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Malaysian History

The area has been in control of several different groups in its history and mainly the Chinese and Indians in the early days. The first Muslim empire in Malaya, based on the trading port of Malacca on the western side of the peninsula, was formed in the 15th century. Early in the 16th century, the Portuguese moved in and, after capturing Malacca, established a number of fortified bases in the region. Sultan Mahmud, the ruler of Malacca at the time, was unable to recapture it immediately. However his successors, who had moved to Johore on the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, noted the arrival of the Dutch in the region at the end of the century and formed an alliance with them to expel the Portuguese in 1641.

Over the next century and a half, the Dutch steadily expanded throughout the region until the Dutch East Indies became the heart of a most prosperous colonial trading operation, as it controlled Indonesia as well. Coming at the end of the 18th century, the British were relatively late arrivals to the region, but they were to play a key role following the European wars of the 1790s and, in particular, the defeat of the Netherlands by France in 1795. Rather than hand them over to the French, the Dutch passed control of some of their most valuable resources to the British in what became a series of exchanges. During the 19th century, the British took control of the peninsula using economic pressure, but
local rulers were permitted substantial internal autonomy provided that they posed no threat to British interests. The Federated Malay States were created as an entity in 1895, and remained under British colonial control until the Japanese invasion of 1942. After the defeat of Japan in 1945, the 11 states were once again incorporated as British Protectorates and in 1948 became the Federation of Malaya.

In the same year, communist guerrillas, which the bulk of whom were ethnic Chinese, launched an armed struggle aimed at establishing an independent socialist state. ‘The Emergency’, as the colonial authorities dubbed it, lasted formally until 1960. However, the serious fighting was over by the mid-1950s and in 1957, Britain proceeded with its plan to grant independence to the Federation of Malaya. In 1963 the Federation of Malaya merged with Singapore and the former British colonies of Sarawak and Sabah (North Borneo) to form Malaysia. Singapore seceded to become an independent state in its own right in 1965, leaving Malaysia in its present form. The country became a strong Western ally and it wasn’t till the 1980s and 90s that the country’s economy started to boom and today its one of the strongest in the region. It is also a strong Commonwealth member and takes pride in it colonial routes.

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