ironically spirited) criticism of conservative, liberal and positivist historians.[65] A more positive assessment of What is History? came from the British philosopher W.H. Walsh who in a 1963 review endorsed Carr’s theory of “facts of history” and “facts of the past”, writing that it is not a “fact of history” that he had toast for breakfast that day.[66] Walsh went on to write that Carr was correct that historians did not stand above history, and were instead products of their own places and times, which in turn decided what “facts of the past” they determined into “facts of history”.[66]

    The British historian Richard J. Evans credited What Is History? with causing a revolution in British historiography in the 1960s[67] The Australian historian Keith Windschuttle, a critic of Carr noted regretfully that What Is History? has proved to be one of the most influential books ever written about historiography, and that there were very few historians working in the English language since the 1960s who had not read What Is History?[68] The conservative British historian Andrew Roberts was to write in 2005 in defence of counter-factual history that: ‘anything that has been condemned by Carr, Thompson and Hobsbawm must have something to recommend it”[69]
    [edit] References

    ^ Carr, E.H. (1990) What is History? (1990 reprint of the 1987 2nd edition) Penguin Books
    ^ a b c d e f g h Huges-Warrington, p. 26
    ^ a b c d Carr, What Is History?, p. 12
    ^ Carr, What Is History?, p. 10;
    ^ Carr, What Is History?, pp. 12–13
    ^ Carr, What Is History?, pp. 22–25;
    ^ Carr, What Is History?, pp. 23–24
    ^ Carr, What Is History?, pp. 8–13
    ^ Carr, What Is History?, p. 30
    ^ a b c Carr, What Is History?, p. 16
    ^ Carr, What Is History?, p. 17
    ^ a b Carr, What Is History?, p. 18
    ^ a b Carr, What Is History?, pp. 18–19
    ^ Carr, What Is History?, pp. 40–41
    ^ Trevor-Roper, p. 70
    ^ a b c d e f g h Huges-Warrington, p. 27
    ^ Carr, What Is History?, p. 94; Huges-Warrington, p. 27
    ^ a b Carr, What Is History?, p. 97
    ^ Carr, What Is History?, pp. 99–101
    ^ Carr, What Is History?, p. 126
    ^ Carr, What Is History?, pp. 126–127
    ^ Carr, What Is History?, pp. 91–95; Huges-Warrington, p. 27
    ^ Huges-Warrington, pp. 26–27
    ^ Carr, What Is History?, pp. 54–55
    ^ a b Carr, What Is History?, p. 46
    ^ Carr, What Is History?, p. 104
    ^ a b c d Carr, What Is History?, pp. 106–107
    ^ Carr, What Is History?, pp. 107–108
    ^ a b Carr, E.H. What is History? London: Penguin, 1961, 1987 p. 98
    ^ a b Carr, E.H. What is History?, London: Penguin, 1961, 1987 p. 99
    ^ a b Carr, What Is History?, p. 43
    ^ Huges-Warrington, pp. 27–28
    ^ Carr, What Is History?, pp. 136–138
    ^ a b c d e f g h Huges-Warrington, p. 28
    ^ Carr, What Is History?, p. 62
    ^ Carr, What Is History?, p. 63
    ^ Carr, What Is History?, pp. 66–67
    ^ Carr, What Is History?, p. 68
    ^ Carr, What Is History?, pp. 70–71
    ^ Carr, What Is History?, pp. 74–75
    ^ a b c d e f g Huges-Warrington, p. 29
    ^ Carr, What Is History?, pp. 76–77
    ^ a b Carr, What Is History?, p. 64; Laqueur, p. 126
    ^ Carr, What Is History?, p. 78; Huges-Warrington, p. 29
    ^ Carr, What Is History?, p. 82
    ^ Carr, What Is History?, p. 83
    ^ Carr, What Is History?, pp. 80–81
    ^ Carr, What Is History?, p. 81
    ^ Huges-Warrington, p. 30
    ^ Carr, What Is History?, pp. 152–156
    ^ Carr, What Is History?, p. 156
    ^ Carr, What Is History?, pp. 179–181
    ^ Carr, What Is History?, pp. 179–180
    ^ Carr, What Is History?, p. 181
    ^ Carr, What Is History?, pp. 181–182
    ^ a b c d e f Carr, What Is History?, p. 171
    ^ Carr, What Is History?, p. 170
    ^ Carr, What Is History?, p. 172
    ^ a b c d Carr, What Is History?, p. 159
    ^ Elton, Geoffrey The Practice of History, London: Methuen, 1967 pp. 56–57
    ^ Elton, Geoffrey The Practice of History, London: Methuen, 1967 p. 40
    ^ Trevor-Roper, pp. 72–73
    ^ Trevor-Roper, p. 73
    ^ Trevor-Roper, p. 76
    ^ Stephanson, Anders “The Lessons of What is History?” pp. 283–303 from E.H. Carr A Critical Appraisal ed. Michael Cox, Palgrave: London, 2000 p. 300
    ^ a b Walsh. W.H. Review of What Is History? pp. 587–588 from The English Historical Review, Volume 78, Issue # 308, July 1963
    ^ Evans, Richard J. (Autumn 2001). “The Two Faces of E.H. Carr”. History In Focus. Retrieved 2008-09-23.
    ^ Windshuttle, Keith (Autumn 2001). “The Real Stuff of History”. Sydney Line. Retrieved 2008-12-12.
    ^ Žižek, Slavoj (August 18 2005). “Lenin Shot at Finland Station”. London Review of Books. Retrieved 2009-09-30.

  9. “The Sejarah Melayu is not precise historiography. It is a historical document if you want to know how people used to think in those days. But we cannot confirm how much of it is fact, and how much of it is pure fable. It does not record dates, and has characters that we cannot confirm existed.

    For example, it does not tell us when Malacca was first founded or when a ruler ascended the throne or passed away. We have no knowledge when Hang Jebat died. History cannot be like that. It has to be very precise………” KKK.

    The precise date that Bambang began re-writing the SM is known as 13th May 1612. Other historians have confirmed that originally, the SM was written circa 1535, some 24 years after the fall of Malacca to the Portuguese, by an unknown scribe familiar with Tamil, Jawi, Arabic etc. While there are contradictions, the exact length of rule of Parameswara and that of his ancestors (of part Hindu/Tamil Indian origins) from Palembang are also stated in SM (Raffles Ms18). You don’t need spot on precise dates to work out the Malacca Sultanate. There’s enough (until research shows more) to work out that the recent claims from Malacca and its MB of a Malay Sultanate going back to 12th century is pure bunkum.

    So, after 400 years, KKK and his cohorts are still sleeping on the subject instead of embarking on rigorous research? What are our historians afraid of unearthing?

    “Question: What does Hang — as in Hang Tuah or Hang Li Po — signify? Is it an honorary title?”

    Answer: This still can’t be concluded from our current body of knowledge.” KKK.

    More of KKK talking from the supine position. Why haven’t Malaysian historians carried out philological studies with Indian and Chinese historians to get to the bottom of it? It can’t be that difficult. Btw, Kasturi means musk of deer in Tamil and one of the most famous songs about Lord Krishna written in BC times begins with “Kasturi Tilakam…”.

    we are all of 1 Race, the Human Race

  10. Ayiya…..Prof KKK, Hang Li Po was the third daughter of the Ming Emperor ‘s 21st concubine…so did not get a mention in Ming records lah !! No IPad then, so cannot be as efficient as NRD records in registering illegal immigrants lah !!

  11. History is our mirror from the past and progress for future. You are blinded as the history will be repeated again and again if you don’t learn the truths from the history. Worse still if the facts in history are twisted to glorify for political purposes.

  12. Kampong professor -Dato Din

    Prof Khoo Kay Kim , KAMPONG Professor??? You are being too nice and too polite. Actual title is “KANGKUNG Professor Emeritus” or KKKKI

  13. Yup, history is repeatable. That’s why it’s science!
    C’mon guys, give this Emeritus Illuminati some credit lah. All of us are in the same swamp, somewhat slaves to our environment. Just don’t confuse History with magical thinking (ie Mythology).

  14. poor KKK, after reading the article with interest and all the comments, I’d say the the commentaters especially ‘don’ deserves to be called Professors of Malaysian history.

    kangkung prof KKK can further studiously study the effects of Valium on academics thereby he’ll provide irrefutable proof that chinese, indian and others races never existed and don’t exist in malaysia.

  15. Given the oppressive climate in academia throughout the Mahathir Era, for somebody to have survived so many decades as a history professor would indicate that keeping his or her tenure was far more important than making a valuable contribution to the nation;s intellectual life. Khoo Kay Kim is not an unpleasant man – in fact, he is very amiable in person, even if he often comes across as smugly complacent.

    As an academic, I would rate him as a journeyman, one who did whatever he felt he had to, in order to avoid having to migrate (as Jomo K.S. eventually did, because he was too outspoken and publicly criticised Mahathir’s policies).

    So, the fact that KKK was never a contentious figure in academia and earned himself a datukship would make him more an apologist for the establishment than a controversial scholar. That he has chosen to stir up some controversy about Hang Tuah at this juncture – and not earlier – suggests that his emeritus status frees him from having to worry about becoming unemployed. In the final analysis, I find KKK’s insistence on historical factuality rather unimaginative and mediocre.

    The best historians are always also natural-born storytellers in the age-old bardic tradition. Stories stir the human imagination and inspire us to great accomplishments. A story well told is measured by its endurance in and long-term impact on the collective memory – not by the mere accuracy or precision of the account itself.

  16. Hang Tuah was a knight in shining armour , Jebat was the sultans worst night mare..amplified by one tukang karut(story teller) after another .this much is real…the Hikayat is its masterpiece… Khoo is not too much a historian of the kangkung kind.. He knows where he stands , most of all he understands malay sentiments all to well and what the establishment expects of him. In certain instances he takes pot shots at the malay masses , at times he plays to the gallery. Lest we forget , history is written by the victors…

  17. Hang Jebat started off as a rebel without a cause and ended up morphed into a culture warrior. He is what you make him out to be. Hang Tuah? What do you guys want him to be? Certainly nothing along the tradition of Mack the Knife.

  18. Look at Sir Lancelot who put his tongue in the wrong places and was speechless when asked by King Arthur if he had been taking good care of Lady Guinevere. There is a Sir Lancelot in all of us.

  19. Hang Tuah
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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    A bronze mural of Hang Tuah with Ta’ Melayu Hilang Di-Dunia written at the top. Exhibited at the National History Museum, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

    Hang Tuah is a legendary warrior/hero who lived during the reign of Sultan Mansur Shah of the Sultanate of Malacca in the 15th century. He was the greatest of all the laksamana, or sultan’s admirals, and was known to be a ferocious fighter. Hang Tuah is held in the highest regard, even in present-day Malaysian Malay culture, and is arguably the most well-known and illustrious warrior figure in Malaysian history and literature.

  20. Myth is sometimes as powerful as contemporary religious imagination, Robert. Many intellectuals disregard it as a return to premodern irrationality, just because we have moved forward into an information saturated environment of instant communication.

    The employment of myth by the human psyche is an attempt to revisit the tragicomedy that is self-identity and existence itself. To many the belief, is the answer to the social roles and mores seeking beauty, truth and justice. With it comes identification with a “purpose”. Myth is neither historical nor anti-historical: it is counter-historical. All true historians will admit that there are limitations to historical perspectives, as it is impossible to assume the exact milieu in which any event had occurred. The ‘facts’ are often irreconcilable to the reality at that point of time.

    What we should emphasize is that Myths are not History, anymore than Guan Yin or Lao Tze were historical figures. Do not mistake myths as ‘fairy-tales’. It’s function is not puerile, but to transcend the reality of human existence, and teach us something about ourselves.

    I think it’s time to end this useless discourse. We should be focused at what needs to be taught to our youth and a revamp of the whole education system. Myths should be relegated to Literature, so that history can take it’s rightful place to inform and warn.

  21. Yeah, forget about Hang Tuah, Hang Jebat, Hang Li Kasturi, Hang Li Po and the many other Hangs in history and concentrate on what the Hang Pencuris in Umno are doing now. Hang Sharizat is one fine example. Get her to return all the rakyat’s money she “curi” to buy her lembus.

  22. “Hang Tuah was made popular through the Bangsawan theatre during the pre-war era. There is no doubt that he was very popular. But at the end of the day, what do you want to learn about in school as part of history? Myth or fact?”

    THAT is all that our Professor Emeritus Khoo can come up with to support his view that Hang Tuah is a myth!

    What UTTER rubbish! One would expect someone who claim to be a respected Malaysian historian to give a well-researched, factual, reasoned explanation of his expert view.

    Khoo claimed to have read history for many years. Well, I am older than Khoo and I have read history for more years than him. Perhaps, I can be a better and more qualified historian than Khoo.

    What gutter historian this Khoo person is!

  23. Don’t mind Tok Cik who feels compelled to act out the role of the spurned lover. Sharizat has been throwing meat to you but you were looking for meat all in the wrong places.

    Red meat is best taken with red wine. You could have called Pak Semper who is a wine connoisieur himself. Wine, songs and lembu go well together.

  24. Guess Hang Tuah is now relegated to selling 2 in 1coffee under his name brand.
    We should just let sleeping dogs lie. For hundred of years we’ve accepted the existense of Hang Tuah and gang, why only now the Prof KKK trying to debunk the idea that Hang Tuah really existed? By the same token the Prof KKK is also challenging the notion that the Chinese were in Melaka since the 1400’s and that Admiral Cheng Ho seafaring adventures didn’t happen. Did the professor KKK research the Chinese archives and literature in China or did he do his research only in Malaysia? Researching Chinese manuscripts in China may reveal more than just the adventures of Admiral Cheng Ho but also provide glimpse of Hang Li Po.

    If the Chinese can trace their history through thousand of years to establish the existence of the various dynasties through various artifacts perhaps Prof KKK can carbon date some of the Chinese potteries found in Melaka and also the graves in Bukit China and the old buildings at the mouth of Melaka river. Do excavation work on A Famosa, the Dutch Stadhuys and the Baba and Nyonyas and he will be pleasantly surprised. Adopt the scientific ways like what they do to the Pyramids and the Pharoahs in Egypt or the Shroud of Christ.

  25. What is wrong with learning about Hang Tuah and Hang Jebat as part of Malay literature. King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table has never been proven to exist. Yet it is the subject of movies and popular culture.

  26. What is wrong with learning about Hang Tuah and Hang Jebat as part of Malay literature.- Mr Bean

    Nothing wrong, my friend. But don’t learn as HISTORY.

    It should be learnt as stories like Conan the Barbarian, Star Wars, Romeo and Juliet, For Whom the Bell Tolls, Harmony Silk Factory, etc

  27. Mohammad claimed one night he sat on a Winged Horse called Buraq and flew from Mecca to Jerusalem and then to Heaven to meet & discuss with God, Moses, Jesus, St John and other prophets.
    IS THIS MYTH OR FACT??? Can anybody enlighten me on this???-We cannot believe everything we read or hear. – robert


    Don’t try to be an idiotic smarty ass bringing provocative religious comments on this thread.

    Why don’t YOU ask when Jesus’s disciples claimed Jesus woke up three days after he was confirmed dead on a cross and walk around and saw his friends and then later went up into heaven on a cloud. Damn fool!!

    Idiots like you are what cause religious bigots and anti-Islamto flourish in Malaysia and in the western world

    Screw you, robert…you are trying to preach islamic phobia on the internet.,

  28. Here is one for the road; is Wong Fei Hong a reality or a myth? He was the martial arts expert around the 1950s and was a huge figure hero for many Kung Fu shows during that era until Bruce Lee came along. Some said he was real but was larger than life; others said he was a bull shitter.

    Maybe Hang Tuah was an old Han (Han Tua) from China who was a martial art fighter assigned to the sultan to protect him. Later became larger than life from generations of story telling about his fighting abilities & exploits; like Rambo which we all know is myth.

    The person is real, the stories are exaggerated until it becomes unreal. So its both real & also partly myth. If you treat it as myth, you destroy the real person and if you think the whole thing as real there is no historic data to support it. Take him as a historical person but his expliots as myths.

  29. “Later became larger than life from generations of story telling …”

    Yep. His cock got too large for his small head and he had it cut off so he could feed the dogs. Life goesn on … What’s new??

  30. Prof Khoo said this so that all Malaysians will try harder to study more about our history… not to get angry and throw unnecessary comments. More studies and researches are needed but we always take things for granted.. for example, the history of Tanah Melayu are a lot kept in Taiwan.. but no one wants to go there to dig into our old artifacts.

  31. To share {Origins of Hang Tuah ( and Hang Jebat Hang Lekiu etc)

    By John Chow

    Findings of the team of scientists, archaeologist, historian and other technical staff from the United State, United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, Yemen & Russia

    The graves of Hang Tuah, Hang Jebat, Hang Lekiu and their close friends have been found and their skeletons had been analysed. Their DNA had been analysed and it is found that Hang Tuah, Hang Jebat, Hang Lekiu etc. are not Malay, but Chinese (Islamic Chinese, just like the famous Admiral Cheng Ho). Malacca was a protectorate of China at that time, and the Emperor of China sent the Sultan of Malacca “yellow gifts’ as a token of his sovereignty. The 5 warrior brothers were believed to be sent to help protect Malacca and its Sultan from Siam (Thailand).

    The Sultans of Malacca was directly descended from the Parameswara from Indonesia who fled to Tamasek (Singapore) and then to Malacca. The Malaccan Sulatanate family eventually spread and became the Sultanate of the other Malay states of Perak and Johor. Therefore, the Sultanate royal court and the aristocrats of the Malay sultanates are actually foreigners from Sumatra and Java. Hang Tuah and his friends were the protectors of the Indonesian aristocratic Parameswara family who came to Malaya around 1400 AD and claimed sovereignty of the land.

    For confirmation please refer to:-

    The Federal Association of Arc & Research of Michigan, USA

    John Chow’s notes:-

    “Hang” is an unusual surname or name for a Malay. It sounds like s corruption of a Chinese surname.

    In fact, Chinese names start with the surname first, and given names last. Malay names start with the given names first, and the father’s name last (as in Ahmad bin Yusuf which means “Ahmad, the son of Yusuf”). There is no surname in traditional Malay! There is no surname to carry forward to the next generation.

    We also need to examine the genealogy. We know that Hang Tuah’s father was Hang Mamat. Here, we do not see a Malay name transmission. We see a name being carried forward. It is also noted that the placement of the name that is carried forward is in front. This indicates that the surname is “Hang”. It is the transmission of Chinese names.

    We also know that Hang Tuah’s son is Hang Nadim. Again, the name “Hang” is carried forward, and yet again, auspiciously in front, as a Chinese name would be, with the surname in front. There is no indication of a Malay naming convention.

    Note that Hang Nadim is also known as Si Awang (Malays would colloquially refer to others as “Si”. “A” or “Ah” is a common prefix for referring to others in Chinese. Thus, a person with surname Wang/Huang would be referred to as “Si Ah Wang” in Malaysia – Mr. Ah Huang) by the Malays.

    Note that Hang Tuah’s mother is Dang Merdu. “Dang” would be quite an unusual surname for a Malay also. However, “Dang” or “Tang” is a common Chinese surname. Note that the name “Dang” is in front, signifying that this is a Chinese naming convention, yet again.

    Some Malays will argue that “Hang” is an honorific term (Humba) for those that serve the royal courts. This argument is not tenable. Firstly, where is the precedence in sultanates that preceded the Malaccan Sultanate? Secondly, where is the evidence that this is so in succeeding sultanates? Thirdly, where is the evidence that this practice was carried out in the sultanate of that time? And has that Sultan given it to other court official and the royal family and their court officials and courtesans? Where is the evidence? Fourthly, since Hang Tuah’s father is called Hang Mamat, then he would have served the Sultan prior to Hang Tuah. But there is no evidence this is so. In fact, there is evidence that Hang Tuah was a very poor kid in the village. His father was not a high court official, and he was not brought up in the court. In addition, since if Hang Tuah’s father Hang Mamat had already served as a high court official, why must Hang Tuah be educated in Bahasa Melayu and court etiquette etc. again since the family is already indoctrinated in royal protocol?

    “Dalam perbendaharaan nama-nama orang Melayu semasa zaman kesultanan Melaayu Melaka, tiada terdapat nama-nama seumpama Hang Tuah, Hang Kasturi, Hang Jebat, Hang Lekir, Hang Lekiu, ringkasnya ringkasan yang bermula dengan ¡®Hang¡¯. Sejarah juga telah mencatatkan nama-nama dari bangsa Cina yang bermula dengan Hang, Tan, Maa dan Lee. Ia bergantung kepada suku kaum atau asal-usul keturunan mereka dari wilayah tertentu dari China. Kemungkinan untuk mendakwa bahawa gelaran ¡®Hang¡¯ telah dianugerahkan oleh Raja-Raja Melayu juga tiada asasnya. “

    The last sentence loosely translates as, “There’s the possibility to propose that the term “Hang” conferred as a honorific by the Malay Kings also has no basis.”

    Moreover, before the time of the 5 warriors with their close families during this close period of relationship with the Chinese, there are no Malays with this name.

    Note that the Chinese ‘princess’ who married the Sultan of Malacca was called “Hang Li Po”. Here, we not only see the same name, but the name is also in front, indicating a Chinese naming convention. Hang Li Po brought along with her many servants and bodyguards from China who became the Baba and Nyonya’s of Malacca – these folk exist to this day. Chinese who do not know how to speak or write Chinese. They have been totally ‘malayanised”. Babas are people of Chinese descend who have been malayanised to such an extent that they wear Malay clothing, eat Malay food (with some Chinese food), speak Malay, and do not speak or write Chinese. Malacca is famous for its Baba communities. The only thing that is Chinese about them is that they are of Chinese ancestry. If you say that Hang Tuah is a Malay in the same sense that these Chinese have been malayanised, then you might be quite right. However, at this present moment, we are arguing on the basis whether he was an ethnic Malay or an ethnic Chinese, in the sense of blood ancestry. .

    There is an old Chinese tradition where warriors or servants in the royal palace were given or re-issued with surnames given by the emperor, to signify that they belong to the emperor, or to one of his offsprings. Therefore, it is possible that some very special bodyguards of the emperor or the royal family, have the same surname to signify that they are a unit formed especially to protect that one owner. Since the Princess Hang Li Po was given away in marriage to a strategic partner whose land the emperor wanted to ensure is safe and stable, he assigned a group of able warriors to the Princess Li Po, and he gave their families the same surname. This is not an unusual practice for the Chinese emperor.

    As for Hang Kasturi having 4 characters in his name, it is unusual, but it does happen that some Chinese have only 2 characters, and some have 4 characters in their names. For example, my paternal grandmother had only 2 characters in her name.



    1) Evidence that traditional Malay naming conventions do not carry the name of the father forward.

    2) There is no surname to carry forward

    3) Neither name nor surname are placed in front.

    4) The genealogy of the early part of the lineage tree makes reference to Chinese ancestry:- “Putera Chedra China” “Puetra China” and then later “Paduka Sri Cina”

    This proves there has been early Chinese links in the Malay/Indonesian races and aristocratic lineages.

    One Malay argued that Hang Tuah was already in the service of the Sultan before Hang Li Po was sent to Malacca. However, there is not evidence of this. A probable reference is the semi folklore Hikayat Hang Tuah, whicjh is not very reliable as it has many contradiction to Sejarah Melayu. From the Ming Dynasty chronicles does not mention Hang Li Po or Hang Tuah but did mention the trip of Sultan Mansur Shah. See:

    It is even possible that Hang Li Po was a minor “princess” (ie. only a daughter of a court official) who the emperor ordered to be given away to marry a vassal sate in order to ensue loyalty and close diplomatic relation. The whole event was blown up to given the foreign king a big ego boost that the great Chinese overlord gave him his own daughter in marriage! (It is doubtful that the conservative Chinese emperors would give their daughters away to somebody living in a foreign land very far away). It has happened before in the history of China. For example, the Tibetans think that their King Sonten Gampo forced the Chinese emperor to give away his daughter in marriage in order to make peace with great big powerful Tibet. The story from the Chinese side is that the Chinese emperor tricked the egotistical Tibetan king into believing that the palace maid was a princess and sent her off with her retinue and gifts. It was a ‘diplomatic trick”. Therefore, it is possible that the Chinese court repeated the trick on Sultan Mansur Shah, and gave him a “Chinese princess” with many gifts for the Sultan. In the meantime, he sent some warriors to the Sultanate to help ensure peace, safety and stability in the region – all in China’s national interests. Protect your friends and your interests will be protected. Or it could have been a ploy used by the Chinese emperor and the Malaccan sultan to use this marriage of a “princess” to deter the Siamese kings from encroaching on Malaccan territory. Siam would not dare to invade Malacca whose sultan is a son in law of the mighty Chinese empire!


    The 5 sworn brothers who studied and practised Silat together are:-

    Hang Tuah, Hang Jebat, Hang Lekir, Hang Lekiu and Hang Kasturi.

    Further references:-

    Serajah Melayu – History of the Malay Peninsula

    Parameswara and the founding of the Sultanate of Malacca

  32. This poor deluded chinaman Khoo Khay Kim become big headed when UMNO gives him the title Emeritus whatever that mean..bigger pay?

    Pleaselah Rais Yatim go read some books instead of depending on this old china man to decide on Malay history. Get him out of the history book council.

    UMNO fuckers seems to think that other races will decide favourably on them or that their history can be told by other races.

    One of the sign of bullshit by Khoo Khay Kim was when he stated in an interview in NST, what bullshit is NST keep giving this KKK to spout his hatred of the Malays.

    In his earlier interview with NST, KKK said that the Malays did not obtain independence from the British but from the Malay rulers!

    I guess no one read newspapers like NST that was why there was no uproar. This is an insult to the Malay Sultans as everyone the Malays la knows that British wanted to get rid of the Sultan with Malayan Union.

    Hello China men you know that? It was UMNO and the Malays who asked the Sultans to boycott the signing ceremony and killed the Malayan unions at the Kuala Kangsar train station.

    Hello is this written any where? UMNO should the brave thing and brought sedition charges against Khoo Khay Kim.

    This statement alone plus saying that Malaya was never colonised cease to give any credibility to KKK. It was not Zainal Kling who said it first. It was his friend the emeritus who said that.

    Again there was no response. It seems that KKK want attention that is why he keep insulting the Malays. Some Malay NGOs better take action. UMNO is so incapacited with money to notice anything beyond cows.

  33. I like the helpful info you provide on your articles. I’ll bookmark your weblog and check once more here regularly. I’m slightly sure I will be informed lots of new stuff proper right here! Good luck for the next!

  34. Never will the Malay people disappear from the face of the earth (in sincerely upholding the religion of Allah Most High and Merciful and loving the blessed Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. in dearly following his spiritual virtues)

  35. This post is great Din! Love it. Love Prof Khoo and what he brings to the table — articulating the fact that history has to be based on facts…Thanks for this post!

  36. The professor seems to be a very confused man. He acknowledges that road names like Raja Chulan belong to real people and yet says that road names like Hang Tuah do not belong to real people. He says that we should look at Ming records but at the same time says that there are useful facts from unpublished students theses. Doesn’t he know that plagiarism is rife in unpublished student theses? If a historian like him can’t trace the existence of Hang Tuah, how could any student?
    Does this mean that his inability to trace Hang Tuah’s existence gives him the right to label Hang Tuah a mythical warrior?
    Surely, more concrite research needs to be done to get to the bottom of this.

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