A Brief History of Malaysia


The Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah, and Sarawak are witnesses to early civilization as proven by archeological remains discovered throughout these islands. From the mid to late 1st millennium, the Malay archipelago to a great extent is under the influence of Srivijaya. During the 2nd and 3rd centuries, approximately 30 Malay kingdoms emerged and flourished. By the 15th century, the dynasty founded by Sultan Iskandar formed the Malacca Sultanate. It conquered peninsular Malaysia, southern Thailand, and the eastern cost of Sumatra and Malacca became a very important port in Southeast Asia.

In 1786, the British established its first colony and took control of Malacca by 1824 after the Anglo-Dutch Treat of 1824 which divides the Malay Archipelago between Britain and the Netherlands. The Japanese attack on Malaya during World War II paved way for Malays’ cry of independence. In 1946, the Malayan Union was constituted and all of British possessions in Malaya except for Singapore were all dissolved and replaced by the Federation of Malaya in 1948.

The early years of sovereignty are immediately followed by tough events such as the formation of Malaysia which created conflict with Indonesia, Singapore’s eventual exit in 1965, racial riots and rivalries in 1969, and the Philippines’ claim on Sabah. From early 1980s to mid 1990s, Malaysia saw major economic development under the government of Mahathir bin Mohamad. Unfortunately in the late 1990s the country was hit by the East Asia Financial Crisis plus the dismissal of the deputy prime minister Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim which resulted to various political fighting. In 2003, Malaysia’s longest serving Prime Minister Dr Mahathir retired and his deputy Abdullah Ahmad Badawi took in charge.