History in Singapore

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Sir Stamford Raffles

Sir Stamford Raffles


An island once known as Temasek held a legend that was to change its name forever. According to a Malay legend, there was once a Sumatran prince that visited this little fishing island. During this visit, he encountered a strange and amazing animal. He later found out that the beast was called a lion. He was encouraged by an omen that stated he would find a city upon sighting the beast. Thus the name Singapura or Lion City was found. "Singa" meaning Lion and "Pura" meaning city.

Moving away from the legend, the official arrival of Sir Stamford Raffles in 1819 claimed that he was the official founder of this wondrous city. What now is a beautiful city that has been transformed into a political and economic country was once a tale of the rise and fall of empires and colonialism.

Having a naturally deep harbor and a shelter from disasters, made the island an important asset for trading. Traders near and far came to the "port of call" to exchange goods and set up businesses. This is how Singapore started to prosper.

Although Singapore's history dates from the 11th century the island was little known to the West until the 19th century when in 1819 Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles arrived as an agent of the British East India Company. In 1824 the British purchased Singapore Island and by 1825 the city of Singapore had become a major port with trade exceeding that of Malaya's Malacca and Penang combined. In 1826 Singapore Penang and Malacca were combined as the Straits Settlements to form an outlying residency of the British East India Company; in 1867 the Straits Settlements were made a British Crown Colony an arrangement that continued until 1946.

The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 and the advent of steamships launched an era of prosperity for Singapore as transit trade expanded throughout Southeast Asia. In the 20th century the automobile industry's demand for rubber from Southeast Asia and the packaging industry's need for tin helped make Singapore one of the world's major ports.

In 1921 the British constructed a naval base, which was soon supplemented by an air base. But the Japanese captured the island in February 1942 and it remained under their control until September 1945 when it was recaptured by the British.

In 1946 the Straits Settlements was dissolved; Penang and Malacca became part of the Malayan Union and Singapore became a separate British Crown Colony. In 1959 Singapore became self-governing and in 1963 it joined the newly independent Federation of Malaya Sabah and Sarawak (the latter two former British Borneo territories) to form Malaysia.

Indonesia adopted a policy of "confrontation" against the new federation charging that it was a "British colonial creation " and severed trade with Malaysia. The move particularly affected Singapore since Indonesia had been the island's second-largest trading partner. The political dispute was resolved in 1966 and Indonesia resumed trade with Singapore.

After a period of friction between Singapore and the central government in Kuala Lumpur Singapore separated from Malaysia on August 9 1965 and became an independent republic.

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