The central role that Penang played in the early modernisation of South-East Asia is succinctly captured in the fact that it was the place where the region’s press history began. The first newspaper established there was The Prince of Wales Island Gazette. Through it, a new way of knowing and engaging the world, was introduced, contributing greatly to the self-identity of the expanding literate class. Geoff Wade introduces us to this historical newspaper.
Penang can lay claim to many firsts, but one of the most illustrious is that it was the place where the first newspaper in South-East Asia was published. On Saturday, March 1, 1806, when Penang had just become a Presidency of India, there was produced on a simple printing press in Beach Street, George Town, the first issue of the Government Gazette, a newspaper which in 1807 was to be renamed Prince of Wales Island Gazette. For the first 20 years of its existence as an East India Company port, and despite its population growing to over 10,000, the settement at Prince of Wales Island (Penang) survived without a newspaper.
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