According to the Malay Annals, the Kingdom of Singapura was founded as a trade port city on the island in 1299. Before the Majapahit destroyed it in 1398, it was subjected to two significant foreign assaults. The town, which was technically part of the Johor Sultanate at the time, was burnt down by Portuguese invaders in 1613. For the next several years, the rest of the maritime area, as well as most of the commerce, was under Dutch authority.
On behalf of the British East India Company, Thomas Stamford Raffles came in 1819 and negotiated a contract with Sultan Hussein Shah of Johor to establish the southern portion of Singapore as a British trade station. After another contract with the Sultan in 1824, the whole island, as well as the Temenggong, gained British control. Singapore joined the Straits Settlements, which were under British India’s authority, in 1826, and became the regional capital in 1836. There were only around a thousand inhabitants on the island prior to Raffles’ arrival, mainly indigenous Malays with a few Chinese. By 1860, the population had grown to about 80,000 people, with more than half of them being Chinese. Many immigrants arrived to work on rubber plantations, and the island became a worldwide center for rubber exports after the 1870s.
As part of the defensive Singapore strategy after World War I, the British constructed a major naval base in Singapore. The Imperial Japanese Army attacked British Malaya during WWII, culminating in the Battle of Singapore. The loss was dubbed “the greatest catastrophe and largest capitulation in British history” by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill after the British army of 60,000 soldiers surrendered on February 15, 1942. The following Sook Ching massacre murdered between 5,000 and 25,000 ethnic Chinese individuals. Singapore was heavily bombed by the Allies from November 1944 to May 1945. Singapore was held by the Japanese until September 1945, when the British reclaimed it after Japan’s surrender.
During the Malayan Emergency in the 1950s, Chinese communists with strong connections to trade unions and Chinese schools fought a guerrilla fight against the government. These incidents were related to the National Service Riots of 1954, the Chinese middle school riots, and the Hock Lee bus riots in Singapore. The Labour Front’s pro-independence leader David Marshall won Singapore’s first general election in 1955. He dispatched a team to London, but the British government rejected his desire for full autonomy. He left and was succeeded by Lim Yew Hock, whose policies persuaded Britain to give Singapore complete domestic autonomy in all areas except defense and international affairs.
The People’s Action Party scored a resounding win in the May 1959 elections. Singapore became the Commonwealth’s first domestically self-governing state, with Lee Kuan Yew as its first Prime Minister. The first Yang di-Pertuan Negara (Head of State) was Governor Sir William Allmond Codrington Goode, who was followed by Yusof bin Ishak, who became Singapore’s first President in 1965.
Following the 1962 Merger Referendum, Singapore, the Federation of Malaya, the Crown Colony of Sarawak, and the Crown Colony of North Borneo merged to create the new federation of Malaysia on September 16, 1963, under the provisions of the Malaysia Agreement. Singapore’s authorities decided to join Malaysia owing to worries about the country’s small geographical area, lack of water, markets, and natural resources. Some Singaporean and Malaysian leaders were also worried that communists could establish the island’s administration, which they saw as a danger to the Federation of Malaya from the outside. However, soon after the merger, the Singapore state government and the Malaysian central government clashed over a number of political and economic problems, culminating in the racial riots in Singapore in 1964. After a series of bitter ideological battles between the two administrations, the Malaysian Parliament voted 126 to 0 (with no Singaporean representatives present) to remove Singapore from the country on August 9, 1965.
On August 9, 1965, Singapore became the Republic of Singapore (while being a member of the Commonwealth of Nations). In 1969, racial riots erupted once again. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was co-founded by the nation in 1967. In a single generation, Lee Kuan Yew became Prime Minister, and the nation went from Third World to First World wealth. Singapore’s policies over the following half-century were influenced by Lee Kuan Yew’s focus on fast economic development, encouragement for corporate entrepreneurship, and restrictions on internal democracy. Lee remained in the Cabinet as Senior Minister until 2004, and then Minister Mentor until May 2011, after Goh Chok Tong replaced him as Prime Minister in 1990. During Goh’s presidency, the nation dealt with the Asian financial crisis of 1997, the SARS epidemic of 2003, and terrorist threats from Jemaah Islamiyah.
Lee Kuan Yew’s oldest son, Lee Hsien Loong, became the country’s third Prime Minister in 2004. Despite his retirement, Goh Chok Tong remained in Cabinet as Senior Minister until May 2011, when he was designated Emeritus Senior Minister. The global financial crisis of 2008, the settlement of a land dispute over Malayan railroads, and the development of integrated resorts were all part of Lee Hsien Loong’s term. Despite the economy’s extraordinary development, the People’s Action Party (PAP) had its worst election results in 2011, garnering 60% of the vote amid hot-button topics like as the large inflow of foreign labor and rising living costs. Lee Kuan Yew died on March 23, 2015, on the 50th anniversary of Singapore’s independence. Following that, the PAP retained its parliamentary majority in September general elections, winning 69.9% of the vote, its second-highest polling score behind the 75.3 percent it received in 2001.