Penang History

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  • Topic: Penang, Francis Light, Malaysia
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History of Penang
Written by Administrator III Sunday, 14 September 2008 15:26 - Last Updated Wednesday, 15 December 2010 03:59

In the early 16th century, Portuguese traders have been sailing to the Far East searching for spices. They came across a small uninhabited island where they could replenish fresh water supplies, which they then named it “Pulo Pinaom”.

The island was part of the Kedah Sultanate. Its strategic location at the northern entry to the Straits of Malacca has made it a natural harbour during the monsoon months for Arabian, Chinese, European and Indian ships. Inevitably, it became a hunting ground for pirates.

Since the 17th century, Kedah have been sending “Bunga Emas” (Gold Flowers) to Siam (Thailand) as an acknowledgement of the Siam King’s sovereignty. In the 18th century, the spice and opium trade between the East and West had become extremely lucrative. The Dutch dominated the Far East spice trade and the British too needed to establish themselves in the region. Thus, in 1765 Francis Light was instructed by his Company, Jourdain Sullivan and de Souza to establish better trade relations in this part of the world.

In 1771, the Sultan of Kedah offered Captain Francis Light the island of Penang in return for protection from the Siamese and Burmese armies who were constantly threatening Kedah. This treaty never materialised as Francis Light's superiors refused to offer any aid.

Captain Francis Light left Kedah for Junk Ceylon (Phuket, an island off southern Thailand) in 1772 to setup trade activities with India, southern Siam and northern Malay Peninsula. At that time, the British were involved in the Napolean war in Europe. Light was asked by the East India Company based in Madras to obtain Pulau Pinang to setup a base to repair British navy ships and as a trading post for trade between China, India and the archipelago.

In 1786, Francis Light acted as middleman in securing Penang from Sultan Abdullah of Kedah in return for a promise of British protection from his enemies. The Sultan of Kedah was not aware that Light had acted without the approval of his superiors when making the promosi.

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History of Penang
Written by Administrator III Sunday, 14 September 2008 15:26 - Last Updated Wednesday, 15 December 2010 03:59

Light landed in that part of Penang now known as the Esplanade on July 17, 1786 with a small group of civilians and naval staff. On August 11, 1786, the Union Jack was hoisted as Captain Francis Light, known as founder of Penang officially took possession of the island for the Crown. The island was named "The Prince of Wales Island” as the acquisition date fell on the prince’s birthday. The settlement in the Eastern Cape of the island was called Georgetown named after the King of England, George III.

In 1790, Sultan Abdullah formed an army to get rid of the Dutch and English after the Company had failed to provide military protection when Kedah was attacked by Siam. He assembled his men at Seberang Prai (Province Wellesley) to retake Penang Island but was defeated by Captain Francis Light who had carried out night raids on the enemy's fortress. The following year, Sultan Abdullah signed a treaty with the British, officially handing over Penang Island to the British. As part of the treaty, the Sultan of Kedah is paid 6,000 Spanish dollars annually. Captain Francis Light was appointed Superintendent of Prince of Wales Island.

The first settlement in Penang was at the present Esplanade area which was a swampy, malaria infected area at that time. Fort Cornwallis, the island’s main defense was located at the same area. In order to expedite clearing of thick undergrowth around that site, Light loaded the ship’s cannons with silver dollars and fired it deep into the jungle. The township was named George Town after King George III of Britain. Four original streets of George Town were Beach Street, Light Street, Pitt Street (now Masjid Kapitan Keling Street) and...
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