The Singapura Kingdom, as told by the Malay Annals
1299 - 1396
The Singapura Kingdom rose from the ashes of the Srivijaya empire in the 14ᵗʰ century. Favourable winds coupled with strong trade and diplomatic networks allowed Singapura to grow to great heights. However, at the turn of the century, everything changed, leading to the Kingdom’s fall.
Global and Regional Rivalries Resulting in Singapore’s Decline
1400 - 1613
After the fall of the Singapura Kingdom, Singapore still played a significant role in the region, including being the site of resistance against the Portuguese, and a trading post. However, its fortunes dimmed again after yet another attack.
The Arrival of the British and Early Singapore
1819 - 1867
Stamford Raffles and William Farquhar were East India Company officials, who sought to protect the company’s interests in present-day Southeast Asia. Capitalising on a succession dispute, they established a free port in Singapore, which quickly flourished.
Modern Institutions Take Root in Singapore
1819 - 1854
After 1819, Singapore saw the introduction of modern institutions such as a police force and schools. Munshi Abdullah bore witness to these changes and was excited about this new world, but he expressed sadness at the passing of the old.
After 1819, Singapore attracted an influx of migrants from nearby regions. Tapping on established networks forged by pioneers from diverse backgrounds, many moved to Singapore enticed by the free port’s trading opportunities, Farquhar’s reputation and Sultan Hussein’s newfound fortunes.
Singapore became a bustling town where immigrants flocked to seek better opportunities. They filled jobs in new industries like the gambier plantations. While some built new lives here or eventually returned home wealthy, others succumbed to vices and debt.
In the mid 19ᵗʰ century, Singapore’s streets were run by secret societies. Opium addiction was rampant, which led to worse living conditions, more widespread poverty and disease. Crime and violence were common, while prostitution was supported by human trafficking.
The opening of the Suez Canal and the global shift to steamships was a major turning point for Singapore, as it became an important part of the coal refuelling network. New communities, commodities, inventions and connections were brought to its shores.
The opening of the Suez Canal boosted Singapore’s trade and expanded its networks, leading to a time of prosperity. However, Singapore’s new openness also meant increased vulnerability to the impact of global events and external forces.
In the years prior to World War II, Singapore increased expenditure on education and public health. Meanwhile, economic prosperity led to the emergence of a middle class, while English-educated Asians began to take on leadership roles through new political avenues.
The Battle of Singapore only lasted eight days. The small group of local defence forces performed better than British forces. Miscommunication and the failure to execute planned defences accelerated Singapore’s defeat. Local resistance persisted heroically throughout the Japanese Occupation.