The British Expert in British Malaya

An English Orientalist, colonial administrator and not to mention, an expert in British Malaya, Sir Richard Olaf Winstedt was instrumental in preserving several works of Malay literature.

Director of Education in British Malaya, Winstedt produced an extensive body of writings on Malaya. 

When he first arrived in 1902, he was an administrative officer posted in rural districts such as Perak and Negeri Sembilan; he then immersed himself in the study of language, beliefs, customs and history of the Malay people. 

His first paper on Malay folklore was published in 1907 and “Malay Grammer” was published later on in 1913. Due to his heavy interest and exceptional work on the subject, he was made assistant director of education for the Straits Settlements and Federated Malay States with special responsibility for Malay education.

He also notably mentioned nasi lemak in the book “The Circumstance of Malay Life” that was published in 1909.

Winstedt was also the author of a large series of monographs and articles on the history and culture of Malaya. He studied the history of several Malay states throughout the 1930s and the history of the peninsula in 1935.

He also ventured into study on Malay magic in “History of Classical Malay Literature” that was published in 1940.

Winstedt retired in 1935 and returned to England and from 1937 and 1946 was reader in Malay at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London

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