Raffles : And the Golden Opportunity


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Thomas Stamford Raffles (1781-1826) was the charismatic and persuasive founder of Singapore and Governor of Java. An English adventurer, disobedient employee of the East India Company, utopian imperialist, linguist, zoologist and civil servant, he carved an extraordinary (though brief) life for himself in South East Asia. The tropical, disease-ridden settings of his story are as dramatic as his own trajectory - an obscure young man with no advantages other than talent and obsessive drive, who changed history by establishing - without authority - on the wretchedly unpromising island of Singapore a settlement which has become a world city. After a turbulent time in the East Indies, Raffles returned to the UK and turned to his other great interests - botany and zoology. He founded London Zoo in 1826, the year of his death. Raffles remains a controversial figure, and in the first biography for over forty years, Victoria Glendinning charts his prodigious rise within the social and historical contexts of his world. His domestic and personal life was vivid and shot through with tragedy. His own end was sad, but his fame immortal.

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  • Paperback | 384 pages
  • 129 x 198 x 24mm | 323g
  • 21 Nov 2013
  • Profile Books Ltd
  • London
  • English
  • With colour and black and white illustrations
  • 1846686040
  • 9781846686047
  • 108,312

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Author Information

Victoria Glendinning is a prize-winning biographer, the author of lives of Elizabeth Bowen, Vita Sackville-West, Edith Sitwell, Trollope and Leonard Woolf. She has also written three novels: The Grown-Ups, Electricity and Flight. She is a Vice-President of English PEN, Vice-President of the Royal Society of Literature and was appointed CBE in 1998. Born in Yorkshire, she now lives in Somerset.

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Review quote

"'At last. A truly magnificent biography of the most incorrigible of empire-builders. Victoria Glendinning has produced a judicious and utterly compelling account of the man who would change the map of South East Asia' (John Keay) 'Spirited, fluent and immaculately researched... Glendinning's book, with its breezy prose and brisk judgments, makes a splendid tribute to a great British character - the kind of man who gives empire a good name' (Sunday Times) 'Marvellously readable, personally illuminating and highly entertaining' (Guardian) 'Magnificent... By honing in on such a great life for her first non-literary biography Ms Glendinning is in danger of giving imperialism a good name' (The Economist)"

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