Brief History of Singapore

About Singapore - Brief HistoryAbout Singapore - Brief History]About Singapore - Brief History

This page covers a brief introduction of Singapore history, independence and economic growth in the last century. Recommended book and source: Singapore 1994.

Founding of Modern Singapore

The British, who were extending their dominion in India, and whose trade with China in the second half of the 18th century was expanding, saw the need for a port of call in this region to refit, revitalise and protect their merchant fleet, as well as to forestall any advance by the Dutch in the East Indies. As a result, they established trading posts in Penang (1786) and Singapore (1819), and captured Malacca from the Dutch (1795).

In late l818, Lord Hastings, Governor-General of India, gave tacit approval to Sir Stamford Raffles, Lieutenant-Governor of Bencoolen, to establish a trading station at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula. On 29 January 1819, Raffles landed on the island of Singapore after having surveyed other nearby islands. The next day, he concluded a preliminary treaty with Temenggong Abdu'r Rahman to set up a trading post here. On 6 February 1819, a formal treaty was concluded with Sultan Hussein of Johor and the Temenggong, the de jure and defacto rulers of Singapore respectively.

Singapore proved to be a prized settlement. By 1820, it was earning revenue, and three years later, its trade surpassed that of Penang. In 1824, Singapore's status as a British possession was formalised by two new treaties. The first was the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of March 1824, by which the Dutch withdrew all objections to the British occupation of Singapore. The second treaty was made with Sultan Hussein and Temenggong Abdu'r Rahman in August, by which the two owners ceded the island out right to the British in return for increased cash payments and pensions.

The Straits Settlements

Singapore, together with Malacca and Penang, the two British settlements in the Malay Peninsula, became the Straits Settlements in 1826, under the control of British India. By 1832, Singapore had become the centre of government for the three areas. On 1 April 1867, the Straits Settlements became a Crown Colony under the jurisdiction of the Colonial Office in London.

With the advent of the steamship in the mid-1860s and the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, Singapore became a major port of call for ships plying between Europe and East Asia. And with the development of rubber planting, especially after the 1870s, it also became the main sorting and export centre in the world for rubber. Before the close of the 19th century, Singapore was experiencing unprecedented prosperity and trade expanded eightfold between 1873 and 1913. The prosperity attracted immigrants from areas around the region. By 1860, the population had grown to 80,792. The Chinese accounted for 61.9 per cent of the number; the Malays and Indians 13.5 and 16.05 per cent respectively; and others, including the Europeans, 8.5 per cent.

The peace and prosperity ended when Japanese aircraft bombed the sleeping city in the early hours of 8 December 1941. Singapore fell to the Japanese on 15 February 1942, and was renamed Syonan (Light of the South). It remained under Japanese occupation for three and a half years.

Towards Self-Government

The British forces returned in September 1945 and Singapore came under the British Military Administration. When the period of military administration ended in March 1946, the Straits Settlements was dissolved. On 1 April 1946, Singapore became a Crown Colony. Penang and Malacca became part of the Malayan Union in 1946, and later the Federation of Malaya in 1948.

Postwar Singapore was a contrast to the prewar country of transient immigrants. The people, especially the merchant class, clamored for a say in the government. Constitutional powers were initially vested in the Governor who had an advisory council of officials and nominated non-officials. This evolved into the separate Executive and Legislative Councils in July 1947. The Governor retained firm control over the colony but there was provision for the election of six members to the Legislative Council by popular vote. Hence, Singapore's first election was held on 20 March 1948.

When the Communist Party of Malaya tried to take over Malaya and Singapore by force, a state of emergency was declared in June 1948. The emergency lasted for 12 years. Towards the end of 1953, the British government appointed a commission under Sir George Rendel to review Singapore's constitutional position and make recommendations for change. The Rendel proposals were accepted by the government and served as the basis of a new constitution that gave Singapore a greater measure of self-government.

The 1955 election was the first lively political contest in Singapore's history. Automatic registration expanded the register of voters from 75,000 to over 300,000, and for the first time, it included large numbers of Chinese, who had manifested political apathy in previous elections. The Labor Front won 10 seats. The Peoples Action Party (PAP), which fielded four candidates, won three seats. David Marshall became Singapore's first Chief Minister on 6 April 1955, with a coalition government made up of his own Labor Front, the United Malays National Organization and the Malayan Chinese Association .

Marshall resigned on 6 June 1956, after the breakdown of constitutional talks in London on attaining full internal self government. Lim Yew Hock, Marshall's deputy and minister for Labor became the Chief Minister. The March 1957 constitutional mission to London led by Lim Yew Hock was successful in negotiating the main terms of a new Singapore Constitution. On 28 May 1958, the Constitutional Agreement was signed in London.

Self-government was attained in 1959. In May that year Singapore's first general election was held to choose 51 representatives to the first fully elected Legislative Assembly. The PAP won 43 seats, gleaning 53.4 percent of the total votes. On June 3, the new Constitution confirming Singapore as a self-governing state was brought into force by the proclamation of the Governor, Sir William Goode, who became the first Yang di-Pertuan Negara (Head of State). The first Government of the State of Singapore was sworn in on June 5, with Lee Kuan Yew as Singapore's first Prime Minister.

The PAP had come to power in a united front with the communists to fight British colonialism. The communists controlled many mass organizations, especially of workers and students. It was an uneasy alliance between the PAP moderates and the pro communists, with each side trying to use the other for its own ultimate objective--in the case of the moderates, to obtain full independence for Singapore as part of a non-communist Malaya; in the case of the communists, to work towards a communist take-over.

The tension between the two factions worsened from 1960 and led to an open split in 1961, with the pro-communists subsequently forming a new political party, the Barisan Sosialis. The other main players in this drama were the Malayans, who, in 1961, agreed to Singapore's merger with Malaya as part of a larger federation. This was also to include British territories in Borneo, with the British controlling the foreign affairs, defense and internal security of Singapore.

The Malaysia Proposal

On 27 May 1961, the Malayan Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, proposed closer political and economic co-operation between the Federation of Malaya, Singapore, Sarawak, North Borneo and Brunei in the form of a merger. The main terms of the merger, agreed on by him and Lee Kuan Yew, were to have central government responsibility for defense, foreign affairs and internal security, but local autonomy in matters pertaining to education and labor. A referendum on the terms of the merger held in Singapore on 1 September 1962 showed the people's overwhelming support for PAP's plan to go ahead with the merger.

Malaysia was formed on 16 September 1963, and consisted of the Federation of Malaya, Singapore, Sarawak and North Borneo (now Sabah). Brunei opted out. Indonesia and the Philippines opposed the merger. President Sukarno of Indonesia worked actively against it during the three years of Indonesian confrontation.


The merger proved to be short-lived. Singapore was separated from the rest of Malaysia on 9 August 1965, and became a sovereign, democratic and independent nation.

Independent Singapore was admitted to the United Nations on 21 September 1965, and became a member of the Commonwealth of Nations on 15 October 1965. On 22 December 1965, it became a republic, with Yusof bin Ishak as the republic's first President.

Thereafter commenced Singapore's struggle to survive and prosper on its own. It also had to create a sense of national identity and consciousness among a disparate population of immigrants. Singapore's strategy for survival and development was essentially to take advantage of its strategic location and the favourable world economy.

Coming of Age

A massive industrialization program was launched with the extension of the Jurong industrial estate and the creation of smaller estates in Kallang Park, Tanjong Rhu, Redhill, Tiong Bahru and Tanglin Halt. The Employment Act and the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act were passed in 1968 to promote industrial peace and discipline among the workforce.

The Economic Development Board was reorganized in 1968 and the Jurong Town Corporation and the Development Bank of Singapore were set up in the same year In 1970, the Monetary Authority of Singapore was established to formulate and implement Singapore's monetary policies.

In 1979, after the shock of two oil crisis, the Government started a program of economic restructuring. This was achieved by modifying education policies, expanding technology and computer education, offering financial incentives to industrial enterprises and launching a productivity campaign.

Public housing was given top priority. New towns sprang up and Housing and Development Board apartments were sold at a low cost. To encourage home ownership, Singaporeans were allowed to use their Central Provident Fund savings to pay for these apartments.

With the British Government's sudden decision in 1967 to withdraw its armed forces from Singapore by the end of 1971, Singapore set out to build up its own defence forces. The Singapore Armed Forces Training Institute was established in 1966 and compulsory national service was introduced in 1967. A Singapore Air Defense Command and a Singapore Maritime Command were set up in 1969. In August 1967, Singapore joined Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand to form the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Singapore entered the 1970s as a politically stable state with a high rate of economic growth. The one-party Parliament that emerged from the 1968 general election became the pattern, with the PAP winning all seats in 1972,1976 and 1980. In the 1984 and 1991 general elections, the PAP won all but two and four seats respectively.

On 28 November 1990, a new chapter opened in Singapore's modern history Goh Cheok Tong became the second Prime Minster of Singapore when he took over the office from Lee Kuan Yew who resigned after having been Prime Minster since 1959.

On 12 August 2004, Lee Hsien Loong, son of Lee Kuan Yew became the third Prime Minister of Singapore. One of his major accomplishments was to propose the building of 2 Integrated Resorts (IR) in Singapore which creates a huge avenue for Singapore's economy. Prior to his appointment as PM, he served as Deputy Prime Minister (1991-2004), Minister of Finance, Minister of Trade & Industry.

Related Page

Re: Breaking a 1 year lease

Oh ok!

Re: Breaking a 1 year lease

Strong Eagle:
Look... before you could enforce the clause you quoted you first need to publish the relevant parts of the lease with respect to "lawful termination"... that is, under what circumstances can you terminate the lease. I bet money that losing your sublet tenants is not one of the covered conditions.

I bet... unless you got a very special Singapore lease agreement... that there are only a couple of very unusual reasons you will be able to terminate. Summary... you are stuck with the lease until lease end you and you better start whacking up on the roomies that are deserting you for more cash.

Re: Breaking a 1 year lease

The flat was sublet with he knowledge and permission. He has all the required details of all those who are staying.
However, what I don't understand is that if one can break the lease iLynne why was the above clause inserted?
Can you suggest a way out?

Re: Breaking a 1 year lease

Hi guys,

I wanted to know how can I break a year long lease. We moved in 3-months ago and I am the only person with the name on the contract as the main tenant. Additionally, the other people's name was on the contract as recognized tenants.

However, it seems that the people who have moved in with me in the house (4 bedroom, 5 people) will be leaving Singapore before the end of the 1 year lease. That would mean that 2 rooms will be vacant for just 3 months and hence finding somebody to occupy the room for such a short period will be near impossible.

Is it then possible for me to break the lease (by giving almost 6 months notice) without being libel for anything? There is a clause in the contract that reads

Since I will be giving the landlord sufficient notice and will be willing to pay the above mentioned cost can I break the lease 3 months early?
Do you have a clause in your contract allowing you to terminate with a notice? I guess not, so the above clause does not apply to you. Besides, it looks like you sub-let the flat. Was it permitted? By the LL? By HDB (if applicable)? If you had a proper sub-letting agreements in place your co-tenants should take responsibility for their early leaving, now it's your problem and the only way you could do it properly is to mediate with the LL what I personally doubt will be any effective. Especially if he didn't know the flat was sub-let in the first place.

Re: looking for clasp.

Strong Eagle:
I cannot guarantee they have what you want but there is a large arts and crafts store in Peoples Park Center... can't remember if it is second or third floor... near the entrance in the google map below., ... 56!6m1!1e1

Re: Minor incident could spark war


If this is read from the viewpoint that this is what the Daesh themselves believe, then it is revealing.
However, most Muslims dispute the selective literal interpretations, and thus take issue with the implications in the article:

Nevertheless, I saw Graeme Wood on Charlie Rose's show the other night, along with Will McCants.
Both seemed to have a good understanding of what is going on.

In fact a review by Susan Grigsby of McCants' book, , states, "If you only have time to read one book about the Islamic State, ... this is the book to read."

Re: Air Con Cleaning Service

Yes, labour costs have increased.
Wasn't there a levy increase last year?

looking for clasp.

leather worker:
Hello all im a recent transplant and I'm looking for supplies. I thought it would be easy to find supplies here but I'm not having much luck. I need to find a store that sells magnetic clasp to make leather bracelets. Also looking for hook and loop clasp, i hook and bayonet clasp. Any one know where i can fins such a store? Ive attached a picture of what I'm looking for.

Thank you for you help!

Re: PR Application Questions

Thanks. PR application has been submitted and nowadays I do get a sense that the government does want to do something for non-citizen spouses and children of citizens. But as you say selection criteria and decision times are sufficiently opaque and on a case by case basis.


Bryan Chan:
Hi all.
So sorry i forget give more details for my application because i am too happy.
I am 33 years old chinese from malaysia.bring along my two young son and my wife apply together. Work in singapore more than 10 year. Education only secondary foon yew high school. Currently now i s pass holder 1 and half year and apply for PR. Consider a skill worker. Now position is logistics manager hold salary with $4000. Pending 6 month after get approved. Hope this information can help those PR applicant .


Agreed, he can be just another of the multitudes who follow this community that help themselves while being never contribute anything meaningful to the anecdotal evidence vaults here that make this site so valuable in the first place. Those kind will make assimilation into Singapore a breeze - just like the true blues who never pay it forward. ;-)


Congratulations Bryan.

(and you don't have to give any more info if you don't want to).

Celebrate and good luck!

blind spot warrior


LTA vs Uber


Re: Pre-holidays Eagles Fly-in?

I'm cool with 18th