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Radio 4's investigative history series. Mike Thomson reveals the complex motives behind the 1949 assassination of the young British governor of Sarawak.

Mike Thomson presents Radio 4's investigative history series, examining documents which shed new light on past events.

In 1946, against the general post-Second World War retreat from Empire, Britain acquired a new territory: Sarawak on the island of Borneo.

Before its cession to the British, Sarawak had, for over a hundred years, been ruled over by the so-called White Rajahs.

They were, in fact, the Brooke family from Dorset and the decision by Vyner Brooke to hand over to British rule was a controversial one both within his family and within the country of Sarawak in general.

By 1949 it appeared that those opposed to the handover or 'cession', led by Anthony Brooke, were losing the argument.

It was then that a new governor, Duncan Stewart, was appointed. But a few short weeks after his arrival, he was fatally stabbed while inspecting a school in the provincial town of Sibu.

Stewart bravely tried to hide his injury and was flown out to Singapore. He clung to life long enough to see his wife who had hurried from London to see him.

The death of a young and promising British officer was blamed on the final, violent convulsion of the anti-cession movement, with the implication that Anthony Brooke should share some of the responsibility.

But was that really the motive for the attack? With the help of documents discovered by historian Simon Ball, Mikr Thomson explores the British attempts to play down and even hide the real reason for the assassination.

And Mike speaks to Anthony Brooke's grandson and Duncan Stewart's daughter about the legacy left to them by this forgotten outburst of colonial violence.

Producer: Tom Alban.

Available now

30 minutes

Last on

Mon 12 Mar 2012 20:00