History, European Colonization
sultan of Johor, English East India Company, Straits Settlements, Malay Peninsula, narrow passage
British colonial administrator Thomas Stamford Raffles founded the modern city in 1819 on the site of a fishing village. The sultan of Johor deeded the land to the English East India Company in 1824. In 1826 Singapore was incorporated, along with Malacca and Pinang, into the British colony of the Straits Settlements. Singapore soon became a major commercial center. It benefited from both its advantageous location on the narrow passage between the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea and from its designation as a free port where ships could avoid certain taxes on their cargo. Its growth as the most important port in the region attracted thousands of migrants from China, India, and other parts of Southeast Asia and established the ethnic and cultural diversities that are still characteristic of its population. By far, however, many more Chinese migrated to Singapore than other groups.
After World War I (1914-1918) Britain designated the island its principal naval base in East Asia and undertook extensive military construction. Singapore was captured and occupied by the Japanese in 1942 during World War II. As the British retreated, they only partially destroyed the causeway that linked Singapore with the Malay Peninsula and the Japanese had easy access to the great port. Important installations, however, such as the world’s largest floating dry dock, were destroyed to deny them to the Japanese. Singapore was returned to the British when Japan lost the war in 1945.
The following year the United Kingdom designated Singapore a separate crown colony, and on June 3, 1959, Singapore became a self-governing state in the Commonwealth of Nations. For security and economic reasons, Singapore sought to join with the Federation of Malaya, which had become fully independent in 1957. At first cautious, because Singapore had a left-wing government at that time, Malaya eventually agreed to a union because it feared that Singapore would become Communist if left on its own. Malaya also called for the inclusion of other Malay states to provide an ethnic balance to Chinese Singapore. On September 16, 1963, Singapore, the Federation of Malaya, North Borneo (renamed Sabah), and Sarawak united to form the Federation of Malaysia.
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