Tradition and modernity in Malay society (1830s-1930s)


  • Khoo Kay Kim


This study attempts to explicate what happened to the Malays between the turn of the 20th century and the beginning of World War II. This is important to underscore the fact that, contrary to general impressions, Islam did not hold back the progress of the Malays, and that even before World War II, major changes were taking place in Malay society. Modernity in Malay society began to emerge even before World War I. Although the intrusion of British administration to a great extent contributed to socio-economic changes in many parts of the Malay Peninsula, the Muslim intelligentsia were indefatigably urging the Malays to be sensitive to their environment; and one way of keeping abreast of change was to expose themselves to modern education. Malay journalism, Malay literature and the frequent exchange of ideas in the Malay media were characteristics of Malay society beginning from the early 20th century. Politics then was not yet to the fore. As in other societies, there were also conservative elements within that placed obstacles in the way of those who tirelessly pursued change from tradition to modernity.


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How to Cite

Kim, K. K. (2011). Tradition and modernity in Malay society (1830s-1930s). Intellectual Discourse, 19(1). Retrieved from