Brief History

In 1786 the sultan of Kedah granted the island of Penang to the British East India Company; until 1867 it was known to the British as Prince of Wales Island. Malacca was first occupied by the British from 1795 to 1818, and was formally ceded by the Dutch in 1825; meanwhile Singapore was acquired in 1819. Penang, Malacca, and Singapore were united in 1826 as the Straits Settlements, which came under British India until 1867, when they became a crown colony. The governors of the Straits Settlements (1826-1946) are listed below. During the Second World War the Straits Settlements, along with Britain's other territories in south-east Asia, were overrun by the Japanese, who were in occupation of Malacca and Penang from December 1941 and Singapore from February 1942.

Sarawak was granted in 1842 by the sultan of Brunei to James Brooke, who became the first 'white raja' of Sarawak, in return for his help in putting down a rebellion. Sarawak was then gradually enlarged, through further gifts from the sultan of Brunei, and through purchase from the British North Borneo Company. In 1946 Sarawak was given to the British crown by Sir Charles Vyner Brooke, and became a crown colony. Listed below are the rajas (1842-1946) and the governors (1946-63) of Sarawak. In 1963 Sarawak became part of the Federation of Malaysia

Labuan, a small island off Borneo, was ceded to Britain by the sultan of Brunei in 1846, with James Brooke acting as first lieutenant-governor from 1847; it became a crown colony in 1848, but was entrusted to the British North Borneo Company in 1890 and then to the governor of the Straits Settlements in 1905. The lieutenant-governors (1847-56) and governors (1856-90) of Labuan are listed below.

North Borneo was ceded by the sultan of Brunei to a British syndicate led by Alfred Dent in 1877; from 1881 it was administered by the British North Borneo Company, becoming a full protectorate in 1882. (Brunei itself became a British protected state in 1888 and a full protectorate in 1906.) During the Second World War North Borneo was occupied by the Japanese. In 1946 North Borneo, now incorporating Labuan, became a British crown colony. In 1963 North Borneo, renamed Sabah, joined the Federation of Malaysia (see below). The governors of British North Borneo (1881-1963) are listed below.

British residents were appointed in Perak and Selangor in 1874, and in Negri Sembilan and Pahang in 1888; these four states formed the Federated Malay States in 1896, with the government in the hands of a resident-general (from 1911 chief secretary, and from 1936 federal secretary) responsible to the governor of the Straits Settlements acting as high commissioner for the Federated Malay States. The administrators of the Federated Malay States from 1896 to 1942 are listed below. From 1904 the governor of the Straits Settlements also acted as high commissioner for the 'unfederated Malay states' (Kedah, Kelantan, Perlis, and Terengganu, joined in 1914 by Johor).

In 1946 Singapore became a separate colony, while Malacca and Penang were united with the federated and unfederated Malay states to form the Union of Malaya. This was replaced by the Federation of Malaya in 1948, with the governor elevated to a high commissioner. The Federation of Malaya achieved internal self-government in 1955 and independence in 1957. Below are listed the governor (1946-8), high commissioners (1948-57), and chief minister (1955-7) of the Federation of Malaya.

In 1957 Tunku Abdul Rahman became the first prime minister of independent Malaya.

Imperial Flag
map of Malaya
Straits Map
Malaya 1955 Map
Penang and Northern Malaya 1962 Map
1965 Map of Singapore and Southern Malaya
Images of Imperial Malaya
Historical Malaya
National Archive Malaya Images
1867 - 1957
1786 - 1957
Jungle Trip from Grik to Temengor in Upper Perak District, Malaya
Mrs. M. C. Barkway explains the remarkable lengths that sometimes had to be undertaken in 1930s Malaya to visit schools in her capacity as a school inspector. She recalls one particular journey which entailed travelling through the jungle with elephants to visit a remote school in the jungled mountains before returning home on a raft down the Temengor and Perak rivers

Berkeley of Upper Perak
An account of Hubert Berkeley who was one of the more idiosyncratic imperial administrators in the remote parts of Northern Malaya from 1891 to 1925.

An Adventurous Trip to Upper Perak, Malaya, in 1950
R. E. Pitt explains the difficulties and pitfalls of travelling around Northern Malaya at the height of the 'Emergency' whilst trying to continue the work of the Public Words Department.

Emergency Days, Malaya 1948 - 50
R. R. H. Horsley recalls the security arrangements put into place whilst working with the Department of Mines in Malaya as the colony attempted to keep its economy going through the darkest days of the Emergency.

A Sketch of the Origins and Development of the Police in Malaya from 1786 - 1948
John H Grieve gives a brief oveview of the history of the Malayan police force from its inception in Penang in the 18th Century to the eve of the Malayan Emergency in 1948.

The Malayan Civil Service
Roderick MacLean gives a brief overview of the development and administration of the Malayan Civil Service from its ancestry in Penang in the Eighteent Century to its culmination with Independence for Malaysia and beyond.

Malayan Tales
David Brent recalls his time in the Malayan Police as they attempted to deal with the opium trade on the East coast of Malaya in the 1950s.

How Government Officers became Official Opium Dealers in the old Federated Malay States
J. S. A. Lewis, O.B.E. explains the odd series of events that saw British officials become involved in the sale and distribution of Opium throughout Malaya and his own role in permitting and regulating that trade. He further details how and why the government eventually wound down and ultimately banned the sale of Opium.

More Bumps in the Night
J. S. A. Lewis gives a vivid account of some ghostly goings-on whilst a custom's officer in Depression hit Malaya in the 1930s.

Memories of The Malayan Emergency
Brian Stewart remembers his time in Malaya working for the Chinese Secretariat (or Chinese Protectorate) which became an unexpectedly important institution in the fight against the Chinese rebels during the Emergency.

The British Return to Malaya in 1945
John Gullick explains his role in accompanying the British invasion of Malaya in September 1945 and attempting to reassert control in a land torn apart by war. He also explains how he had to deal with their recent allies turned rivals the MPAJA.

An Experiment in Democracy
John Gullick explains the role he played in helping to organise and run the first general election in Malaya in 1955 and how it helped embed a post-colonial transition of power.

Signed, Sealed and Delivered
John Gullick recalls his role in ensuring that the Negri Sembilan rulers could sign and seal the 1948 Federation of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur.

The Jester
John Gullick recalls the stories of 'Old Sinister' better known as Arthur Frederick Richards, 1st Baron Milverton.

Remembrance of Things Past
John Gullick considers the selective memories that have made it difficult for people to appreciate the constitutional contribution made by Britain to modern day Malaysia.

Malaya - A Magical Experience
David Brent explains how even the most mundane police duties could be transformed by the magical quality of the nature and fauna of Malaya.

A Brief Spell on the Frontier
Russell Jones recounts what it was like patrolling the Malaya - Thailand border in the late 1940s.

1786 Penang ceded to East India Company by Sultan of Kedah
1819 Singapore Island is leased to the East India Company
1824 Malacca transferred to British control. Singapore leased in perpetuity
1826 The three become known as the Straights Settlements
1867 The Straights Settlements become a British Crown Colony
1870s First trials of rubber trees
1896 Federated Malay States formed from Selangor, Perak, Negeri Sembilan and Pahang
1904 The Unfederated States of Kelantan, Kedah, Terengganu and Perilis accept British advisors
1914 Johor accepts British advisors
1941 Japan invades Malaya
1942-45 Malaya and Singapore are occupied by the Japanese
1948-60 Communist insurgents cause 'Emergency' to be declared
1957 Federation of Malaya achieves independence
1959 Singapore achieves independence
1963 Malaysia formed
1965 Singapore withdraws from Malaysia. Becomes a city state.
Suggested Reading
Playing for Malaya: A Eurasian Family and the Pacific War
by Rebecca Kenneison

Out in the Midday Sun
by Margaret Shennan

Singapore: The Pregnable Fortress
by Peter Elphick

Playing for Malaya: A Eurasian Family and the Pacific War
by Rebecca Kenneison

A Town Like Alice
Discussion Lists
Sejarah Melayu
For Malayan Items