Malaya Peninsula – 1


The Malaya peninsula, with an area of about 53,000 square miles, approximately the size of Florida had a population of about 5,000,000 in 1940 and nearly 8,500,000 in 1966. It is characterized by a central mountain chain with altitude ranging from 4,000 to 8,000 feet, below which lie the rolling foothill country and the coastal plains. It commands the shortest sea-route from India, Western Asia and Europe to most of the far- east. Its strategic geographic location has given its importance out of the all proportion to its size. The country is one of the leading producer of rubber and tin. Malaya. The native of the peninsula was a Malay a descendent of a Proto- Malay with a considerable mixture of Arab, Indian and Chinese blood. According to available sources at present 41 percent of the people are Chinese ,43 percent Malayas  rather less than Indian, both Hindus and Moslems, and the rest Europeans.


The European penetration in the country began in the early sixteenth century when the Portuguese, the first Europeans to reach China by the all sea-routes, seized Malacca in 1511. Under the Portuguese control, Malacca soon became the great inter-pot of Lisbon’s control in the East. But later in in 1641 Malacca was captured by the Dutch who were already holding a strong grip at Batavia. Malacca remain in Dutch hands until the period of the French Revolution when the Dutch and the French Republic have formed an alliance Malacca was seized and held by the British and then return to Holland and finally ceded by Britain in 1824. Therefore Malacca had been continuously a European possession for four centuries.

The British had acquired the island of Penang in 1786and a strip of land on the opposite mainland known as Province Wellesley in 1800. In the year 1819 Thomas Stamford Raffles made the first agreement with the Sultan of Johore and Singapore was ceded to Britain in perpetuity. Since then the British power was in ascendance. The Anglo-Dutch agreement of 1824 further strengthen the British hold over the Peninsula. In 1867 the Strait Settlement was brought under direct British rule. The link was broken and the Malaya colonies were formed a crowned colony under a British Governor. From these Coastal possessions of the strait settlements the British extended their control inland and by 1909, the whole of the Peninsula came under their direct or indirect control.

As the nineteenth century dawned, the political power in the Malaya Peninsula, the British had ten separate governments and three different varieties of administration. First, there was a strait settlement which was made up of a number of scattered territories, some bits of the mainland and some islands and islets. It was ruled as a district crowned colony. The second division were the Malay federation States which was a federation of four Malaya states which was federated in the 1896 under a common civil service controlled by a Resident General under British protection. The third political position of the country consisted of five protected un-federated states i.e Johore, kedah, Perlis, Kelantanan and Trengganu with the British Empire. But as they were constrained by treaty to council of the British advisers, they enjoyed very little freedom.

In addition to imposing some measures of political unity, British rule in Malaya states brought about tremendous impact on its economic, social and ethnic changes. Systems of communications like postal service, telephone, telegraph system roads etc, were modernized and improved, this attracts foreign capital. After the crisis of the short war of 1875 peace was restored in the Malay states they were simultaneously reorganizing the collection of the revenues. Since 1900, considerable British capital was invested in the development of rubber plantations. Sugar, coffee and coconut plantations were also develop to a lesser degree. Large number of Indian and Chinese laborers came into the country to work in these plantations. The mining of gold and other metals in the Malaya Peninsula had been carried from time immemorial, but tin became in the eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries by far of the most of the important metals. By 1904 Malaya was producing about 50,000 ton of tin annually, more than half of the worlds output.

The British rule thus led to the two important developments – the growth of the plantation economy and the change in the ethnic composition owing to the immigration of a large number of Chinese and Indians in the Country. Soon the number Chinese almost equal to that of Malayas. Thus they existed four distinct groups the Malayas, the Chinese, the Indians and a small minority of Europeans. By World War II Malay attitudes towards the Chinese and the Indians had become intense as native leaders agitated for a greater share in the development of the country. Moreover, the Malayas the only permanent race in the country who looked upon Malaya as their native land, were not only in minority but also culturally backward.