The Malay World in Textbooks: The Transmission of Colonial Knowledge in British Malaya
SODA Naoki
This paper examines the transmission of colonial knowledge about the Malay world from
the British to the Malays in pre-war colonial Malaya. For this purpose, I make a textual
analysis of school textbooks on Malay history and geography that were used in Malay
schools and teacher training colleges in British Malaya.
British and Malay writers of these textbooks not only shared a "scientific" or positivist
approach, but also constituted similar views of the Malay world. First, their conceptions of
community understood Malay as a bangsa or race and acknowledged the hybridity of the
Malays. Second, their conceptions of space embraced the idea of territorial boundaries,
understanding Malay territoriality to exist at three levels-the Malay states, Malaya and
the Malay world, with Malaya as the focal point. Third, in conceptualizing time, the
authors divided Malay history into distinctive periods using a scale of progress and
This transmission of colonial knowledge about the Malay world began the localization
of the British concept of Malayness, paving the way for the identification of Malay as a
potential nation.

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