Born and bred in Singapore, I have travelled and work in many parts of the world including Taiwan, Singapore, England and the USA. Prior to being in academia, I had been drafted in the Singapore Armed Forces, worked as a business translator (French –English) and had been an antiques dealer in the UK. Since 2001, I have been a faculty member at diverse institutions of higher learning, including the National University of Singapore, Yale-NUS College, and The Ohio State University. Prior to being at NAU, I was appointed the inaugural Rector of Cendana College and Head of Studies of History (Yale-NUS College).
My research encompasses the diplomatic and economic relations across the East Indian Ocean world and the South China Sea littoral in the pre-modern era. I explore the state-formation and survival strategies of small port-states in Maritime Southeast Asia before AD 1500, through the integrative use of textual and archaeological data. Since 1994, I have been involved in archaeological excavations in Singapore, Malaysia and Cambodia. Between 2013 and 2015, I was Head of Center, Nalanda-Sriwijaya Centre (ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute), a research center based in Singapore that spearheads research in philology, history, art history and archaeology in Southeast Asia.
As a Singaporean, I also maintains a keen interest on the historiography of Singapore, and the evolving nature of history writing and collective social memories in post-colonial Singapore. As part of my contributions to Singapore’s on-going history movement, I served as an executive member of the National Heritage Board (Ministry of Community, Culture and Youth, Singapore) between 2013 and 2016, assisting in the development of national strategies for heritage and cultural preservation, UNESCO World Heritage Site inscription bids, and the strategies of the various national museums in Singapore.
Forthcoming History of Singapore in the Longue Duree (Singapore: Marshall Cavendish & Prime Minister’s Office, Singapore).
2012 Sino-Malay Trade and Diplomacy in the Tenth to Fourteenth Centuries, 2nd edition. Nalanda-Sriwijaya Series no. 3 (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2012).
2009 Kwa Chong Guan, Derek Heng and Tan Tai Yong, Singapore: A Seven-Hundred Year History (Singapore: National Archives of Singapore, 2009).
2009 Sino-Malay Trade and Diplomacy in the Tenth to Fourteenth Centuries, Research in International Studies, Southeast Asia Series no. 121 (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2009).
2017 Lim, C. S., Brown, D. H., Heng, D., Maddens, F. M., & Miksic, J. N., Archiving Archaeological Materials. Nalanda-Sriwijaya Centre Archaeology Unit Archaeology Report Series No 7 (Singapore: ISEAS Publications, 2017).
2011 Derek Heng & Syed Muhd Khairudin Aljunied (eds.), Singapore in Global History (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2011).
2009 Derek Heng & Syed Muhd Khairudin Aljunied (eds.), Reframing Singapore: Memory, Identity and Trans-Regionalism, ICAS Series volume 6 (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2009).
Forthcoming “Pre-Modern Southeast Asian History in the Digital Age: Opportunities and Challenges through Chinese Textual Database Research” (submitted to Bijdragen tot de taal-, land- en volkenkunde).
2017 “Diversity at a Port City in Southeast Asia: The Case of Singapore in the Fourteenth Century”, Cultural Connections, vol. 2, pp. 47 – 57.
2013 “State Formation and the Evolution of Naval Strategies in the Melaka Straits, c. 500 – 1500 CE”, Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, 44, 3, pp. 380 – 399.
2013 “Trans-Regionalism and Economic Co-Dependency in the South China Sea—The Case of China and the Malay Region (10th – 14th centuries AD)”, International History Review, 35, 3, pp. 486 – 510.
Forthcoming “Cyclical Patterns and Constancies in Singapore’s Settlement History through the Lense of Economy and Culture”, in Hui Yew Foong & Linda Lim (eds.), Singapore: The Future of a Legacy (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies Press).
2018 “Ships, Shipwrecks and Archaeological Recoveries as Sources of Southeast Asian History”, in David Ludden (ed.), Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Asian History (New York: Oxford University Press). doi: [#] 10.1093/acrefore/9780190277727.013.97
2018 “State-Formation and Socio-Political Structure of the Malay Coastal Region in the Late thirteenth to Early Fifteenth Centuries”, in Kenneth R. Hall, Suchandra Ghosh, Kaushik Gangopadhyay & Rila Mukherjee (eds.), Cross-Cultural Networking in the Eastern Indian Ocean Realm, c. 100 – 1800 (Delhi: Primus Books, 2018).
2018 “Country Report: Singapore (2013-2015)”, in Noel Hidalgo Tan (ed.), Advancing Southeast Asian Archaeology 2016: Selected Papers from the Second SEAMEO SPAFA International Conference on Southeast Asian Archaeology, Bangkok, Thailand
2016 (Bangkok: SEAMEO SPAFA Regional Centre for Archaeology and Fine Arts, 2018), pp. 59 – 64. 2017 “Historical Research in Singapore and the Place of Archaeology”, in Lim, C. S., Brown, D. H., Heng, D., Maddens, F. M., & Miksic, J. N., Archiving Archaeological Materials. Nalanda-Sriwijaya Centre Archaeology Unit Archaeology Report Series No 7, pp. 39 – 47.
2017 “Distributive Networks, Sub-Regional Tastes, and Ethnicity: The Trade in Chinese Textiles in Southeast Asia from the Late First to Mid-Second Millennia AD”, in Pedro Machado, Gwyn Campbell and Sarah Fee (eds.), An Ocean of Cloth: Textile Trades, Consumer Cultures and the Textile Worlds of the Indian Ocean (New York: Palgrave-Macmillan, 2017), pp. 159 – 180.
2017 “The Tang Shipwreck and The Nature of China’s Maritime Trade during the Late Tang Period”, in Alan Chong & Stephen A. Murphy (eds.), The Tang Shipwreck: Art and Exchange in the 9th Century (Singapore: National Heritage Board, 2017), pp. 142 – 159.
2015 “Southeast Asian Primary Products in China and Their Impact on Chinese Material Culture in the Tenth to Seventeenth Centuries”, in Victor Mair & Liam Kelley (eds.), China and Its Southern Neighbours (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies Press, 2015), pp. 214 – 238.
2013 “Socio-Political Structure, Membership and Mobility in the Pre-Modern Malay World: The Case of Singapore in the 14th Century”, in Ulbe Bosma, Gijs Kessler & Leo Lucassen (eds.), Migration and Membership Regimes in Global and Historical Perspective, An Introduction (Leiden: Brill Publishers, 2013), pp. 115 – 139.
2011 (with Syed Muhd Khairudin Aljunied) “Globalising the History of Singapore” in Derek Heng & Syed Muhd Khairudin Aljunied (eds.) Singapore.