Singapore Country Guide

History

 
 

Early History
The first records of Singapore date back to the 2nd and 3rd centuries, with vague reference to its location in Greek and Chinese texts. According to legend, a Sumatran prince from Srivijayan Kingdom landed landed on the island in the 13th century and named the island Singapura, Sanskrit for Lion City. More historical records indicate that the island was settled at least two centuries earlier and was known as Temasek, Javanese for "Sea Town" and an important port for the Srivijaya Kingdom.

 
 
 
 
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Arab Quarter, Singapore

Old Arab Quarter

British Colonial Era
The story of Singapore as we know it today began in 1819, when Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles made a deal with a claimant to the throne of the Sultanate of Johor i.e. the British would support his claim in exchange for the right to set up a trading post on the island
. Well-placed at the entrance to the Straits of Malacca (straddling the trade routes between China, India, Europe, and Australia), Raffles' master stroke was to declare Singapore a free port, with no duties charged on trade.
Along with Penang and Malacca, Singapore became one of the Straits Settlements and a jewel in the British colonial crown.

When World War II broke out, Fortress Singapore was seen as a formidable British base with massive naval fortifications pointing southward guarding against assault by sea. However, not only did the fortress lack a fleet, as all ships were tied up defending Britain from the Germans. Furthermore, the Japanese wisely chose to cross north into Singapore from Malaya by bicycle instead! The British had not prepared for this and on 15 Feb 1942, with supplies critically low after less than a week of fighting, Singapore's colonial masters surrendered.

Central Business District, Singapore

Modern Central Business District

Modern Era
While still remaining a British colony, Singapore was granted self-rule in 1955. Singapore briefly joined the Malaysian Federation (i.e. Malaysia) in 1963 when the British left. Singapore was later expelled from Malaysia because the Chinese-majority island was seen as a threat to the Federation's Malay dominance. The island became independent on 9 August 1965, thus becoming the only country to gain independence against its own will in the history of the modern world!

The subsequent forty years rule by Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew of the People's Action Party (PAP) saw Singapore's economy boom, with the country rapidly becoming one of the wealthiest and most developed in Asia despite its lack of natural resources, earning it a place as one of the four East Asian Tigers. Singapore continues to be ruled by the democratically elected PAP. Societal restrictions have been loosened up in recent years though, with the government trying to shake off its staid image, and it remains to be seen how the delicate balancing act between political control and social freedom will play out.

 
Singapore
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Boat Quay
Chinatown
City Hall
Clarke Quay
Marina Bay
Mustafa Centre
North Bridge Road
Orchard Road
Sentosa Island
Suntec City

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