Cheah Boon Kheng

  Dr Cheah Boon Kheng, historian and former Vice-President of the Society, passed away peacefully on Monday afternoon, 27 July 2015, having succumbed to cancer. The funeral service was held Thursday morning, 30 July 2015 at the Nirvana Funeral Parlour, Jalan 222 in Petaling Jaya.

Dr Cheah will be remembered as warm, generous and humble, ever willing to help others and thoroughly dedicated to the cause which he served. Born in 1939, Dr Cheah was one of the rare few who cut his teeth in journalism before embarking - midway in his professional life - on a lustrous academic career that made him one of the country's most respected historians. The complete move to academia was accomplished after he obtained his PhD from the Australian National University (ANU) in 1978 under the supervision of Dr Anthony Reid and Dr David Marr. Dr Cheah then joined Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) as lecturer and served there till his retirement in 1994.

Dr Cheah first joined the MBRAS in 1976 and became its Vice-President in 1991, a post he held until recently when he relinquished it following his illness along with the editorship of the JMBRAS. Under his steady hands, Dr Cheah also edited a number of Monographs and Reprints for the Society.

Some of Dr Cheah's groundbreaking books on Malaysian history have been reissued by the NUS Press and are likely to become enduring classics. They include Red Star over Malaya (1983), a classic account of the Communist Party of Malaya's early activities; The Peasant Robbers of Kedah (1988), a fascinating account of social banditry in turn-of-the-century Kedah, including the forgotten exploits of Panglima Nayan and Salleh Tui and To' Janggut: Legends, Histories, and Perceptions of the 1915 Rebellion in Kelantan (2006), a compelling reexamination of Tok Janggut and the 1915 rebellion, which counts among his last original works.

Dr Cheah's works were distinguished for the scope and depth of original research, along with a conscientious use of prime historical sources. Acutely aware of the need for scholars to reach out to the general public, Dr Cheah's writings have never been encumbered by jargon or complicated theoretical frameworks. In each of his works, Dr Cheah strove to make his subjects accessible to the public, so that a casual reader may pick up any of his article and begin to read it without the necessity of fortifying himself beforehand with prior knowledge of the subject.

The Council offers its sincere condolences to his family members and notes with gratitude and humility his immeasurable contributions to the Society in particular, and to the discipline of History, in general. May his soul rest in peace.

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