History of Singapore

The first reference of the history of Singapore is found in a Chinese article that belongs to the 3rd century. In this article Singapore has been referred to as Pu - Lo- Chung, which means an island that is nestled at the end of the peninsula. However it started to gain some importance as a nation only during the reign of the Prince Parameswara, the ruler of the Shri Vijayan Empire during the 14th century.

It evolved as one of the most important ports but could not continue its status as a port as the Portuguese demolished it in the year 1963.

Medieval Singapore:

In spite of the fact that the early history of Singapore is cloaked in the mythological and legendary tales of the region, we come to know from some chronicles as back as 2nd century A.D. that the island of Singapore was a strategic geographical location of South East Asia since time immemorial.

Early history of Singapore is known from a few records:

i. Records of Wang Dayuan
ii.Javanese chronicle of Nagarakertagama
iii. Javanese chronicle of Sejarah Melayu (Malay Annals)
iv. Some Portuguese accounts of 14th century A.D.
1. Records of Wang Dayuan:

A Chinese traveler named Wang Dayuan in 1349 A.D. once visited this island which he named Tan-ma-hsi (Danmaxi).
Some of the facts about medieval Singapore that can be found in this account are:
  • This land was an abode of hundreds of pirates who attacked the passing ships.
  • There was a special burial place for the ancient kings in the shape of a terrace hill and was known as the Bukit Larangan (Forbidden Hill) in Malayan dialect.
  • This was the place of a settlement comprising both Chinese and Malayan ethnicity.
ii. Javanese chronicle of Nagarakertagama :

The land’s history is known from the Java chronicles belonging to the 14th century Nagarakertagama. This accounts for a settlement in the archipelago known as Temasek.
iii. & iv. Javanese chronicle of Sejarah Melayu (Malay Annals) and Portuguese accounts: 14th century Portuguese accounts and the 17th century Javanese chronicle give some information about early medieval Singapore:
  • Founding of the trading island of Singapore in 1299 by a king of Palembang, called Sri Tri Buana, who gave the name of the city as the ‘Lion City’ or Singapore (Singa means lion, and pore means a city) after he, according to the myths saw an animal on the island resembling a lion.
  • These accounts talk about the attacks on Singapore by the Javanese Majapahit Empire and the Thai kingdom of Ayutthaya.
  • Arrival of King Paramesvara from Palembang, his seizing of power in Singapura by murdering his own host king and his fleeing from the land after being attacked by the Thai forces.
  • King Paramesvara converted to Islam and by 1414 he started controlling the whole of South East Asia establishing a powerful seaport of Malacca and started taking control of Singapore. At that time Singapore was becoming a powerful Malayan port.
Late Medieval Singapore:
  • In 1511, Portuguese sailors captured Malacca and the Sultan of Malacca fled eastwards towards Johore. Singapore, for its natural harbor faculties became a new part of the Johore Sultanate.
  • In 1613, records say that the Portuguese burnt down a trade-post at the Temasek River in Singapore, and Singapore became a weak region.
  • In 1722 a seafaring group of people called the Riau came and flourished in Singapore.
  • By 1784, Singapore rose again by the aid of the cultivation of a crop called gambier, which was in great demand in the early 19th century.
  • In the 19th century, during the exploits of the Portuguese and the Dutch colonizers, only a thousand people resided in Singapore.

Singapore after 1819:
  • Little was known to the West about Singapore until Sir Stamford Raffles established a trading station at Singapore in 1819 for its strategic geographical location after capturing it form the Dutch. Raffles’ arrival was approved by the Governor General of India Lord Hastings in 1818 and this was under an agreement between the British East India Company and the Sultan Hussein of Johore and Temenggong – the two de facto rulers of the region. Thus south-east Asia fall prey to the colonial aggression of the British. To improve trade in the southern parts of China, it was necessary for the British to find a sea port in this area.
  • In 1824, with the Anglo-Dutch treaty, the Dutch withdrew all objections to the British occupation of Singapore.
  • In the same year Singapore’s fate was sealed with a treaty between the British and the Sultan – the Sultan and the Temenggong ceded entire Singapore to the British in return of money and pensions.
  • After Singapore was forced under the Strait Settlements (a group of territory annexed by the British consisting of Malacca, Dinding, Penang and Singapore) in 1826, it was brought under the Presidency of Bengal in India by the year 1830.
  • In 1832, Singapore became the head quarter of the Strait Settlements.
  • Singapore was brought under the direct control of the Governor General of India in 1851.
  • Japan conquered Singapore at the time of the World War II. After the end of the World War II, the chances were that Singapore would merge with the Federation of the Malay and would be henceforth known as Malaysia. This was not to be and the reason for it is the disputes that arose between Malaysia' s Alliance Party and the People's Action Party of Singapore. The result of this dispute was that Singapore in the year 1965 on the 9th of August emerged as an independent nation. It is now one of the most flourishing nations of the world.
  • By 1867, it became a Crown Colony under the control of the Colonial Office in London.
  • With the invention of the Steam Ship and building of the Suez Canal, by 1869 Singapore became the centre of rubber export and sorting in South East Asia.
  • With 60% of Chinese, the population of Singapore in 1870 grew up to more than 81,000.

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