Timeline of Singapore and Malaya and the Straits Settlements

Population growth of Singapore: in 1800 (80,000), in 1900 (200,000), in 1950 (1m), in 2020 (5m) with 3½m local and 1½m foreign residents.


Intro. The East India Company was a British joint-stock company having its own military which traded worldwide under a Royal charter, establishing colonies to which the company appointed Governors. By 1800 it had become a major military and political power in India, outstripping its French counterpart – which closed in 1769, also the Dutch – which surrendered all of its Indian colonies to the British before being nationalised by its Government in 1796.
End of Intro. 

1805 Stanley (Stamford) Raffles, 23 year old son of an English sea captain, was sent to Prince of Wales Island (Penang Island) in north-west Malaya, starting his long association with Southeast Asia. His initial post was as assistant secretary to Philip Dundas, the newly appointed Governor of Penang, a separate presidency (i.e. administrative division) of East India via the company's building of the Penang Island capital, George Town, back in 1786. Raffles' intense desire to learn the Malay language and culture, as well as his wit and ability, gained him favour with Lord Minto, the then Governor-General of Calcutta, and in 1808 Raffles was sent to Malacca on the mainland, 500kms to the south. Closer to Java.

1811 Following Napoleon's annexation of Holland and war with England, the British invaded Dutch Java. It took a total of forty-five days, during which Raffles was appointed the Lieutenant-Governor of the Dutch East Indies by Lord Minto before hostilities formally ceased. He took his residence at Buitenzorg (Bogor) in West Java and despite having a small subset of British as his senior staff, kept many of the Dutch civil servants in the governmental structure. Placed some restrictions on the local slave trade in line with wider British policy across its Asian territories, although slavery remained widespread and Raffles himself was in fact served by a large retinue of slaves at his official residences in Java.

1815 Under the harsh conditions of the island, his wife, Olivia, whom he had married in 1805 before leaving England, died on 26 November 1814. In 1815, Raffles returned to England shortly before the island of Java was returned to control of the Netherlands following the Napoleonic Wars. He remarried in 1817.

1818 Posted to Bengcoolen (Bengkulu) in west Sumatra as Lieutenant Governor. Raffles found the place wrecked, and set about reforms immediately, mostly similar to what he had done in Java - abolishing slavery and limiting cockfighting and such games. To replace the slaves, he used a contingent of convicts, already sent to him from Bengal.  He now established a settlement at Singapura (Singapore).

1819 The island was then nominally ruled by Tengku Abdul Rahman, the Sultan of Johor in south Malaya, under Dutch surveillance. However, the Sultanate was weakened by factional division — the Temenggong (Chief Minister) as well as his officials were loyal to the Sultan's elder brother Tengku Long, who was living in exile in Riau, on the east coast of Sumatra. With the Temenggong's help, Raffles managed to smuggle Tengku Long back into Singapore, offering to recognise him as the rightful Sultan of Johor, under the title of Sultan Hussein, as well as provide him with a yearly payment of $5000. And the provision of another $3000 to the Temenggong. In return, Sultan Hussein would grant the British the right to establish a trading post on Singapore. A formal treaty was signed on 6 February 1819 and modern Singapore was born.

1826 Following a treaty with the Dutch in 1824, the Straits Settlements was formed as a presidency of the Company, though sadly 1826 was the same year Stanley Raffles died, at the young age of 45. The Straits Settlements included Singapore with three other settlements – Malacca, Dindings (Manjung) and Penang – and based its capital at George Town. In all of the settlements the British banned slavery, gambling dens, and placed heavy taxes on alcohol and opium. However the presidency was found to be too costly in its administration, so in 1830 the status of the Straits Settlements was reduced from a presidency to that of a residency (i.e. subdivision) of the Presidency of Bengal.

1832 Singapore replaced George Town as the capital of the Straits Settlements.

1858 The Indian Rebellion of 1857 (also known as the Indian Mutiny or Sepoy Mutiny) resulted in widespread devastation in India — many condemned the East India Company for permitting the events to occur. In the aftermath of the Rebellion, under the provisions of the Government of India Act 1858, the British Government nationalised the Company. The British Crown took over responsibility for all of its Indian possessions, its administrative powers and machinery, as well as its armed forces.

1867 The Straits Settlements now became a separate Crown colony, directly overseen by the Colonial Office in Whitehall in London.

After the First World War, the British government devoted significant resources to building a naval base in Singapore, as a deterrent to the increasingly ambitious Empire of Japan. Originally announced in 1923, the construction of the naval base proceeded slowly, until the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931. When completed in 1939, at the very large cost at that time of $500 million, the base boasted what was then the largest dry dock in the world. British rule was suspended in February 1942, when the Imperial Japanese Army invaded Singapore during World War II.

Recollections of Lee Kuan Yew (1923-2015), its Prime Minister for 32 years (1959-1990). "I grew up in a Singapore of the 1920s and 1930s. The population was less than a million and most of Singapore was covered by mangrove swamps, rubber plantations, and secondary forest because rubber had failed, and forests around Mandai/Bukit Timah took its place. In these early decades, the island was riddled with opium houses and prostitution, and came to be widely monikered as "Sin-galore".

Over to Malaya (Malaysia)

Population of Malaya in 1900 (3m), in 1937 (4m), in 1960 (8m), in 1986 (16m), in 2020 (28m). 1871 The Sultan of Perak died. With Chinese secret societies battling over tin mining and a rival Sultan usurping the throne, in 1874 the heir apparent Sultan signed the Pangkor Treaty with Great Britain, and welcomed a British Resident. In 1888 North Borneo became a British Protectorate. Protectorates, which go back to the days of the ancient Romans, transfer management of all important international affairs to the protector. Military action is rarely taken on their own, they rely on the protector for the defence. 1895 Federated States formed as a British Protectorate (Perak, Negeri Sembilan, Pahang and Selangor in middle Malaya). The Unfederated States are Johor, Kedah, Kelantan, Perlis and Terengganu. Kuala Lumpur was a small town in 1886 when the British built a railway line to it from the port of Klang in Selangor. Rubber became its major industry. Its population (c. 4500 in 1884) became 20,000 in 1890, 80,000 in 1920. 1946 Following Japanese surrender on 15th August 1945, the Malayan Union, that now included Penang and Malacca, was formed on 1 April 1946 with Kuala Lumpur as its capital. After each of the Unfederated States became British Protectorates, the Federation of Malaya was formed on 31 January 1948. 1957 Independence was declared on 31 August 1957. The population of Kuala Lumpur was now 316,000. 1963 The name "Malaysia" was adopted, Malaya + -ia. The -s- was added to honour the inclusion of Singapore, Sarawak and North Borneo (Sabah) with Malaya in the formation of the Federation of Malaysia. The Malaysia Agreement is a legal document that spells out the terms for the formation of the Federation of Malaysia. It was signed in London on 9 July 1963 between Great Britain, the Federation of Malaya, Singapore, North Borneo (Sabah) and Sarawak. The agreement also includes the terms of Singapore's entry into Malaysia. In accordance with the agreement, Singapore was required to abide by a number of conditions to join Malaysia. First, Singapore would retain its control on education and labour. However, defence, external affairs and internal security would come under the jurisdiction of the federal government. Second, in return for autonomy in education and labour, Singapore would have only 15 seats in the federal parliament instead of 25 seats as was entitled by the size of its electorate. Third, all Singapore citizens would retain their Singapore citizenship while automatically becoming citizens of the larger Federation. However, they could only vote in Singapore. These terms, which were agreed upon by both the Singapore and federal governments, were published in a White Paper in November 1961. The White Paper, however, did not provide details on financial and economic matters, including taxation and implementation of a common market. These details were only finalised close to the signing of the Malaysia Agreement on 9 July 1963. According to the terms of the agreement, Singapore would contribute 40 percent of its revenue to the federal government, and a common market would be set up over a period of 12 years. In addition, Singapore would provide a $150 million development loan to North Borneo and Sarawak, of which $100 million would be interest-free for five years. With the settlement of these outstanding issues, the Malaysia Agreement was ratified and the date for the formation of the Federation of Malaysia was set for 31 August 1963. However, then Malayan Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman delayed the formation of the federation by about two weeks to 16 September in order to give the United Nations more time to complete its study on the sentiments of the people in the Borneo territories over the merger (and to allay the objections by both Indonesia and the Philippines to the formation of Malaysia). The delay, however, did not stop Lee Kuan Yew, then Prime Minister of Singapore, from declaring on 31 August Singapore's independence from British colonial rule, much to Kuala Lumpur's chagrin. On 31 August 1963, then Prime Minister of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew declared de facto independence for the island state ahead of the official proclamation of the Federation of Malaysia. A ceremonial rally was held on the steps of City Hall on 31 August to mark the occasion, and Lee made a speech where he pledged Singapore's loyalty to the federal government in Kuala Lumpur. He stated that this loyalty "transcends party rivalries and petty personal differences" and was "an unalterable principle" to the unity and prosperity of Malaysia. In addition, Lee noted that declaring Singapore's de facto independence was "an assertion of [its] right to freedom" and it signified the end of British colonial rule in Singapore. In the interim between 31 August and 16 September, all powers over defence and external affairs of the state were transferred to Yusof bin Ishak, then the Yang di-Pertuan Negara (Malay for "Head of State") of Singapore. He would hold these powers in trust for the federal government until the official proclamation of Malaysia. The federal and British governments were, however, unhappy with Singapore's declaration of independence. Both sides did not send representatives to attend the ceremony as they questioned the legality and validity of Singapore's claim to powers over its defence and external affairs. The federal government also felt that Lee had encouraged Sabah and Sarawak to follow in Singapore's footstep as they had also declared their de facto independence on the same day as Singapore. Nonetheless, after the UN had completed its mission in Borneo and discovered that the majority of the people in Sabah and Sarawak supported the merger, the formation of the Federation of Malaysia was officially declared on 16 September 1963. On 9 August 1965 Singapore was expelled from this union, to become the Republic of Singapore.

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