Lee Kuan Yew

(b. 1923)

Show Summary Details

Quick Reference

(b. 16 Sept. 1923).

Prime Minister of Singapore 1959–90 Born into a wealthy Singaporean Chinese family, he studied at Cambridge and qualified as a lawyer, being called to the English Bar in 1950. On returning to Singapore, he became a spokesman for the Chinese community as well as becoming involved in labour and trade-union concerns. In 1954 he formed the People's Action Party, a democratic, socialist organization, which under his leadership has dominated Singaporean politics ever since. He took part in negotiations in London for self-government and in 1959 formed his first government, with a policy of greater industrialization. He led Singapore as a component state of the newly formed Federation of Malaysia in 1963, but in 1965 he reluctantly accepted Singapore's independence. At first a committed socialist, he gradually, but then wholeheartedly, accepted capitalism, transforming his country into one of the world's most successful economies. At the same time, the state remained authoritarian and strongly interventionist, so that his leadership was never seriously challenged. He stepped down voluntarily to go into retirement. In 2004, his oldest son, Lee Hsien Loong, became Premier.

Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).

Reference entries

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.