Malaysia's History

Malaya (Malacca 1400 - 1511)

Malacca was founded in the 13th century by a Sumatran prince named Parameswara. Perfectly located for trade, it became the most influential port city in Southeast Asia within 50 years.

Traders would arrive in their ships from kingdoms great and small to barter goods and spices. The early Arab traders brought Islam to Malacca. The local chiefs became the sultans heading up a highly organized administration structure whose main purpose was to facilitate trade. Incoming ships were met by multilingual harbour masters. Secured storehouses facilities were provided for traders to store their goods from the interior and abroad.

By building alliances with local tribes and other port cities, Malacca established a regional navy that policed the local waters and escorted friendly vessels. Piracy was largely controlled by this navy.

Success brought prosperity, wealth and power to Malacca. At the height of its power, Malacca controlled the entire west coast of the Malay Peninsula, the kingdom of Pahang, and much of Sumatra.

Colonial Malaya (1511 – 1957)

At the early 16th century, the eastern spice trade was centered in Egypt, and non-Muslim vessels were barred from docking at its port. The emerging European powers saw the need to open up their own trade route to India and the Far East. In 1511, a Portuguese fleet led by Alfonso de Albuquerque sailed into Malacca harbor and captured the city with canon fire.

The Portuguese constructed a massive fort in Malacca called A Formosa. A century later in 1641, the Dutch captured the city from the Portuguese. This gave the Dutch an exclusive control over the spice trade.

In 1795 the Dutch handed Malacca over to the British when France invaded Holland. The British East India Company had earlier convinced the Kedah Sultan to allow them to build a fort in Penang. The British then were mainly interested in a safe port for ships on their way to China. In 1819 Britain sent Sir William Raffles to establish a trading post in Singapore and together with Penang and Malacca these centres became known as the Straits Settlements.

In the late 1860's, a number of Malay Sultans began a civil war resulting in the British intervention, forcing the Sultans to sign the Pangkor peace treaty in 1874. This gave Britain a foothold in the region, controlling the vast tin and rubber resources in the Malay Peninsula until WW2 when the Japanese invaded Malaya in 1942 and forced the British surrender. Britain resumed control of Malaya after WW2 ended in 1945.

Independence in 1957 - Present Day

The determination for self rule and independence from colonial rule
gathered momentum after the war.

Malaya's independence movement gathered and organized itself in an
alliance under Tunku Abdul Rahman in the early 1950's. The British granted independence to Malaya in 1957 in Kuala Lumpur's Merdeka Square.

Tunku Abdul Rahman became the first prime minister of Malaya.

In 1961, "Malaysia" was born after Tunku Abdul Rahman convinced
Singapore, Sabah, and Sarawak to join Malaya in a federal union.
(Singapore ceded from the federation peacefully in 1965).

Malaysia was a mix of people from many races and cultures, and uniting them all was no small effort. Because the Malays represented the majority, the constitution gave them a permanent position as head of the government. Islam was made the national religion and Malay the national language.

Since independence, Malaysia has undergone tremendous growth and prosperity. Today, Malaysia has one of the best airports, highways and telecommunication systems in Asia. Literacy rate is above 90% and poverty level is negligible. It has a secular and democratic government. With a highly educated workforce and modern infrastructure, Malaysia attracts a large amount of foreign investments in the manufacturing and technology sections.