Raffles Founds Singapore
The 6th of February 1819 AD
Sir Stamford Raffles entered the service of the East India Company at the age of 14, in 1795. His long association with what are now Malaysia and Indonesia began 10 years later, when he was posted to Penang. There he learned Malay. When Britain conquered Java he became its Lt-Governor, presiding over the territory until it was returned to the Dutch at the end of the Napoleonic Wars – he was in fact to meet Napoleon on St Helena during a voyage home in 1816.
In 1818, as Governor-General of Bencoolen, a British outpost in South Sumatra, he recognized the precarious nature of British authority in the region and its dependence on the generally lacking goodwill of the Dutch. Lord Hastings, Governor-General of India, in 1818 permitted him to seek a more suitable base for British trade and power in the Malay Peninsula, freeing funds which paid for a squadron of ships including the Indiana, the schooner Enterprise, and a survey ship The Investigator.
Having scouted other locations Stamford Raffles decided on what is now Singapore for that base – it had a suitable harbour, a small Malay community already in existence, good defensive qualities, fresh water aplenty, and most importantly was not occupied or apparently utilised by the Dutch. British control was facilitated by local political factors – Raffles made a treaty with the deposed Sultan of the area which gave Britain authority over the island in return for a pension and recognition of that Sultan’s status as legitimate ruler. That treaty, signed on February 6 1819, is regarded as the event which founded modern Singapore.
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