homeMalaysia travel guide > Malaysia history
Malaysia guide
Regions
Traveler café 
Travel directory
 
Last updated : Nov 2009
Malaysia History
Malaysia History - TravelPuppy.com
Malaysia was first mentioned in Chinese and Sanskrit records of the 7th and 8th centuries. The region was under the control of Thai and Indonesian empires, including the Sumatra-based civilization of Sri Vijaya in the past centuries.

The Majapahit Empire headquartered in Java followed this in the 14th century. Sri Vijaya and Majapahit, Buddhist and Hindu left a mark on the peninsula. By the 14th century, Islam, already well established in parts of India was continuously stretching east through the growing trade between India and Malaya. The 1st Muslim empire in Malaya, located at the trading port of Malacca, was formed under the power of King Parameswara in the 1st part of the 15th century.

The Portuguese moved into the region in the 16th century and, after capturing Malacca, creating many of bases in the area. Sultan Mahmud, the emperor of Malacca, could not recapture it from the Portuguese. His successors, who had settled in Johore on the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, formed an alliance with the Dutch in the district at the end of the century and together expelled the Portuguese in 1641.

Over the next 150 years, the Dutch spread over the area until the Dutch East Indies became the centre of a most thriving colonial trading operation. The British started arriving at the end of the 18th century, and they were to play a principal role following the European wars of the 1790s and the defeat of the Netherlands by France in 1795. Rather than hand control over to the French, the Dutch passed control of some of their most valuable resources to the British in a series of exchanges. Little by little during the 19th century, the British took power of Malacca using economic pressure (especially their monopoly of the tin trade) rather than straight-out military force. The local governors were allowed substantial internal autonomy provided that they did not pose a threat to British interests.

The Federated Malay States were formed in 1895, and remained under British influence until the Japanese invasion of 1942. After the Japanese loss in 1945, the 11 Malay states were once again incorporated as British Protectorates and in 1948 they became the Federation of Malaya.

That same year, communist guerrillas, many of whom were ethnic Chinese, launched an armed attack aimed at establishing an independent socialist state. ‘The Emergency’, as the authorities called it, lasted until 1960. However, the major fighting was ended by the mid 1950s and in 1957, Britain went ahead with its plan to grant independence to the Federation of Malaya.

In 1963 the Federation joined with Singapore and the former British colonies of Sarawak and Sabah (North Borneo) to form Malaysia. Singapore withdrew from becoming an independent state 1965. Tunku Abdul Rahman, who took over as premier of the federation in 1957, stayed on as Prime Minister of the newly expanded republic. However, in 1970 he was replaced by Tunku Abdul Razak. The principal political organization was the United Malay National Organization (UMNO), which allied itself with smaller parties to create the Barisan Nasional (NF, National Front).

In 1982, the National Front gained a victory in the general election under the new leadership of Mahathir Mohammed.

Maverick policy-making, strident nationalism, acerbic tongue, acute political antennae and an intolerance of opposition from any side characterized Mahathir’s style. In his twenty years in power, he stamped his authority on Malaysian politics. His ruthlessness was came to light after falling out with his former deputy and heir apparent, Anwar Ibrahim, over Malaysia’s handling to the 1997 Asian financial crisis. Anwar was framed for corruption and after a show trial, he was jailed for 15 years. Anwar Ibrahim has since been released.

Although the NF had successfully won every poll in the 1980s and 1990s, many, including influential figures within UMNO, believed that Mahathir had tried to do more than he had the power. The test came during the general elections of November 1999. Mahathir ran a solid campaign, which brought back the NF to office with a substantial majority. Both the democratic opposition, organized with supporters of Anwar, and the Islamic opposition centred on the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) were dealt with. In particular, Mahathir made heavy use of the ‘9/11’ attacks to demonize his Islamic opponents.

With his political position strengthened, Mahathir’s announcement in June 2002 to resign the following year was an enormous surprise. The shock was followed by disbelief, but in October 2003 Mahathir did indeed step down. The key task for his chosen successor, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi – a former senior civil servant – is to prevent any further gains by the Islamic PAS.

Mahathir’s ruthlessness applied appropriately to his foreign policy. More than once he cut relations with both Britain and Australia owing to the unflattering media coverage. Though very anti-communist, he did establish diplomatic relations with Vietnam and other communist neighbours in 1989 despite strong objections from the USA. A strong voice for Asian regional solidarity, he believed that East Asia should develop political clout to match its economic power.

Malaysia is an active member of the Commonwealth.