Brief History Of Singapore - A Timeline of Events

Located in Southeast Asia, Singapore is the hustle and bustle known for its rapid modernisation and a booming economy. This island boasts one of the busiest ports in the world, thriving corporate sectors and follows a strict regime of law and order. From being a major trading hub to one of the world's wealthiest economies, this tiny island at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula has come a long way.

The records of how Singapore was formed are shrouded in time, but a third-century Chinese record refers to it as the island at the end of a peninsula in the Malay language. Later, the city was referred to as Temasek or Sea town and the during the 14th century it earned the name of Singapore and there is an ancient legend behind it. 

Origin and Foundation of Singapore: Once upon a time

It is believed that Singapore was founded by a prince from Sumatra when he landed on the island and saw an auspicious lion. Assuming it to be a good omen, he founded a city there and named it Singapura which translates to 'the lion city'. There is no recorded proof of this legend but it has been told for centuries. However, Singapore then was a small trading port with a small population until the European settlement. It was a small Malay fishing village, whose major inhabitants were only a several hundred indigenous Orang Laut people. 

Emergence of Modern Singapore: Raffles Effect

History of Singapore
A photographic view of Singapore Malay Village (Source)
Modern Singapore was founded in late 1818 when Lord Hasting, the British Governor-General of India appointed Sir Raffles to establish a trading station at the southern tip of Malay peninsula. When he landed on the island of Singapore after surveying the nearby islands, he discovered swamps and jungles with very little population, which made him realize that it could be transformed into a useful port. In no time, Singapore emerged as an important centre for commerce and British military forces.

British Acquisition

Singapore was the third acquisition of British East India in Malay after Penang and Malacca and they established a new trading post in Singapore which showed rapid growth. People from Europe, India, China and Malaysia came to work and live here. The population rose in Singapore and by 1867, it became a crown colony under the rule of the British government rather than East India company. A lot of grand buildings were constructed during this period and the Suez canal was established too.

World War II and End of Colonialism

In January 1942, the Japanese conquered Malaysia and rapidly gained air and naval superiority in the area. By the end of January, they had completely captured over the peninsula and crossed the Johor Strait on February 8, 1942, to overrun Singapore as well. 

The British had no option but to surrender the island and they did so within a week. Singapore remained in the hands of the Japanese until September 1945. The Japanese were tyrants and they executed thousands of Chinese Singaporeans. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill declared it as the worst disaster and the largest ever capitulation in British history. Singapore faced massive unemployment, staggering economic growth, inadequate housing, labour strikes, social unrest and dwindling infrastructure. However, after 3 years, the Japanese surrendered and the British reoccupied Singapore. 

Post War Period

History of Singapore
British Reoccupation of Singapore (Source)
On 15th August 1945, the Japanese surrendered to the British but Singapore continued to remain in a brief state of violence, disorder, looting and revenge killings. British troops returned to Singapore, received the official surrender from the Japanese forces and formed an administration to govern the island. However, the population of the island still suffered from electricity and water supply issues, telephone services and loss of harbour facilities at the Port of Singapore. Much of the infrastructure of the country was lost and there was a massive shortage of food too, which led to the rise in malnutrition, diseases and death. Crime and violence persisted.

The rise in the prices of commodities and unemployment led to a number of rebellious strikes which in turn led to stoppages in transport and other services. The economy started to improve by late 1947, but it would still take years to stabilize the economy like the pre-war time. The British had lost the confidence of Singaporeans as they failed to defend the country. This led to a state of political awakening among the local population and there was a rise in the number of anti-colonial groups and parties who came up with a myriad of nationalist slogans fighting for 'Merdeka' or independence in the Malay language. 

Independence of Singapore

It was 1945 when Singapore separated from Malaysia, the Strait settlements were dissolved and Singapore moved towards independence. In 1954, the People's Action Party was formed and it drove the Singaporean politics rapidly to the extent that in 1955, a new constitution was introduced. In 1959, Singapore became a self-governing state under the British Government with the leader of the People's Action Party, Lee Kuan Yew taking over as the Prime Minister.

In August 1963, Singapore declared independence from the British rule and joined the federation of Malaysia along with Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak. However, after ideological conflicts between the federation and the Singapore government's major political party, People's Action Party (PAP), Singapore left the federation in 1965 and on 9th August in the same year gained sovereignty officially. Singapore became completely independent, and Yusof Bin Ishak was sworn in as its first president while Lee Kuan Yew continued as prime minister. 

The merger with Malaysia proved unsuccessful. Singapore left Malaysia and on 9 August 1965 became an independent and sovereign democratic nation. Even today, Singapore preserves the remnants of its multicultural, colonial and wartime past in the form of monuments, museums and memorials.

Singapore Today

In addition to an ultra industrialised society that Singapore is, it is also thriving in the tourism industry attracting millions of tourists every year. The port of Singapore has surpassed the ports of Hong Kong and Rotterdam and is the world's busiest transhipment port today. The nation's medical to, as well as culinary tourism industries, have remarkably grown over the years becoming quite marketable - thankful of the advance medical technology and mosaic of cultural heritage.

History of Singapore
The cosmopolitan Singapore (source)
Apart from the significant growth in the banking sector and biotech industry, Singapore today is also the fifteenth largest trading partner of the United States. The effectiveness of the early-proposed economic business model is indeed commendable.

~This article is written by CR Anjali~

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