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

Up n Down Day for the Govt ...

Massive MRT power failure on the downside ....

Upside , Temasek has record amounts in its portfolio ....

Bumper profits to be made by those who bought Govt subsidised flats in Punggol/Sengkang...

:D :D :D :D

Re: Thai Food - Golden Mile

I'm posting from thailand, f each and every one of you...

J/k stuffing my face as I type with 1 hand

One handed you say :- :- :- =D> =D> =D>

Re: Thai Food - Golden Mile


Re: Weekends Away

I am in, and also interested to join a travel group.

Loop me in if you have any plans :)


Re: My Japanese for your English / Mandarin

Hi Tommie,

Not sure if you still need. F(as you request), used to study Japanese (10 years ago, with a degree and 1kyuu), forgot all and now want to refresh :)

Do PM me if you are interested!

F 28 newbie in Singapire. Looking for friends and hobby buddies

I have just arrived for 2 weeks, barely enough to get to know the city. Originally from Asia, studied in the US and was sent to Singapore.

I am looking for friends to enjoy fun and network. I have a good sense of humor (was told), like walking, exploring, gathering and travelling :) also love good food, drink and fun :) and a lot more :) And would like to make a lot of friends, of course :)


Re: Refusal of Rent Deposit but no TA

missfong02, I am very happy to hear all this. You did a good job. I am pretty sure the level of your paranoia just doubled but it is a useful thing to have for your future encounters with the local LLs.

Legal threatening often works in Singapore especially if you manage to convince your opponents you are familiar with the subject and know what to do.

I had a LL once who was reluctant to get various things repaired under the initial 30 days guaranty period of the TA. After few informal e-mails where he promised everything but did nothing I sent him a very formal letter, registered, RA, where systematically point by point in a semi-legal language I mentioned what needed to be repaired and in breach of what TA clauses he was. Miraculously all was fixed within one week after he received the letter with the LL in person and with a screwdriver rectifying some minor problem. What was sort of extra funny, the wife of this LL was a lawyer.

Re: Thai Food - Golden Mile

I'm posting from thailand, f each and every one of you...

J/k stuffing my face as I type with 1 hand

Re: Refusal of Rent Deposit but no TA

Strong Eagle:
Glad it worked out and glad you taught them a lesson... which, unfortunately, they probably won't learn.

Re: Some interesting currency moves today

Strong Eagle:
I'm reading (and happen to agree) that EU troika has less than 48 hours to either fund Greek banks so they can stay open or they will have to issue script, effectively the pre-Drachma, which will pretty will cinch an exit from an least the Euro.


Strong Eagle:
Pay by credit card for a fee: ... Debit-Card

Re: Thoughts on the Singapore budget 2015?

Strong Eagle:
You are posting from Cyprus...

Re: Gym anyone?

Strong Eagle:
Why would you be asking for a gym recommendation in Singapore when you are posting from Cyprus? I've deleted your blatant advertising... any more and you will be banned.


Re: Refusal of Rent Deposit but no TA

Hi all,

We got our deposit back today.

For anyone in a similar situation, this is what we did:
1. Sent an informal letter of demand via email to the LL's agent:
- We outlined the key terms they have agreed to in the LOI and provided them a timeline of events as to our communications and their responses, and explained how their responses and actions breached the LOI.
- We also requested LL agent's and LL's details to send future legal correspondence with. Thanks for the wording JR8!

2. Received a response from the LL's agents the next day: They offered to "return 50% of the deposit out of goodwill", and the LL agents' will "bear the cost of 25%". I.e. they were going to return 75%.
Note: this was their 3rd amended offer - previously they were going to hold the full deposit and we responded it was not in line with LOI. They then offered to return 50% of the deposit "out of goodwill" - this is when we sent them the email detailed in step 1 noted above.

3. Sent back and email clarifying our position. Our key points:
- Already detailed they had no legal basis for retaining our deposit and explained to them that the deposit is not the LL's or the LL agent's money.
- Outlined that we will be seeking not only the return of 100% of our deposit, but also for any losses we have incurred as result of their breach of the LOI and any legal costs incurred by us to rectify the situation.
- If the issue would not be resolved by Thursday, informal communication will cease and legal action will be taken.
- For the relisting of the property without our prior knowledge and during a time which the property was not available for rent, we would report them to the CEA for breach of the Estate Agents Code of Conduct - namely failure of duties in respect of advertisements (advertising a property whilst holding deposit in place and not informing tenant for a number of days) and failure to act with honesty and integrity in respect of LOI and holding deposit.

4. Received a response within 1 hour that the deposit will be returned in full "instantly".

Last words:
I think it is important that any communications with LL and LL agents remain in writing and you are able to back up everything you say.
The responses we got from the agents clearly showed that they were not well educated, and I think using professional language and keeping to the facts definitely helps your position.

At the end of the day, it's a little bit like a poker game. It's a matter of whether you have a good enough hand to go all in, and whether your opponent has a good enough hand to call you on it.

In our case, the potential of losing their licenses and thus their livelihoods were not worth trying to retain the booking deposit.

JR8 and x9200 - you guys were on the money when you mentioned that the target is potentially the ll's agents.

A big thanks to everyone who has offered advice, as that knowledge made a huge difference.

Hopefully my post will be helpful for any others who find themselves in such a situation.

Re: RE: Re: RE: Re: 26 f, looking for friends!


Hey! Would love to meet up and hang out sometime :) my number is

You didn't hear this from me ... but posting a phone number in an open forum is generally not a good idea ...