Archaeological findings suggest that the first inhabitants of Malaysia date back to around 40,000 years ago. Although little is known about prehistoric Malaysia, it is believed that people from Southwestern China probably began migrating to Malaysia approximately 10,000 years ago. Indian influence began by at least the 3rd century BC while trade with China began by the 1st century BC.
Despite many Malay kingdoms being established in the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD, for much of its early history, Malaysia was under the control of many different Southeast Asian empires. Between the 7th and 13th centuries, a great deal of the Malay Peninsula was under the Buddhist Srivijaya Empire. At the beginning of the 15th century, Cheng Ho, a Chinese general arrived in Malay with greetings from his emperor. The Siamese were becoming a threat in the north and Cheng Ho offered support. With the aid of China, Malay was able to expand its territory onto the Peninsula. Islam also arrived at this time.
The wealth and prosperity that Malay was enjoying at this time came to the attention of Western Europeans. They came looking for rich new spices with the Portuguese being the first to arrive in 1511. The Dutch established trading bases in the 17th century while the British came in the 18th century. The British were originally interested in the seaports that Malay offered which would help protect their trade routes, however, after the discovery of tin, this became the primary focus.
The British brought in Chinese immigrants to work in the tin mines and brought workers from India to work in the rubber plantations. By the late 19th century, the conflict between the Chinese and Malay populations erupted causing civil wars. This, coupled with increased piracy on the western part of the peninsula forced the British to take a firm stand. They formed the Federated Malay States including Perak, Selangor, Pahang and Negeri Sembilan in 1896 and these states were led by a British general. Siam ceded control of the four remaining states to Britain in 1909.
During the Second World War, the US, Dutch and British governments prevented the trading of essential goods to Japan, forcing Japan to look to Southeast Asia for supplies. They began bombing beaches in Malay and Singapore in 1941. The Commonwealth troops were expecting an attack by sea and were therefore not prepared. Japan was able to occupy Malay for three and a half years until their surrender when Britain came back to reassert authority.
After the Japanese left, the economy in Malay was suffering. As a result of this, Chinese guerilla fighters emerged from the jungle under Chin Pen to take control. This time in Malaysian history is known as “The Emergency” and lasted for twelve years. Intense fighting happened between British, British Commonwealth and Malay forces against Chin Pen and the Malayan Communist Party. The Emergency was the longest continuous Australian military commitment in Australian history.
In 1957 Malay was granted independence from Britain and became a centralized federation with a constitutional monarchy. In 1963, the north Borneo states of Sabah and Sarawak along with Singapore joined to create the country of Malaysia. Indonesia however was unhappy with the new arrangement and adopted a policy of confrontation. British and Commonwealth forces stepped in but the political differences that remained caused Singapore to choose independence in 1965.
Since independence, Malaysia has grown to become a powerhouse in the Southeast Asian economy. There are still internal power struggles, however, politicians of recent years have worked towards political reform and have improved the quality of life immensely for many Malaysians. Their goal is for Malaysia to be a fully developed country by 2020.
Malaysia Travel Information
At Goway we believe that a well-informed traveller is a safer traveller. With this in mind, we have compiled an easy-to-navigate travel information section dedicated to Malaysia.
Learn about the history and culture of Malaysia, the must-try food and drink, and what to pack in your suitcase. Read about Malaysia's nature and wildlife, weather and geography, along with 'Country Quickfacts' compiled by our travel experts. Our globetrotting tips, as well as our visa and health information, will help ensure you're properly prepared for a safe and enjoyable trip. The only way you could possibly learn more is by embarking on your journey and discovering Malaysia for yourself. Start exploring… book one of our Malaysia tours today!
Extend Your Trip
After your Malaysia tour, consider taking the time to visit other destinations. Goway offers exciting China vacation packages, India tours and Thailand vacation packages plus a comprehensive selection of vacation packages in many other Asian countries.
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