The History of Singapore

Raffles hotel old pic.jpg

Although Singapore’s modern history dates back to just 1819 with  the arrival of Sir Stamford Raffles as an agent of the East India Company, a huge amount has happened to the island in those 200 years.

Starting off as a truly international and cosmopolitan port city, Singapore developed into a real beacon of the British Empire before succumbing to the Japanese and enduring their often brutal 3.5 years of occupation during WWII.

Post war, Singapore faced many political and economic challenges particularly in the 1950s and 60s with its initial struggle to rebuild. The country gained independence, first through a short lived membership with Malaysia, and then as a fully independent nation. Its impressive success in transforming from colony to nation is self evident.

Come and discover more about the people who transformed this  tropical island into the powerhouse nation that it is today. 

PS:  Believe it or not, Singapore also has some interesting pre-colonial history, which some of our tours will touch upon.

 

 
 
 Javanese royal jewellery found at an archeological dig at Ft Canning

Javanese royal jewellery found at an archeological dig at Ft Canning

Pre-Colonial

It’s often forgotten that Singapore was a thriving royal city for just over 100 years from around 1299 to 1405, with five Royal kings residing in what we now call Fort Canning Hill, but which was known in those days as Bukit Larangan (Forbidden Hill).

Known then as Temasek, our little island had in fact been called by a variety of names over several centuries by various adventurous seafarers.

 
 
 
 Sir Stamford Raffles still surveys the Civic District from his vantage point in front of the Victoria Halls

Sir Stamford Raffles still surveys the Civic District from his vantage point in front of the Victoria Halls

Colonial

Singapore’s colonial history spans nearly 150 years. From the January 1819 arrival of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles and William Farquhar to set up a trading post on behalf of the British East India Company, through to September 1963 when Singapore joined Malaysia.

The vestiges of this era can be seen in much of our architecture especially around the lovely Civic District with its impressive government buildings and monuments, many of which now serve as homes to the arts. In addition, we have colonial bungalows (known as black and white houses) and old military establishments, from naval and air bases to army barracks, and forts dating from the 19th century.

 
 
 Allied Officers walking to the surrender at the Ford Factory in Upper Bukit Timah Rd, Feb 15 1942

Allied Officers walking to the surrender at the Ford Factory in Upper Bukit Timah Rd, Feb 15 1942

Wartime

The Japanese invasion in 1942, and the events leading up to the unexpected capitulation of "Fortress Singapore, Gibraltar of the East" changed the course of Singapore’s history. Things would literally never be the same again. The brutal two-and-a-half-year occupation also left an indelible mark on Singapore and its people. Our tours explore the events leading up to the Invasion, the defences Singapore had erected and why they failed, and the way of life under the Japanese including the infamous Sook Ching massacres and POW camps.

These tours are run twice a year in the lead up to Anzac Day in April and Remembrance Day in November.

 

 
 
 The first National Day parade Aug 1966

The first National Day parade Aug 1966

From Colony to Nation

Singapore’s development into the independent powerhouse country it is today would have astonished many people — even its two best known leaders and supporters: Sir Stamford Raffles and Mr Lee Kwan Yew.

But develop it has — first with baby steps in the 1950s with increasing independence, and then a severing of its British apron strings in September 1963 with its short lived inclusion in Malaysia, before finally achieving total “adulthood” in August 1965.

Its path has been strewn with challenges — political, social, economic — but it has maintained a steady course to success with a clear vision as to what was achievable. And achieve it has!

 
 
 
 the billion dollar downtown view

the billion dollar downtown view

Today's Singapore

Long gone are the days when people asked if Singapore was somewhere in China — or worse, Japan!

Today’s Singapore is known throughout the world as a bastion of order, clean government and safety, as well as having a thriving economy based on astute decisions.

But there is so much more to it — it is a cultural hub and a country which increasingly recognises the importance of heritage and culture. At the same time, it boasts some of the most amazing architecture, and has a thriving arts scene.

And its feats of engineering are legendary, from projects to improve its infrastructure to its efforts to become as sustainable as possible. Particularly in the fields of water and
trash management, it so often leads the way.