In late 1818, Lord Hastings – the British Governor General of India – appointed Lieutenant General Sir Stamford Raffles to establish a trading station at the southern tip of the Malay peninsula. The British were extending their dominion over India and their trade with China was expanding. They saw the need for a port of call to “refit, revitalize and protect their merchant fleet” as well as to prevent any advances made by the Dutch in the East Indies.
After surveying other nearby islands in 1819, Sir Stamford Raffles and the rest of the British East India Company landed on Singapore, which was to become their strategic trading post along the spice route. Eventually Singapore became one of the most important commercial and military centers of the British Empire. The island was the third British acquisition in the Malay Peninsula after Penang (1786) and Malacca (1795). These three British Settlements (Singapore, Penang and Malacca) became the Straights Settlements in 1826, under the control of British India. By 1832, Singapore became the center of government of the three areas. On 1 April 1867, the Straights Settlements became a Crown Colony and was ruled by a governor under the jurisdiction of the Colonial Office in London.
LOOSENING BRITAIN’S STRONGHOLD
During World War II, Singapore was occupied by the Japanese. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill described this “as the worst disaster and largest capitulation in British history”. In the aftermath of the war, the country faced staggering problems of high unemployment, slow economic growth, inadequate housing, decaying infrastructure, labor strikes and social unrest. Nevertheless, it sparked a political awakening among the local population and saw the rise of anti-colonial and nationalist sentiments, as epitomized by the slogan “Merdeka” which means “independence” in the Malay language.
In 1959, Singapore became a self-governing state within the British Empire...