Travel Guide

History in Brief

Singapore was first founded by Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles in 1819 as part of a bid to establish a trading outpost in this area.

After the legal matters were settled, he returned to Britain and left William Farquhar in charge of the land. Under the guidance Farquhar and his team, Singapore quickly became a flourishing free port.

Further changes were made to the infrastructure upon Raffles' return, aiding in the island's growth. In 1824, the British and the Dutch, to whom the land belonged to originally, officially signed an agreement ceding Singapore to the British and the capital of the crown colonies to Singapore in 1832.

The British placed the Straits Settlements under the government of India which caused civil unrest as the government had little knowledge of the situation in the Straits Settlements and had inefficiently governed them. After much protest, the Straits Settlements became a crown colony directly under British rule.

When World War II loomed in the horizon, the British decided to build a naval base at the south of Singapore.

The Japanese, however, came from the north and Singapore was under Japanese control on 15 February 1942. What followed was a time of intense hardship for the people, with inflationary prices and shortage of necessities and of civil chaos where the black market flourished and the people survived on whatever little they could scrounge up.

The Japanese Occupation ended after the Americans dropped two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on 6 and 9 August 1945 respectively. On 15 August 1945, the Japanese unconditionally surrendered and the colonial powers returned.

As part of the British's attempts to establish self-governance in Singapore, legislative council elections were held. On 2 April 1955, the Labour Front party won 10 out of 20 seats and David Marshall became the first Chief Minister of Singapore.

However, he came under scrutiny for his inability to suppress the Communists, and preliminary talks for internal self-government failed and David Marshall resigned.

The next Chief Minister, Lim Yew Hock, decided to take more extreme measures and he imprisoned trade union leaders and pro-leftist members of the PAP. The British awarded Singapore with internal self-government in 1958.

In the 1959 elections, the People's Action Party, headed by Lee Kuan Yew, swept the elections and won 43 out of 51 seats.

They embarked on a plan to revamp Singapore, leading to increased foreign and local investment, the building of 25 000 high-rise, low-cost apartments within two years and the education system changed to create a skilled, English-educated workforce.

In order to sustain Singapore's future, the government felt a merger must be made with Malaya. Malaya's government wanted to control the Communists, and so a merger was achieved on 9 July 1963, effectively creating the Federation of Malaysia.

Racial tensions were high, however, and soon after major racial riots had occurred, the Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman decided that there was no other alternative and expelled Singapore from the Federation of Malaysia.

On 9 August 1965, Singapore effectively became an independent nation.


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