The Malayan Raj

A.J. Stockwell examines the life and work of the British in Malaya before independence was declared, in 1957.

It was at the end of the eighteenth century that the trading attractions of the Far East induced the British to take an interest in Malaya. Settlements were established at Penang, Malacca and Singapore, and in 1826 these possessions were amalgamated to form the Straits Settlements.

Until 1867 the Straits were controlled by the Government of India - first the East India Company and then the India Office. Their early administrators - men like Stamford Raffles, founder of both Singapore and the London zoo- were optimistic about the region’s potential and diligent students of its flora, fauna and legends.

After it had lost its monopoly of the China trade in 1833, the East India Company, though it maintained a steady grip on its outer dependencies, increasingly lost interest in them. The Straits Settlements suffered from neglect by Calcutta and from the indifference of officials despatched to man the local administration.

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