Part of a series on the
|History of Singapore|
Singapore in the Straits Settlements refers to a period in the history of Singapore from 1826 to 1942, during which Singapore was part of the Straits Settlements together with Penang and Malacca. From 1830 to 1867, the Straits Settlements was a residency, or subdivision, of the Presidency of Bengal, in British India.
In 1867, the Straits Settlements became a separate Crown colony, directly overseen by the Colonial Office in Whitehall in London. The period saw Singapore establish itself as an important trading port and developed into a major city with a rapid increase in population.
British rule was suspended in February 1942, when the Imperial Japanese Army invaded Singapore during World War II.
In 1819, British official Stamford Raffles landed in Singapore to establish a trading port. The island's status as a British outpost was initially in doubt, as the Dutch government soon issued bitter protests to the British government, arguing that their sphere of influence had been violated. The British government and the East India Company were initially worried about the potential liability of this new outpost, but that was soon overshadowed by Singapore's rapid growth as an important trading post. By 1822, it was made clear to the Dutch that the British had no intention of giving up the island.
The status of Singapore as a British possession was cemented by the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1824, which carved up the Malay archipelago between the two colonial powers. The area north of the Straits of Malacca, including Penang, Malacca and Singapore, was designated as the British sphere of influence, while the area south of the Straits was assigned to the Dutch.
This division had far-reaching consequences for the region: modern-day Malaysia and Singapore correspond to the British area established in the treaty, and modern-day Indonesia to the Dutch. In 1826, Singapore was grouped together with Penang and Malacca into a single administrative unit, the Straits Settlements, under the administration of the East India Company.
In 1830, the Straits Settlements became a residency, or subdivision, of the Presidency of Bengal, in British India.This status continued until 1867.
During the subsequent decades, Singapore grew to become one of the most important ports in the world. Several events during this period contributed to its success. British intervention in the Malay peninsula from the 1820s onwards culminated, during the 1870s, in the formation of British Malaya. During this period, Malaya became an increasingly important producer of natural rubber and tin, much of which was shipped out through Singapore.Singapore also served as the administrative centre for Malaya until the 1880s, when the capital was shifted to Kuala Lumpur.
In 1834, the British government ended the East India Company's monopoly on the China trade, allowing other British companies to enter the market and leading to a surge in shipping traffic. The trade with China was opened with the signing of the Unequal Treaties, beginning in 1842. The advent of ocean-going steamships, which were faster and had a larger capacity than sailing ships, reduced transportation costs and led to a boom in trade. Singapore also benefited by acting as a coaling station for the Royal Navy and merchant ships. The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 dramatically reduced the travel time from Europe to East Asia, again providing a boost for trade.
By 1880, over 1.5 million tons of goods were passing through Singapore each year, with around 80% of it transported by steamships and trading ships.The main commercial activity was entrepôt trade which flourished under no taxation and little restriction. Many merchant houses were set up in Singapore mainly by European trading firms, but also by Jewish, Chinese, Arab, Armenian, American and Indian merchants. There were also many Chinese middlemen who handled most of the trade between the European and Asian merchants.
Despite Singapore's growing importance, the administration set up to govern the island was generally understaffed, poorly funded, weak, and ineffectual. Administrators were usually posted from India with little or no knowledge of the region, and were unfamiliar with local languages and customs of the people. As long as British trade was not affected, the administration was unconcerned with the welfare of the populace.
While Singapore's population had quadrupled between 1830 and 1867, the size of the civil service in Singapore had remained unchanged. In 1850 there were only twelve police officers to keep order in a city of nearly 60,000. Most people had no access to public health services and disease such as cholera and smallpox caused severe health problem, especially in overcrowded working-class areas. Malnutrition and opium smoking were major social woes during this period.
As early as 1827, the Chinese had become the largest ethnic group in Singapore. During the earliest years of the settlement, most of the Chinese in Singapore had been Peranakans, the descendants of Chinese who had settled in the archipelago centuries ago, who were usually well-to-do merchants. As the port developed, much larger numbers of Chinese coolies flocked to Singapore looking for work. These migrant workers were generally male, poor and uneducated, and had left China (mostly from southern China) to escape the political and economic disasters in their country.
They aspired to make their fortune in Southeast Asia and return home to China, but most were doomed to a life of low-paying unskilled labour. Until the 20th century, few Chinese ended up settling permanently, primarily because wives were in short supply. The sex ratio in Singapore's Chinese community was around hundred to one, mainly due to restrictions that the Chinese government imposed, up till the 1860s, on the migration of women.
Malays in Singapore were the second largest ethnic group in Singapore until the 1860s. Although many of the Malays continued to live in kampungs, or the traditional Malay villages, most worked as wage earners and craftsmen. This was in contrast to most Malays in Malaya, who remained farmers.
By 1860, Indians became the second largest ethnic group. They consisted of unskilled labourers like the Chinese coolies, traders, soldiers garrisoned at Singapore by the government in Calcutta,as well as a number of Indian convicts who were sent to Singapore to carry out public works projects, such as clearing jungles and swampy marshes and laying out roads. They also helped construct many buildings, including St. Andrew's Cathedral, and many Hindu temples. After serving their sentences, many convicts chose to stay in Singapore.
As a result of the administration's hands-off attitude and the predominantly male, transient, and uneducated nature of the population, the society of Singapore was rather lawless and chaotic. Prostitution, gambling, and drug abuse (particularly of opium) were widespread. Chinese criminal secret societies (analogous to modern-day triads) were extremely powerful; some had tens of thousands of members, and turf wars between rival societies occasionally led to death tolls numbering in the hundreds. Attempts to suppress these secret societies had limited success, and they continued to be a problem well into the 20th century.
The colonial division of the architecture of Singapore developed in this period, recognisable elements which remain today in the form of shophouses, such as those found in Little India or Chinatown.
As Singapore continued to grow, the deficiencies in the Straits Settlements administration became increasingly apparent. Apart from the indifference of British India's administrators to local conditions, there was immense bureaucracy and red tape which made it difficult to pass new laws. Singapore's merchant community began agitating against British Indian rule, in favour of establishing Singapore as a separate colony of Britain. The British government finally agreed to make the Straits Settlements a Crown colony on 1 April 1867, receiving orders directly from the Colonial Office rather than from India.
As a Crown Colony, the Straits Settlements was ruled by a governor, based in Singapore, with the assistance of executive and legislative councils. Although the councils were not elected, more representatives for the local population were gradually included over the years.
The colonial government embarked on several measures to address the serious social problems facing Singapore. For example, a Chinese Protectorate under Pickering was established in 1877 to address the needs of the Chinese community, including controlling the worst abuses of the coolie trade and protecting Chinese women from forced prostitution. In 1889 Governor Sir Cecil Clementi Smith banned secret societies in colonial Singapore, driving them underground. Nevertheless, many social problems persisted up through the post-war era, including an acute housing shortage and generally poor health and living standards.
In 1906, the Tongmenghui, a revolutionary Chinese organisation dedicated to the overthrow of the Qing Dynasty led by Sun Yat-Sen, founded its Nanyang branch in Singapore, which was to serve as the organisation's headquarters in Southeast Asia. The Tongmenghui would eventually be part of several groups that took part in the Xinhai Revolution and established the Republic of China. Overseas Chinese like the immigrant Chinese population in Singapore donated generously to groups like the Tongmenghui, which would eventually evolve into the Kuomintang. Today, this founding is commemorated in the Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall - previously known as Sun Yat Sen Villa or Wang Qing Yuan (meaning "House of the Heavens above" in Chinese) - in Singapore where the branch operated from. According to George Yeo, the Foreign Minister of Singapore, in those days the Kuomintang party flag, which later became the flag of the Republic of China ,was sewn in the Sun Yat Sen Villa by Teo Eng Hock and his wife.
Singapore was not directly affected by the First World War (1914–18), as the conflict did not spread to Southeast Asia. The most significant event during the war was a mutiny in 1915 by sepoys of the 5th Light Infantry from British India who were garrisoned in Singapore. On the day before the regiment was due to depart for Hong Kong, and hearing rumours that they were to be sent to fight the Ottoman Empire,about half of the Indian soldiers mutinied. They killed several of their officers and some civilians before the mutiny was suppressed by British Empire and allied forces plus local troops from Johore.
This is how Lee Kuan Yew, its Prime Minister for 32 years, described Singapore:
In these early decades, the island was riddled with opium houses and prostitution, and came to be widely monikered as "Sin-galore"
After the First World War, the British government devoted significant resources to building a naval base in Singapore, as a deterrent to the increasingly ambitious Japanese Empire. Originally announced in 1923, the construction of the base proceeded slowly until the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931.
When completed in 1939, at the very large cost of $500 million, the base boasted what was then the largest dry dock in the world, the third-largest floating dock, and having enough fuel tanks to support the entire British navy for six months. It was defended by heavy 15-inch naval guns stationed at Fort Siloso, Fort Canning and Labrador, as well as a Royal Air Force airfield at Tengah Air Base. Winston Churchill touted it as the "Gibraltar of the East" and military discussions often referred to the base as simply "East of Suez"
The base did not have a fleet. The British Home Fleet was stationed in Europe, and the British could not afford to build a second fleet to protect its interests in Asia. The so-called Singapore strategy called for the Home Fleet to sail quickly to Singapore in the event of an emergency. However, after World War II broke out in 1939, the fleet was fully occupied with defending Britain, and only the small Force Z was sent to defend the colony.
Malaysia is located on a strategic sea-lane that exposes it to global trade and various cultures. Strictly, the name "Malaysia" is a modern concept, created in the second half of the 20th century. However, contemporary Malaysia regards the entire history of Malaya and Borneo, spanning thousands of years back to Prehistoric times, as its own history, and as such it is treated in this page.
The Straits Settlements were a group of British territories located in Southeast and East Asia. Originally established in 1826 as part of the territories controlled by the British East India Company, the Straits Settlements came under direct British control as a Crown colony on 1 April 1867. In 1946, following the end of the Second World War and the Japanese occupation, the colony was dissolved as part of the Britain's reorganisation of its dependencies in the area.
The Malayan Union was a union of the Malay states and the Straits Settlements of Penang and Malacca. It was the successor to British Malaya and was conceived to unify the Malay Peninsula under a single government to simplify administration. Following opposition by the ethnic Malays, the union was reorganized as the Federation of Malaya in 1948.
The Federation of Malaya was a federation of what previously had been British Malaya comprising eleven states that existed from 1 February 1948 until 16 September 1963. The Federation became independent on 31 August 1957, and in 1963, Malaysia was formed when the federation united with the Singapore, North Borneo, and Sarawak Crown Colonies.
The Chinese Protectorate was an administrative body responsible for the well-being of ethnic Chinese residents of the Straits Settlements during that territory's British colonial period. Protectorates were established in each area of the Settlements, namely Singapore, Penang and Malacca. Each was headed by a Protector. The institution was established in 1877 to handle all matters related to the Straits Settlements' Chinese residents. In particular, it sought to mitigate the human rights violations of the coolie trade, which had expanded to notorious levels by the 1850s in the region.
The founding of modern Singapore is said to have started with the establishment of a British trading post in Singapore in 1818 to 1819 by Sir Stamford Raffles and its founding as a British colony in 1824 has generally been understood to mark the founding of colonial Singapore, a break from its status as a port in ancient times during the Srivijaya and Majapahit eras, and later, as part of Melaka and Johor.
The term "British Malaya" loosely describes a set of states on the Malay Peninsula and the island of Singapore that were brought under British hegemony or control between the 18th and the 20th centuries. Unlike the term "British India", which excludes the Indian princely states, British Malaya is often used to refer to the Federated and Unfederated Malay States, which were British protectorates with their own local rulers, as well as the Straits Settlements, which were under the sovereignty and direct rule of the British Crown, after a period of control by the East India Company.
Lieutenant General Sir Andrew Clarke, was a British soldier and governor, as well as a surveyor and politician in Australia.
The history of the modern state of Singapore dates back to its founding in the early nineteenth century, but evidence suggests that a significant trading settlement existed in the Island of Singapore in the 14th century. At the time, the Kingdom of Singapura was under the rule of Parameswara, who killed the previous ruler before he was expelled by the Majapahit or the Siamese. It then came under the Malacca Sultanate and then the Johor Sultanate. In 1819, Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles negotiated a treaty whereby Johor allowed the British to locate a trading port on the island, leading to the establishment of the British crown colony of Singapore in 1819.
The State of Penang, one of the most developed and urbanised Malaysian states, is located at the nation's northwest coast along the Malacca Strait. Unlike most Malaysian states, the history of modern Penang was shaped by British colonialism, beginning with the acquisition of Penang Island from the Sultanate of Kedah by the British East India Company in 1786. Developed into a free port, the city state was subsequently governed as part of the Straits Settlements, together with Singapore and Malacca; the state capital, George Town, briefly became the capital of this political entity between 1826 and 1832. By the end of the 19th century, George Town prospered and became one of the major entrepôts in Southeast Asia.
The All-Malaya Council of Joint Action (AMCJA) was a coalition of political and civic organisations in Malaya formed to participate in the development of a constitution for post-war Malaya in preparation for independence and to oppose the Constitutional Proposals for Malaya which eventually formed the basis of the Federation of Malaya Agreement.
Sun Yat-sen along with Tong Meng Hui were not all that successful in holding revolutionary activities in Malaya, which consists of present-day Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore. The British colonial government maintained diplomatic relations with the Qing Government from the point of view of national relations, and the Qing embassies in Singapore and Penang became obstructions for the revolutionary activities. On the other side, the diplomats of the Qing Government visited areas of Malaya, and were welcomed by the local Chinese residents. These diplomats lobbied for local Chinese loyalty to the Qing Government; some of them sold government positions to achieve these goals. Hu Hanmin described the Chinese in the Southeast Asia as "Anyone that had some sort of official positions under the Manchus can go to Southeast Asia and bluff, saying "The three generations of my family were all first-grade officials, and I'm also a significant official with luxurious government headgear!", and these bluffs will create a sensation in the local Chinese to adore you. From Hu Hanmin's description, it is apparent that the Chinese in Malaya were still influenced by conservative ideas. These conservative ideas helped the royalists led by Kang Youwei to win responses from the local Chinese residents.
The Kangchu system was a socio-economic system of organisation and administration developed by Chinese agricultural settlers in Johor during the 19th century. The settlers organised themselves into informal associations, and chose a leader from among themselves. In Chinese, "Kangchu" literally means ‘master of the riverbank’, and was the title given to the Chinese headmen of these river settlements. The "Kangchu" leaders are also called "Kapitan".
The Royal Malaysia Police trace their existence to the Malacca Sultanate in the 1400s and developed through administration by the Portuguese, the Dutch, modernization by the British beginning in the early 1800s, and the era of Malaysian independence.
The Chief Secretary, Singapore, known as the Colonial Secretary, Singapore, before 1955, and the Colonial Secretary, Straits Settlements, before 1946, was a high ranking government civil position in colonial Singapore between 1867 and 1959. It was second only to the Governor of Singapore in the colonial government.
Robert Norman Bland (1859–1948), or "R. N. Bland," as he was more commonly known then in The Straits, was Resident Councillor of Penang and a career civil servant in the Colonial Administration of the Straits Settlements.
Penang was a British Crown colony from 1946 to 1957. It came under British sovereignty after being ceded by the Sultanate of Kedah in 1786, and had been part of the Straits Settlements in 1946. Together with Singapore, it became a Crown colony under the direct control of the British Colonial Office in London until it was incorporated into the Malayan Union.
George Town, the capital city of the State of Penang, is the second largest city in Malaysia and the economic centre of the country's northern region. The history of George Town began with its establishment by Captain Francis Light of the British East India Company in 1786. Founded as a free port, George Town became the first British settlement in Southeast Asia and prospered in the 19th century as one of the vital British entrepôts within the region. It briefly became the capital of the Straits Settlements, a British crown colony which also consisted of Singapore and Malacca.
| Library resources about |
Singapore in the Straits Settlements