The site where the city of Malacca stands today was the center of Malaccan history. It was the capital of the Malacca Sultanate and was the centre of the Malay world in the 15th and the 16th century after the Malays moved over from Sumatra and was the most prosperous Entrepôt and city of the Malay Archipelago before it fell to the hand of Portuguese in 1511. Centuries of colonization by the Portuguese, Dutch and the British as well as development of Straits Chinese (Peranakan) culture have influenced the architecture of the town, notably the Portuguese A Famosa, Dutch Stadthuys, and the Dutch, Chinese and British influenced traditional town houses.
Malacca City is well known for its historical uniqueness. The history of this city began when Parameswara, a royal prince from Palembang was involved in the struggle for the throne of Majapahit government towards the end of the 14th century.
Once he was defeated by Majapahit, he ran for protection to Temasek (now Singapore) which was then dominated by the Siamese. After being evicted out of Temasek by the colonists from Siam, in 1396, he and his followers withdraw to Muar and later to Sening Ujung before stopping by at Bertam which is close to the Melaka River estuary.
Upon arrival in Bertam, he witnessed his hunting dog being kicked by a white mouse deer. He was so impressed with the bravery of the white mouse deer and decided to set up a state there.
He asked about the name of the tree which he was leaning under and his followers had replied by stating that it was the Malacca tree. Therefore he decided to name his state after that tree.
Parameswara had made the right choice as Malacca is strategically located amid the Straits of Malacca banks which connect China to India and the East, making it a really suitable venue as a trading centre. The arrival of Arabs traders as well as traders from the East and West had developed Malacca as a bustling entrepot with hundreds of ships stopping by every year.
Parameswara embraced Islam through a scholar from Jeddah in 1414 and that was the starting point for the development of Malacca as the premier commercial centre and spreading of Islam in this region. Malacca continued to be known as the Malay trading centre in the East.
Among the commodity goods available in Malacca were silk and porcelain from China, cloths from Gujerat and Coromandel in India, camphor from Borneo, sandalwood from the East, nutmeg and cloves from Moluccas, gold and black pepper from Sumatera as well as tin from Malaya.
However, Malacca’s fame had begun in line with the situation whereby the European nations began to expand their influence to the Eastern continent and Malacca was among the port cities which attracted their attention. In 1509, Diego Lopez De Sequeira from the Portuguese Royal Armada was the first Portuguese fleet to arrive in Malacca. After the repeated attacks in 1511, Malacca was finally captured by the Portuguese force headed by Alfonso d’ Albuquerque.
Sultan Mahmud Syah, the Malacca ruler at that time, retreated to Johore and once he stepped foot there, the Malays attempted to attack the Portuguese again but failed. One of the reasons for the Portuguese strength was the construction of the A’ Famosa fort as their defensive bastion.
The A’ Famosa Fort had furthermore strengthen the Portuguese grip over Malacca for the next 130 years. Until the year 1641, when Malacca fell into the hands of the Dutch through attacks and fierce battle between the two parties. Malacca City was almost destroyed and within one and a half century, the Dutch managed to rebuild and developed it as a military base due to its strategic location in controlling the Straits of Malacca.
In 1795, during the Napoleonic Wars, Malacca was handed over to the British East India Company temporarily to avoid from being captured by the French. Malacca was returned to the Dutch in 1818, through the Venice Agreement. Through the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1814 which separated the British and Dutch colonial areas, the British regain control of Malacca and the northern area of the straits and Singapore while the Dutch at the southern part of the straits (the Indonesian Archipelago).
From 1826 onwards, Malacca was administered by the British East India Company which was based in India. In 1827, the Straits Settlements (Malacca, Penang and Singapore) had become British colonies and was placed under the administration of the central government in London. The British sustained its power in the Malay states right up until the outbreak of World War II
Since the founding of Singapore in 1819, Malacca has been in decline as its port was silting up and Singapore and Kuala Lumpur have grown. Over the years, many Malaccans have moved to Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital.
After World War II, anti-colonial sentiment developed amongst Malay nationalists which led to negotiations with the British and eventually the announcement of Independence by Tunku Abdul Rahman, Malaysia's first Prime Minister, at the Padang Pahlawan (Warrior's Field) at Bandar Hilir, in Malacca on 20 February 1956. Then, the Federation of Malaya was finally declared an independent nation by Y.M. Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj, the first Prime Minister of Malaya on 31 August 1957.
The British in Penang were temporary caretakers of the then Dutch-controlled Malacca during the Napoleonic Wars. However, they were reluctant to hand Malacca back because they feared it might jeopardize the development of their new settlement in Penang. Hence they decided to destroy the regional influence of Malacca by diverting trade away from Malacca to Penang, the British planned to destroy the Malacca Fort and its city and move the 15,000 people to Penang. It was envisaged that Malacca would not rival Penang in terms of trade when the Kew treaty of 1975 expires which orders the returning of Malacca back to Dutch hands if the city was demolished and depopulated.
The Governor of Penang ordered Captain William Farquhar to have the respective fort demolished in 1807. However during this time, Stamford Raffles who hails from Penang arrived in Malacca for his sick leave. He managed to rescind the demolition and depopulation process with the consent of Lord Minto, the Governor General of India. Raffles managed to save the archway of the Malacca Fort which can be seen to this day. The destruction of the Malacca Fort cost 70,000 sterling pounds and involved several hundred workers.
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