Temasek ('Sea Town' in the Malay language), an outpost of the Sumatran Srivijaya empire, is the earliest written record relating to the area now called Singapore. In the 13th century, the Kingdom of Singapura was established on the island and it became a trading port city. However, there were two major foreign invasions before it was destroyed by the Majapahit in 1398. In 1613, Portuguese raiders burned down the settlement, which by then was nominally part of the Johor Sultanate and the island sank into obscurity for the next two centuries, while the wider maritime region and much trade was under Dutch control.
British colonisation 1819–1942
In 1819, Thomas Stamford Raffles arrived and signed a treaty with Sultan Hussein Shah of Johor, on behalf of the British East India Company, to develop the southern part of Singapore as a British trading post. In 1824, the entire island, as well as the Temenggong, became a British possession after a further treaty with the Sultan. In 1826, Singapore became part of the Straits Settlements, under the jurisdiction of British India, becoming the regional capital in 1836.
Prior to Raffles' arrival, there were only about a thousand people living on the island, mostly indigenous Malays along with a handful of Chinese. By 1860, the population had swelled to more than 80,000 and more than half were Chinese. Many immigrants came to work at rubber plantations and, after the 1870s; the island became a global centre for rubber exports.
After the First World War, the British built the large Singapore Naval Base. Lieutenant General Sir William George Shedden Dobbie was appointed General Officer Commanding of the Malaya Command on 8 November 1935, holding the post until 1939;
World War II and Japanese occupation 1942–45
In May 1938, the General Officer Commanding of the Malaya Command warned how Singapore could be conquered by the Japanese via an attack from northern Malaya, but his warnings went unheeded. The Imperial Japanese Army invaded British Malaya, culminating in the Battle of Singapore. When the British surrendered on 15 February 1942, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill called the defeat "the worst disaster and largest capitulation in British history". Between 5,000 and 25,000 ethnic Chinese people were killed in the subsequent Sook Ching massacre.
From November 1944 to May 1945, the Allies conducted an intensive bombing of Singapore.
Return of the British 1945–59
After the surrender of Japan was announced in the Jewel Voice Broadcast by the Japanese Emperor on 15 August 1945 there was a breakdown of order and looting and revenge-killing were widespread. The formal Japanese Occupation of Singapore was only ended by Operation Tiderace and the formal surrender on 12 September 1945 at Singapore City Hall when Lord Louis Mountbatten, Supreme Allied Commander of Southeast Asia Command, accepted the capitulation of Japanese forces in Southeast Asia from General Itagaki Seishiro.
A British Military Administration was then formed to govern the island. On 1 April 1946, the Straits Settlements were dissolved and Singapore became a separate Crown Colony with a civil administration headed by a Governor. Much of the infrastructure had been destroyed during the war, including the harbour, electricity, telephone and water supply systems. There was also a shortage of food leading to malnutrition, disease, and rampant crime and violence. High food prices, unemployment, and workers' discontent culminated into a series of strikes in 1947 causing massive stoppages in public transport and other services. In July 1947, separate Executive and Legislative Councils were established and the election of six members of the Legislative Council was scheduled for the following year. By late 1947, the economy began to recover, facilitated by a growing demand for tin and rubber around the world, but it would take several more years before the economy returned to pre-war levels.
The failure of Britain to defend Singapore had destroyed its credibility as an infallible ruler in the eyes of Singaporeans. The decades after the war saw a political awakening amongst the local populace and the rise of anti-colonial and nationalist sentiments, epitomized by the slogan Merdeka, or "independence" in the Malay language.
During the 1950s, Chinese Communists with strong ties to the trade unions and Chinese schools carried out armed uprising against the government, leading to the Malayan Emergency and later, the Communist Insurgency War. The 1954 National Service Riots, Chinese middle schools riots, and Hock Lee bus riots in Singapore were all linked to these events.
David Marshall, pro-independence leader of the Labour Front, won Singapore's first general election in 1955. He led a delegation to London, but Britain rejected his demand for complete self-rule. He resigned and was replaced by Lim Yew Hock, whose policies convinced Britain to grant Singapore full internal self-government for all matters except defense and foreign affairs.
During the May 1959 elections, the People's Action Party won a landslide victory. Singapore became an internally self-governing state within the Commonwealth, with Lee Kuan Yew as its first Prime Minister. Governor Sir William Allmond Codrington Goode served as the first Yang di-Pertuan Negara (Head of State), and was succeeded by Yusof bin Ishak, who became the first President of Singapore in 1965.
Merger with Malaysia 1963–65
As a result of the 1962 Merger Referendum, on 31 August 1963 Singapore joined with the Federation of Malaya, the Crown Colony of Sarawak and the Crown Colony of North Borneo to form the new federation of Malaysia under the terms of the Malaysia Agreement. Singaporean leaders chose to join Malaysia primarily due to concerns over its limited land size, scarcity of water, markets and natural resources. Some Singaporean and Malaysian politicians were also concerned that the communists might form the government on the island, a possibility perceived as an external threat to the Federation of Malaya.
However, shortly after the merger, the Singapore state government and the Malaysian central government disagreed on many political and economic issues, and communal strife culminated in the 1964 race riots in Singapore. After many heated ideological conflicts between the two governments, on 9 August 1965, the Malaysian Parliament voted 126 to 0 to expel Singapore from Malaysia with Singaporean delegates not present.
Singapore gained independence as the Republic of Singapore (remaining within the Commonwealth of Nations) on 9 August 1965. Race riots broke out once more in 1969. In 1967, the country co-founded ASEAN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and in 1970 it joined the Non-Aligned Movement. Lee Kuan Yew became Prime Minister, leading its Third World economy to First World affluence in a single generation. His emphasis on rapid economic growth, support for business entrepreneurship, limitations on internal democracy, and close relationships with China set the new nation's policies for the next half-century.
In 1990, Goh Chok Tong succeeded Lee as Prime Minister, while the latter continued serving in the Cabinet as Senior Minister until 2004, and then Minister Mentor until May 2011. During Goh's tenure, the country faced the 1997 Asian financial crisis, the 2003 SARS outbreak and terrorist threats posed by Jemaah Islamiyah.
In 2004, Lee Hsien Loong, the eldest son of Lee Kuan Yew, became the country's third Prime Minister. Goh Chok Tong remained in Cabinet as the Senior Minister until May 2011, when he was named Emeritus Senior Minister despite his retirement. He steered the nation through the 2008 global financial crisis, resolved the disputed 79-year old Malayan railways land, and introduced integrated resorts. Despite the economy's exceptional growth, PAP suffered its worst election results in 2011, winning 60% of votes, amidst hot-button issues of high influx of foreign workers and cost of living. Lee initiated a major re-structuring of the economy to raise productivity, improved universal healthcare and grants, especially for the pioneer generation of citizens, amongst many new inclusive measures.
On 23 March 2015, it’s founding prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, who had 'personified Singapore to the world' for nearly half a century died. In a week of national mourning, 1.7 million residents and guests paid tribute to him at his lying-in-state at Parliament House and at community sites around the island.
Singapore celebrated its Golden jubilee in 2015 – its 50th year of independence, with a year-long series of events branded SG50. The PAP maintained its dominance in Parliament at the September general elections, receiving 69.9% of the popular vote, its second-highest polling result behind the 2001 tally of 75.3%.