Brief History

Mythological Beginnings of Singapore

According to legend, a Sumatran prince was exploring the region in his ship when he spotted an island on the horizon. Coming closer, Prince Sang Nila Utama turned to his vizier who informed him that this was the island of Temasek. It is said that as he landed on the island, the prince encountered a lion prompting him to re-name the island Singapura (meaning Lion City).

Despite the fact that lions had never inhabited Singapore and that he had more likely spotted a tiger, Singapore soon was established as a minor trading post in the powerful Sumatran Srivijaya Empire. Subsequently, Singapore became part of the Javanese Majapahit Empire in the mid- 13th century.

The Founding Of Singapore
The founding of Singapore by Sir Stamford Raffles in 1819 catapulted the island out from its fishing village status. The British had first established its presence in the Straights of Melaka (Malacca) in the 18th century and part of its policy in the region included the East India Company setting out to secure and protect its line of trade from China to India. Fearing encroaching Dutch presence, Raffles argued for an increased British presence in the region through Singapore.

As a result, the British established a trading post in Singapore on 6 February in 1819 with Raffles concluding a formal treaty with Sultan Hussein of Johor and the Temenggong; the de jure and de facto rulers of Singapore.

Within half a decade, Singapore’s trade revenue surpassed even that of Penang. August 1824 saw a second treaty being made, in which the Sultan and the Temenggong ceded the island completely to the British in return for increased cash payments and pensions.

Colonial History
In 1826, Singapore, Malacca and Penang (collectively known as the Straits Settlements) came under the control of British India. By 1832, Singapore had become the centre of government for the Straits Settlements; and in 1867, the Straits Settlements became a Crown Colony under the jurisdiction of the Colonial Office in London.

With the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, Singapore became a major port of call for ships traveling between Europe and East Asia. The development of rubber also contributed to Singapore’s rise, especially after the 1870s when it became the main sorting and export centre in the world for rubber. Before the close of the 19th century, Singapore was experiencing unprecedented prosperity and trade expanded eightfold between 1873 and 1913. Singapore was inundated by thousands of migrants from India and China; attracted by the tariff-free port.

World War II
Singapore’s growth as a British colony continued into the 20th century. However, the outbreak of WWII and the invasion of Singapore by Japan in 1941 quickly changed things. The British anticipating a sea attack had set up the island’s defenses to face the sea. The Japanese, however, invaded the island from the “back” by marching through Peninsula Malaysia. Knowing that their inferior numbers were insufficient to engage the British in direct combat, Japanese Commander Yamashita played a bluff in demanding the unconditional surrender of Singapore.

The peace and prosperity thus came to an abrupt end when Singapore was surrendered to the Japanese on 15 February 1942, and was renamed Syonan-to (Light of the South).

When the British returned 3 ½ years later, they were welcomed back but their right to rule was no longer assured.

Best Regards,
Serene Chua : (+ 65)98-199-199
B.Sc(NUS)Hons / CEHA-Certified
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