Singapore was first
mentioned in a 3rd Century Chinese account, which described it as "Pu-luo-chung",
or island at the end of the peninsula. In the 7th Century, a Malayan Buddhist
Empire was established on the island of Sumatra. Temasek (Sea Town) as
Singapore was then known, was a prosperous trading outpost of this empire.
However, it is said that in the 13th Century, a member of the Royal family,
Sang Nila Utama, was searching for a site to build a new city. Arriving
at the sandy shores of the island, he mistook a tiger for a lion. Taking
this as a good omen, he decided to build his new city here, naming it
Singapura, the Sanskrit words for Lion City. Singapore's modern name was
an obscure fishing village under the possession of the Sultanate until
the fateful day in January 1819. Sir Stamford Raffles, an official of
the British East India Company, had combed the Straits of Malacca for
a small trading station to counter the Dutch influence in the area. The
tiny fishing village of Singapore was perfect because it was at the crossroads
of the East and West. He then signed an agreement with the Sultan of Johor,
giving the British the right to establish a trading port on the island
and to proclaim it a free port. It was against this political backdrop
that Sir Stamford Raffles established Singapore as a trading station.
The policy of free trade attracted merchants from all over Asia and from
as far afield as the United States and the Middle East. The main trade
items were tea and silk from China, timber from Malaya, and spices from
Indonesia. The colony also imported opium and fabrics from India, as well
as English-manufactured goods from Britain. By 1824, just five years after
the founding of modern Singapore, the population had grown from a mere
150 to 10,000.
During World War
II in 1942, the security was rudely shattered when the Japanese invaded
North Malaya and advanced towards Singapore. The British administration
in Singapore surrendered on February 8, 1942. Under the Japanese ruling,
Singapore was renamed Syonan (light of the South), and the commerce died
After the war in
August, 1945, Singapore became a Crown Colony. In 1959, however, full
elections were held and self-government under a new constitution was granted
in Singapore. It joined Malaysia to become one country in September 1963
but differences between the leaders became serious enough for a separation.
Singapore became an independent nation on August 9, 1965.
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