Singapore History

Singapore has recently been voted the most expensive place in the world to live, for the second year running. The vibrant metropolis is almost unrecognisable from the swamped island that first welcomed Sir Thomas Raffles in 1819. From those early days, when it became a hub for trade, it attracted immigrants from all around the region, nowadays, immigrants arrive from much further afield, keen to experience the unique city model that has made it one of the safest places in the world to live. Singapore is a melting pot if culture, nationality and religion but, unlike the rest of the world, It has found a system that sees respect and tolerance result in a harmonious co-existence. The infrastructure and facilities within the city and beyond are the envy of many much bigger nations. Singapore was no shrinking violet when it took full independence in 1965 but there is no doubt that the economic growth and everything that goes along with it that it has achieved since has made it a true global powerhouse.

Wherever you go in the city, there are reminders of the British influence ad in particular that of Sir Thomas Raffles, from the world famous hotel to numerous other streets, landmarks and services named after the former Lieutenant Governor of Bencoolen (now Bengkulu) who landed in Singapore in 1819 and immediately recognised its potential. Negotiating a treaty with local rulers, he quickly established Singapore as a major trading station. As it began to realize its potential, becoming a trading hub in the region, it became a popular destination for migrants from China, India, the Malay Archipelago and even further afield. The increase in population and the different cultures and nationalities initially caused some tension and in 1822, Raffles rolled out a town plan, known as the Jackson Plan, addressing the growing unrest and splitting the city into four ethnic residential areas…
European Town – European traders, Eurasians and rich Asians; Present Day Chinatown & South East of Singapore River – Chinese; Chulia Kampong (North of Chinatown) – Ethnic Indians; Kampong Glam – Muslims, ethnic Malays and Arabs that had migrated to Singapore.

By 1924 Singapore had established several banks commercial associations and a Chamber of Commerce, with a brand new causeway opening in the same year, linking northern Singapore to Joho Bahru. It wasn’t all plain sailing however, and the outbreak of World War II saw an attack on the island from Japan on December 8 1941, a year later the British would surrender to the Japanese but Singapore would be returned to British Military administration in 1945, when japan surrendered at the end of the war. The dissolution of the Straits Settlement compromising of Penang, Melaka and Singapore saw the end of the military administration and in 1946 Singapore became a British Crown colony. The next major date in the history of the island came in 1959, when, after a growth of nationalism, the country’s first general election took place and the People’s Action Party (PAP) won a majority of 43 seats resulting in Lee Kuan Yew becoming the first prime minister of Singapore, with definitive ideas on its continued development. One of these ideas saw Singapore join a newly formed Malaysia in 1963, which also included the Federation of Malaya, Singapore, Sarawak and north Borneo (now Sabah). The joining was however ill fated and on August 9 1965, Singapore left Malaysia and became a sovereign democratic nation.

Singapore has continued to evolve under the supervision of the PAP and Lee Kuan Yew, whose recent passing seen a huge outpouring of grief and gratitude towards the city’s first prime minister, months before it celebrates its 50th year. Singapore has become one of the world’s premier destinations, for both business and tourism, offering a unique experience for anyone that visits. The next chapter has yet to be written but the foundations for continued success have been laid. For those interested in learning more of the multi cultural, colonial and wartime history of the celebrated island-state, there are numerous monuments, museums and memorials around the city and taking one of the Heritage Trails reveals the untold stories behind the streets and landmarks of Singapore.