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History of Malaysia

Malaysia is best known as a South-East Asian country that is located very strategically along a prime sea-lane trade route. Malaysia today consists of three sections – Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak, although it didn’t start out that way in the beginning. Sometime around the 1st and 2nd century, Chinese and Indian traders began settling down along the west coast of the peninsular, and it was during this period that Hinduism and Buddhism were first introduced into the country. It was not until the 10th century that Islam first established itself within the country.

In 1511, the Portuguese took over the Sultanate of Malacca, but were driven out a century later by the Dutch in an alliance with the Sultan of Johor. After that, the Peninsular became a Malay kingdom that was ruled by Johor.

In 1786, the British East India Company were granted Penang to use as a trading post by the Sultan of Kedah, and in less than a decade, Malacca was taken over by the British. From there, the British proceeded to acquire Singapore in 1819, and Penang, Malacca and Singapore were known as the Straits Settlements ruled by the British.

Rubber farming was introduced by the British towards the end of the 19th century, and immigrants from both southern China and India came to the peninsular to work in the mines and on the plantations.

Colonial rule in Malaysia began in the early 20th century, when Indian sepoys began rebelling in 1915 and came close to taking control of Singapore. 1931 saw the formation of the Malayan Communist Party (MCP), a party which had links back then with the developing communism in China. By the time it was 1937, anti-colonial nationalism began to take roots among the Malay community and a formation known as the Union of Young Malays came into being.

Then along came the Japanese to stake their claim on the country from 1941 to 1945, and was met with resistance stemming mostly from the Chinese. After the war, the British rule was reintroduced, but again was met with active resistance, mostly from the MCP. The Malay nationalists were campaigning for independence and in 1946, the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) was formed as a result.

In 1948, Malaysia consisted of 11 peninsular states before Sabah and Sarawak joined them. In 1956, the governments from the Federation of Malaysia, the UK and the Heads of the Malay states came to an agreement that independence should be achieved by the end of August 1957. On the 31st of August 1957, the Federation of Malaysia successfully declared independence and joined the Commonwealth Nation.

In 1963, the Malaysia Agreement was signed by the UK, Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak. Under the agreement, Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore would become states under the new Federation of Malaysia. The Federation of Malaysia was formed on the 16th of September 1963, but by 1965, Singapore left the federation through mutual agreement and became an independent state on its own.