The Winners of the 2023 Singapore Prize

The winners of the 2023 Singapore Prize were announced on Tuesday in a ceremony attended by Britain’s Prince William. The third edition of the awards ceremony — held in Asia for the first time this year — saw five winners, from an Indian maker of solar-powered dryers to a soil carbon marketplace and groups that help make electric car batteries cleaner, restore Andean forests, and deter illegal fishing, be feted. At the award ceremony, the prince said the solutions presented by the finalists showed that “hope does remain” amid climate change’s impact worldwide.

Prof Miksic, who won the inaugural NUS Singapore History Prize in 2014, has a unique perspective on the country’s pre-colonial past as the first person to conduct archaeological work here in 1984. The 71-year-old’s work refutes the commonly held view that the nation’s history began with the arrival of Sir Stamford Raffles in 17th century Singapore. He is also the author of the first book devoted to the nation’s history.

The prize, which was created in 2014 to mark the nation’s 50th anniversary of independence, aims to recognise publications that have had a lasting impact on how people understand Singapore’s historical past. The winner of the award will receive a cash prize of S$200,000. A total of 29 submissions were received from local and international scholars this year. The winning entry was chosen by a four-member jury, headed by Chairman of the NUS East Asian Institute Wang Gungwu.

The judges praised the work by Professor Miksic as one that “confirms, through concrete archaeological evidence, that Singapore’s history dates back over 700 years.” They added that his book has laid the foundations for a fundamental reinterpretation of Singapore’s place in the wider Asian context and is a key contribution to the understanding of the region’s cultural heritage.

Among the other shortlisted works were the memoirs of former President Tony Tan Keng Yam, the acclaimed biography of the late former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, and the illuminating book of poetry by Singaporean writer Jeremy Tiang. The final winners were selected by a panel of judges comprising the prize jury, a selection committee and NUS staff. A panel of readers also voted for the Readers’ Choice prize, with the winning authors receiving S$1,000 each.

Guests at the awards ceremony included actresses Cate Blanchett and Hannah Waddingham, actors Donnie Yen and Nomzano Mbatha, and Australian wildlife conservationist Robert Irwin. As part of his visit to Singapore, the prince planted a tree at the Jewel at Changi Airport and visited the Istana Palace, one of the city-state’s oldest heritage sites. He tweeted that he was excited to be in Singapore for the awards ceremony, and hoped his visit would inspire others to ‘follow the lead of their fathers and grandfathers to repair our planet’. The event was co-hosted by the Earthshot Prize, an initiative launched by the prince’s Royal Foundation charity. The prize’s name is a nod to the late President John F. Kennedy’s’moonshot’ speech, which challenged Americans to reach the moon by the end of the decade.