History in Brunei

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Historians believe there was a forerunner to the present Brunei Sultanate which the Chinese called Po-ni. Chinese and Arabic records indicate that this ancient trading kingdom existed at the mouth of the Brunei River as early as the seventh or eighth century A.D. This early kingdom was apparently conquered by the Sumatran empire of Srivijaya in the early ninth century and later controlled northern Borneo and the Philippines. It was subjugated briefly by the Java-based Majapahit Empire but soon regained its independence and once again rose to prominence.

The history of Brunei is especially fascinating. Historians believe that there was a forerunner to the president Brunei Sultanate that the Chinese called Po-ni. Arabic and Chinese records indicates that in the early seventh or eighth century A.D an ancient trading kingdom existed at the mouth of the Brunei River. It is said that this early kingdom was apparently ruled by the Sumatran Empire of Srivijaya in the ninth century and later on ruled by Northern Borneo and the Philippines.

Every Kingdom has its golden time. Brunei’s Empire had its golden time from the 15 th to the 17 th century. Brunei was particularly powerful during the ruling of the fifth Sultan Bolkiah (1473-1521). Sultan Bolkiah was especially famous for his sea exploits and even briefly captured Manila. The ninth ruler was Sultan Hassan, he ruled from 1605 till 1619. He entirely urbanized a complex Royal court structure elements of which remain.

After some time Sultan Hassan entered a period of decline, the reason for it was because of internal battles over royal succession as well as the expanding influences of European Colonial powers that among other stuff disturbing customary trading patterns demolishing the economic base of Brunei and numerous other Southeast Asia sultanates. In 1839 a very generous English adventurer, James Brook turned up in Borneo and helped Sultan Hassan put down a rebellion. Later as a reward James Brook became the governor and later “Rajah” of Sarawak the northwest of Borneo. He steadily extended the territory under his control.

The Brunei Empire had its golden age from the 15th to the 17th centuries when its control extended over the entire island of Borneo and north into the Philippines. Brunei was particularly powerful under the fifth sultan Bolkiah (1473-1521) who was famed for his sea exploits and even briefly captured Manila; and under the ninth sultan Hassan (1605-19) who fully developed an elaborate Royal Court structure elements of which remain.

After Sultan Hassan Brunei entered a period of decline due to internal battles over royal succession as well as the rising influences of European colonial powers in the region that among other things disrupted traditional trading patterns destroying the economic base of Brunei and many other Southeast Asia sultanates. In 1839 the English adventurer James Brooke arrived in Borneo and helped the Sultan put down a rebellion. As a reward he became governor and later "Rajah" of Sarawak in northwest Borneo and gradually expanded the territory under his control.

Meanwhile the British North Borneo Company was expanding its control over territory in northeast Borneo. In 1888 Brunei became a protectorate of the British Government retaining internal independence but with British control over external affairs. In 1906 Brunei accepted a further measure of British control when executive power was transferred to a British resident who advised the ruler on all matters except those concerning local custom and religion.

In 1959 a new constitution was written declaring Brunei a self-governing state while its foreign affairs security and defense remained the responsibility of the United Kingdom. An attempt in 1962 to introduce a partially elected legislative body with limited powers was abandoned after the opposition political party Partai Rakyat Brunei launched an armed uprising which the government put down with the help of British forces. In the late 1950s and early 1960s the government also resisted pressures to join neighboring Sabah and Sarawak in the newly formed Malaysia. The Sultan eventually decided that Brunei would remain an independent state.

In 1967 Sultan Omar abdicated in favor of his eldest son Hassanal Bolkiah who became the 29th ruler. The former Sultan remained as Defense Minister and assumed the royal title Seri Begawan. In 1970 the national capital Brunei Town was renamed Bandar Seri Begawan in his honor. The Seri Begawan died in 1986.

On January 4 1979 Brunei and the United Kingdom signed a new treaty of friendship and cooperation. On January 1 1984 Brunei Darussalam became a fully independent state.

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