History of Singapore

The history of Singapore begins in the 13th century with the tale of Sri Tri Buana, a Prince of Srivijaya. It is thought that when he landed the island he saw a lion he took it as an auspicious sign and founded a settlement called Singapura, which means the ‘Lion City’ in Malay. Most historians’ think it was highly unlikely that he saw a Lion, but instead could have seen a Tiger instead as the fearsome beasts wondered the island until the 20th century.

Modern Singapore was created in 1819 when Sir Stamford Raffles, the Lieutenant Governor of the British colony of Bencoolen arrived on the island. Raffles saw the island as an ideal place to build a new port. After a game of swap the sultan a formal treaty was signed declaring that Singapore was now a settlement of the British Empire.

Before the arrival of the British, the population of Singapore only numbered a thousand but by 1869 and thanks to mass migration from other parts of Asia it had soared to over a hundred thousand. In the following years Singapore grew at a rapid pace until overtook the long-established port of Penang and saw Arab and Asian traders flock to it in order to avoid the restrictions put in place by the Dutch.

The following years saw the island continue to grow but due to arguments between the Singapore merchant community and the ruling British Indian rulers the British government agreed to make the region a separate Crown colony. Housing shortages and other social problems marred the island until the beginning of the First World War. Fortunately for Singapore that war did not reach South East Asia. A garrison of Indian troops however mutinied after they heard rumours they would be sent to fight the Ottomans. The soldier’s revolt was quickly put down. After the War the British built a substantial naval base on the island to check the expansion of the strengthening Japanese Empire.

1941 sparked the year when Japan entered World War Two, its objective being to conquer Southeast Asia and secure the regions natural resources. The Japanese army swept through East Asia taking the British by surprise as they crossed through the dense Malayan Jungle in the North rather than the expected sea route. By 1942 the Japanese army reached Singapore. After a series of heroic battles by the British and Singaporeans the Japanese broke the city’s defences. On the 15th of February around 130,000 commonwealth troops surrendered and became POWs. Singapore would remain under Japanese occupation until they were defeated in 1945.

After the war the Singaporeans had lost some of its faith in Britain’s ability to protect the island and for ten years the colony was restless. In 1958 the British government signed the State of Singapore Act establishing the independent state of Singapore. In 1963 Singapore merged with Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak forming the new federation of Malaysia. The merge did not last long as racial tensions and unfair treatment to non Malays led to rioting.  To avoid further bloodshed the Malaysian leader chose to expel Singapore from the federation allowing the Parliament of Singapore to pass the Republic of Singapore Act.

Singapore became an independent republic in 1965. It suffered a period of uncertainty until it managed to improve its economy. Now Singapore is one of the wealthiest nations in Asia and is regularly listed as the most business friendly nation in the world.