The Acquisition of Singapore by the British

Pages: 11 (4065 words) Published: August 22, 2010
The Acquisition of Singapore by the British.

The description of the Island of "Pu Luo Chung" is the original and earliest written trace or record of Singapore which was a Chinese account of the 3rd century, probably a paraphrase of the Malay Pulau Ujong, "island at the end" . The Sejarah Melayu contains a tale of a prince of Srivijaya, Sri Tri Buana ,also known as Sang Nila Utama, who landed on the island sometime during the 13th century. Catching sight of a strange creature that he thought was a lion, he decided to found a settlement called Singapura, which means "Lion City" in Sanskrit. It is unlikely that there ever were lions in Singapore, though tigers continued to roam the island until the early 20th century. Current excavations in Fort Canning might advocate the use of ancient Singapore as a trading post for transactions between the Phoenicians and the Malay and Chinese. The Chinese traveller Wang Dayuan, visiting the island around 1330, described a small Malay settlement containing a number of Chinese residents. The island was appearing that a place of safety for pirates preying on passing ships. The Nagarakretagama, a Javanese epic poem written in 1365, also referred to a settlement on the island, which it called Temasek ("Sea Town"). During the 1390s, Parameswara, the last Srivijayan prince, fled to Temasek after being deposed by the Majapahit Empire. In spite of the legend from the Sejarah Melayu, the "Singapura" name possibly dates to this period. Parameswara held the island for a number of years, until further attacks from either the Majapahit or the Ayuthia Kingdom in Siam forced him to move on to Melaka. Following the turn down of Srivijayan power, Temasek was alternately claimed by the Majapahit and the Siamese. Its ramparts according to the grapevine, allowed it to withstand at least one attempted Siamese invasion. During the 17th century, it briefly regained some importance as a trading centre of theSultanate of Johor, but eventually sank again into insignificance or obscurity. Between the 16th and 19th centuries, the Malay archipelago was gradually taken over by the European colonial powers, beginning with the arrival of the Portuguese at Malacca in 1509. The early dominance of the Portuguese was challenged, during the 17th century, by the Dutch, who came to control most of the region's ports. The Dutch established a monopoly over trade within the archipelago, particularly in spices, then the region's most important product. Other colonial powers, including the British, were limited to a relatively minor presence. In 1818, Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles was appointed as the governor of the British colony at Bencoolen. Raffles believed that the British should find a way to substitute the Dutch as the leading power in the archipelago, since the trade route between China and British India, which had become essentially important with the introduction of the opium trade with China, passed through the archipelago. Furthermore, the Dutch were muggy British trade within the region; the British were outlawed from operating in Dutch-controlled ports, with the exception of Batavia, where unfavourable prices were imposed. Raffles reasoned that the way to challenge the Dutch was to set up a new port in the region. Existing British ports were not suited to becoming major trading centres. Penang was too far away from the Straits of Malacca, the main ship passageway for the India-China trade, whereas Bencoolen faced the Sunda Straits, a much less important area. Many other possible sites were either controlled by the Dutch, or had other problems. Raffles managed to convince Lord Hastings, the governor-general of India and his superior at the British East India Company, to fund an expedition to set up a new British base in the region. The island of Singapore seemed to be a natural choice. It lay at the southern tip of the Malay peninsula, near the Straits of Malacca, and possessed an excellent natural harbour, fresh...
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