Much attention has been devoted, by scholars and others, to the dramatic growth of Singapore in the latter part of the nineteenth century, as a great commercial entrepôt, as a flourishing city of tens of thousands of Chinese migrants, and as the maritime focus of two economic empires, the British and the Dutch. The direction and the intensity of this interest are, of course, understandable, but it has done much to obscure the role of Singapore as a focus also for the cultural and economic energies of the Malaysian world which existed alongside but in many ways separate from the world created by the West. While the comparison cannot be pressed too far, Singapore in the nineteenth century may be likened to Malacca in the fifteenth, in its role as metropolis for an area that embraced the whole Malay Peninsula and Archipelago, from Kedah and Acheh to the Celebes. Island trade in Malaysian or Arab hands, Indonesian migration to the Peninsula, the pilgrimage to Mecca and its subsidiary activities in the fields of Islamic teaching and publication, brought together in Singapore a great variety of Malaysian and Muslim peoples from differing social and economic background but sharing a lingua franca and important elements of a common culture, and often freed from the more hampering restraints of traditional social systems. Urban life has in all places and times been an important breeding ground for new ideas and new ways, and to this general pattern Singapore at the close of the nineteenth century conforms.