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Singapore's Spanish Armada, 1615–16

Ngee Ann Auditorium 28 Apr 2017 7 pm Speaker: Associate Professor Peter Borschberg

In March 1616, the Spanish Armada, comprising ten heavily armed galleons and numerous support vessels, dropped anchor off the eastern coast of Singapore. It was one of the largest demonstrations of naval power ever seen in the East Indies. Singapore was not seen as a sleepy backwater, but recognised as a key strategic nodal point in a planned epic showdown with the Dutch. The Spanish armada arrived as planned, but for weeks the galleons waited in vain for naval reinforcements to arrive from India.


The tale is worthy of a Hollywood blockbuster. It is a story not only of hubris and miscalculation, but also of death, disease, and personal tragedy. It involves war-hungry rajas, scheming crown officials, conniving Dutch businessmen, zealous Jesuits, prisoners on the loose, an ambitious auditor, and, lest it should be forgotten, a kidnapped Malay princess.


About the speaker

Peter Borschberg is a fellow of the Royal Historical Society, London, and has been teaching history at the National University of Singapore for the past 25 years. His research covers Asia-Europe interactions, with a focus on Southeast Asia and the Straits region.


Free admission to this lecture. Seats are available on a first-come, first-served basis. No registration is required.

Pre-lecture refreshments served at 6:30 pm. Lecture starts promptly at 7 pm.

This lecture is jointly organised by the Asian Civilisations Museum and the Friends of the Museums (FOM)

ACM-FOM logo

Image: Defence of Cadiz Against the English, 1634–35. Francisco de Zurbarán. Copyright Museo Nacional del Prado