This post is also available in: 简体中文 (Chinese (Simplified))

History of Singapore

Singapore may be a little island nation in Southeast Asia with a total land area encompassing only 273 square miles, but don’t let that fool you because this country has built a reputation for itself as one of the most successful countries in Asia despite its small size.

The secret to Singapore’s success lies in its strategic location, which is in the major trading routes between India and China, two of the world’s biggest economies. Founded by Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, Singapore was given the free-trade harbor status. Sir Thomas may have been behind the early framework for Singapore’s success, but it was with the efforts of former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew that defined the path to its current success.

In late 1818, the British Governor General of India, Lord Hastings was appointed Lieutenant General by Sir Thomas. Lord Hastings’s appointment was to help establish a trading station at the southern tip of the Malay peninsula. By then, the British’s were already extending their dominance over Indian and expanding their trade with China.

After Sir Thomas surveyed other nearby islands in 1819, Sir Thomas and the rest of the British East India Company came to rest on the island of Singapore which was established as their trading post along the spice route. Over the years, Singapore grew to become an important military and commercial center for the British Empire. Singapore, along with two other British settlements – Penang (1786) and Malacca (1795) made up the Straights Settlements in 1826.

By the time it was 1832, Singapore had become the center of government for these three locations and in April 1867, the Straights Settlements came to be known as the Crown Colony which was ruled by a governor under the Colonial Office in London’s jurisdiction.

In 1959, Singapore had grown to become a self-governing state with the British Empire under the leadership of Yusof Bin Ishak as the first Yang de-Pertuan Negara and Lee Kuan Yew as the country’s first long standing Prime Minister, who served until 1990. Before it joined the Federation of Malaysia with Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak, Singapore declared its independence from the British in August 1963.

Due to ideological conflicts between the government of Singapore and a major political party known as the People’s Action Party (PAP) and the Kuala Lumpur government, Singapore left the federation and officially gained its sovereignty on the 9th of August 1965. Yusof bin Ishak became the first president of the country while Lee Kuan Yew continued his position as the Prime Minister.

With Lee Kuan Yew leading the way, Singapore promoted its export-oriented and labor-extensive industrialization to attract foreign investment into the country, using its strategic location as leverage. By the time it was the 1960s and 1970s new jobs were created in the private sector, and Singapore’s international and financial services sectors was one of the fastest growing of its economy. By the time 1990 came, Singapore was now host to more than 650 multinational companies and several thousand financial institutions and trading firms, and one of the world’s most prosperous nations with a highly developed free market economy and strong international trading links. Not bad for a little island nation.