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Malayan history, marked by a European presence

Malaysia as we know it today is the fruit of several wars , of conquest resulting in the gaining of independence of the last territories still in the hands of the English, Borneo, in 1963.

Malacca: trading passage point

The port city of Malacca, located on the western coast of the Malay peninsula, was founded in 1400. It plays a crucial role in the country's history. At the time, its geographical location was perfect for traders. The Chinese, who were in fact trading between Indian and China, saw it as the ideal point of passage to control their trade. Now, at that time, Muslims managed all commercial activity. The Chinese arrived in 1403. Then, Malacca was the most important port in all of Southeast Asia. As the port was run by powerful Muslim traders, their religion became established. Indeed, Malacca's sovereigns were converted to it due to the merchants' influence. During your trip to Malaysia , do not forget to go and visit it's pirate boat! 

Boat ride on Malacca River

A brief account of its colonial history 

Malaysia, like many others , was subjected to the rule of the colonizers who, one after another, seized control of its territory. The Portuguese were the first to set foot on the territory, attracted as they were by the flourishing spice trade. They captured the city of Malacca in 1511. They remained in place for over a century, before being chased out by the Dutch and finally by the British. These last were able to consolidate their presence, especially in the spice producing regions. It is here that in 1600, they established their well-known East India Company . Nevertheless, the territory was divided between the different colonial powers. It is only in 1824 that the Dutch finally gave up Malacca to the English. It is mostly the British who, in need of manual labour, made the Chinese and the Indians come en masse into the country. This explains the cultural diversity you witness today, while on a trip to Malaysia. Finally, 1874 is an important date, for as the British have officially set up their protectorate, they can now play a part in the the affairs of the Malay state.

A wind of independence

It is World War Two and the Japanese invasion of its territory that gave Malaysia the desire for freedom .

In 1957, the Federation of Malaya was granted its independence within the scope of the Commonwealth Agreement. Then, in 1963, the states of Singapore, North Borneo and Sarawak join the independence treaty and the new country formed is quite simply called, Malaysia. However, two years later, Singapore broke away from Malaysia in a bid for independence. Its almost wholly Chinese population did not feel a sense of belonging to Malaysia.

Emilie Couillard
117 contributions
Updated 30 October 2015
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