He said: ‘You don’t understand. We never thought that we were being used to conquer people. Not at all: we thought the opposite. We were told that we were freeing those people. That is what they said-that we were going to set those people free from their bad kings or their evil customs or some such thing. We believed it because they believed it too. It took us a long time to understand that in their eyes freedom exists wherever they rule.

(…) an instance when Fate had conspired with Nature to give them a sign that theirs was no ordinary journey.

Some nine years before, Mr. Tan Chay Yan, scion of a well-known Peranakan Chinese family of Malacca, had converted his pepper garden into a rubber plantation. In 1897 this had seemed like a mad thing to do. Everyone had advised against it: rubber was known to be a risk. Mr. Ridley, the curator of the Singapore Botanical Gardens, had been trying for years to interest British planters in giving rubber a try. The imperial authorities in London had spent a fortune in arranging to have seed stocks stolen from Brazil.

Some day, following the example of men like themselves, said Mr Fraser, the Chinese too would take to Free Trade:

The Tang went into decline and people became discontented. There was hunger and unrest, and as is common at such times, the troublemakers looked to place the blame on the foreigners.

1 2