1. The Decline and Fall of SIngapura (1400)
1, After achieving success as a port city for almost ...
3. Singapore’s success as a port city was caused by its central geographical location, wise policies and it’s
close tradin...
7. Singapore continued to serve as a feeder port and collection centre but did not play as important a
role in regional tr...
14. In this period, Islam spread to other parts of Southeast Asia. Such places as Melaka and Aceh also
became important ce...
Singapore in the Johore-Riau Sultanate
The Age of Exploration
7. The Age of Exploration (also called the Age of Discovery)...
4. The Johore-Riau sultanate was founded in 1530 when Sultan Mahmud’s son, AlauddinRiayat Shah,
set up the Johor Sultanate...
6. The Portuguese and Dutch rivalry (16th
to early 19th
1. In Europe, Portugal and Holland competed for naval con...
Desawarnana A Javanese poem called "Description of the Country" which is a
eulogy to HayamWuruk, the ...
Laksamana A title of Sanskrit origin which came to refer to the Admiral of
the Malacca Sultanate who was in charge of the ...
Sukhothai A land-based Thai Kingdom in north-central Thailand named
after its capital city which existed between 1292 and ...
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Notes on the Decline and Changing Fortunes of Singapura (1400-the early 19thC)


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This set of notes are for Sec One History Students on the History of Singapore. Focusing on Singapore in 1400 to the early 19th century. It looks at Singapore when it was part of the Malaccan Sultanate to the period when Portugal and later the Netherlands establsiehd themslves as early colonial rulers in Southeast Asia. It also takes a look at Singapura when it was part of the Johor-Riau Sultanate and the Malay Kingdoms if the period.

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Notes on the Decline and Changing Fortunes of Singapura (1400-the early 19thC)

  1. 1. THE DECLINE OF SINGAPURA 1. The Decline and Fall of SIngapura (1400) 1, After achieving success as a port city for almost 100 years, Singapura’s fell to Majapahit forces in 1400. 2. The last king of Singapurawas Iskandar Shah and there are several accounts about how Singapura fell. SejarahMelayu: According to the SejarahMelayu, Iskandar Shah was the last ruler of Singapura. He shamed one of his wives by blaming her for being unfaithful. To avenge this humiliation, her father, Sang Rajuna Tapa opened the city gates to let in Majapahit forces who destroyed Singapura. Javanese Nagarakrtgama: According to Majpahit writings, the Prime Minister of Majapahit, Gajah Madah, promised that he would conquer Tumasik. Wang Da Yuan: According to the Chinese writer Wang Dayuan, the Siamese sent more than 80 ships and raided Dan-ma-xi. They laid siege to the city for a month in the 1300s but did not dare attack it. The Siamese retreated when a Chinese envoy from China sailed by the area. Chinese Ming Court records: According to the Ming Dynasty court records, the new ruler of the Ming Dynasty, Zhu Yuanzhang, wanted to discourage foreign trade. He was concerned that this ould lead to a decline in morality in China. According to Confucian society, traders were at the bottom of Confucian society. All government officials who engaged in trading were punished severely. All overseasa Chinese were ordered to return or face harsh penalties. Portuguese writer, Tomes Pires: According to a Portuguese pharmacist who lived in Melaka from 1512 to 1515, local Javanese people told him about how , a prince from Palembang called Parameswara rebelled against Majapahit rule. His revolt failed and he fled to Singapura where he killed the local Sang Ajior Prince of the Island. He ruled with the help of his people, the Celatesbut he had no trade links. The murder angered the King of Sukhohai. Parameswara title: Paraneswara is actually a royal title which means “supreme lord”. It was first used in fifth century India and the title became very popular in Southeast Asia. Even the kings of Angkor (Cambodia), the queen of Majapahit (Java) and the Prince of Dai Viet (Vietnam) used the title. This probably confused Ming court officials who recorded the visits of several foreign diplomats with the name of Parameswara who visited their courts. Archaeological findings: There were fewer items found in this period than the 14th century. Most of the earthernware and stoneware ceramic shards were made in the region (local, Thai and Vietnamese) and items for everyday use. This shows that the quality and volume of trade in Singapore declined when it was part of the Malaccan Sultanate. Singapore however continued to be a feeder port and collecting centre for Melaka. 2. The Fall of Singapore: A historical interpretation
  2. 2. 3. Singapore’s success as a port city was caused by its central geographical location, wise policies and it’s close trading networks with China. 4. Singapore grew in size and power but it had to compete with powerful neighboring powers: Siamese kingdoms of Sukhothai (1238-1438) and Ayutthaya (1351-1767) in Thailand The Majapahitempire (1293-1500) in Java. 5. Raids from Majapahit and Siam occurred frequently but Singapura was able to defend itself because of its diplomacy and strong defences. It is possible that the rulers of Singapura even made marriage alliances with kingdoms in southern Thailand. 6. SIngapura benefited from trade with China but when the Ming dynasty was set up in 1368, trade for SIngapura slowed down because China discouraged overseas trade through private merchants. 7. In 1391, a Prince from Palembang who called himself Parameswara revolted against Majapahit rulers. The revolt failed and he fled to Singapore. He tried to seek refuge from the Sang Aji (local prince) of Singapura but in a quarrel, Parameswar murdered the Sang Aji. 8. It is possible that Majapahit and Siamese forces attacked SIngapura to seek revenge on Parameswara. Parameswara fled to Melaka with his loyal followers, the Orang Laut, and settled down in Malacca in 1401 where he founded the Kingdom of Malacca. 3. Singapore as part of the Malaccan Sultanate (1400-1511) 1. Parameswara was able to establish strong relations with the new Ming dynasty in China. This saved Melaka from Majapahit and Siamese attacks. 2. In China, Zhu Di was uncle to the Ming emperor and seized the Ming throne for himself in 1402 . He proclaimed himself as the Yongle Emperor and reopened maritime trade links with Southeast Asia. 3. Large Chinese ‘treasure’ fleets were built and captained by such famous admirals as Admiral Zheng He manned by almost 30,000 troops. These large ships travelled Southeast Asia to gather tributes from neighboring kingdoms and reached as far west as the coasts of Africa. 4. Parameswara (Iskander Shah) realized that this was a chance to get Chinese protection and recognition. Admiral Zheng He visited Melaka at least five times between 1405 and 1433 and established strong ties with Melaka. 5. According to Ming Dynasty records, envoys from the Malaccan Sultanate arrived to pay tribute to the Ming emperor between 1405 to 1435. In 1409, Parameswara’s royal family, together with 540 officials paid homage to the Yongle Emperor and stayed in China for two months 6. This relationship protected the Malaccan Sultanate from Siamese and Majapahit attacks. It also re- established trade links with China and helped Melaka trade grow.
  3. 3. 7. Singapore continued to serve as a feeder port and collection centre but did not play as important a role in regional trade like the 14th century (1300-1400) 8. Singapore was also stilll important to Melaka because it was a naval base for Parameswarand the rulers of Melaka to get naval support from the Orang Laut who lived in the Riau-Lingga islands. This can be seen from the importance of the Laksamana (Admiral) based in Singapore. Bendahara: Prime Minister or elder stateman of Melaka who saw to the day-to-day running of the government. Temenggong: Chief of public security who maintained law and order within the Malaacan Sultanate. Seri BijaDiraja: Captain-in-chief or HulubalangBesar of the military commanders. HE was responsible for military defence of the Melaka Sultanate Laksamana: Admiral of the Malaccan fleet who mobilized the Orang Laut from the area. He was stationed in Singapore 9. Laksamana and the Orang Laut: Several chiefs of the Orang Laut people were loyal to Parameswara (who renamed himself Iskandar Shah) and his successors because they rewarded the Orang Laut by making them his court officials. They served as his personal staff delivering royal messages, transporting the sultan on his diplomatic trips and also served as his loyal companions.. They also manned his royal kitchens. They were also his naval force which sailed to do battle for the sultan and patrolled the seas to carry out his royal decrees and to enforce trade regulations. The Orang Laut lived in Singapore and the Riau Lingga islands and also gathered sea and jungle produce to be traded in Melaka. 10. The base in Singapura was run by a Shahbandar or our harbor master. 11. It was during the Malacca sultanate that Islam became popular in Southeast Asia. It arrived through Arab and Indian traders and missionaries who were Muslim. According to the Malay Annals, Parameswara married a daughter of the Sultan of Pasai (Aceh) which brought Islam to Malacca. This brought many Muslim Arab and Indian traders to Melaka and led to an increase in trade. In 1435, Parameswara’s grandson, Sri Maharaja, converted to Islam and changed his name to Sultan Muhammad Shah. 12. After 1430, trade with China declined because the Ming dynasty was concerned about nomadic invasions from North China and the eunuch’s control of foreign relations in the Ming Courts. Many records of the Ming naval expeditions were destroyed and the shipyards broken up. The tributary trade system became less important to China. Trade and foreign culture were again looked down upon by the Chinese imperial courts for the next 400 years. 13. Many of the overseas Chinese communities living in Melaka, Sumatra and Java in this time chose to remain behind and intermarried with local women and absorbed local culture because they had been in Southeast Asia for such a long time. Some groups include the Peranakan Chinese who developed from Chinese communities living in Melaka.
  4. 4. 14. In this period, Islam spread to other parts of Southeast Asia. Such places as Melaka and Aceh also became important centers of Islamic learning with Jawi (Arabic alphabet for writing Malay language) become a common written language. 4. The growth of the Spice Trade and the Age of Exploration (1453-1511) 1. The spice trade was established for almost 3000 years but in the 15th century, it became very precious because such spices as pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves were in high demand in Europe. 2. Spices were in demand because of its cooking and medicinal qualities. It could also be used to preserve surplus food. 3. European nations and empires fought with each other for the control of the spice trade and brought the Europeans to Asia in search of it. 4. This led to the colonization of many parts of Southeast Asia and was also responsible for the rise and fall of empires. Cloves and nutmegs 5. Cloves and nutmeg in particular were in high demand but could only be found in the Moluccas and Celebes islands in eastern Indonesia. The clove is valued throughout history as a food preservative. Intense in aroma and flavor, this spice is hot and slightly sweet. Ground cloves are used for baked goods or with beef and pork dishes in the Middle East, China, India and Africa Nutmeg has a characteristic, pleasant fragrance and slightly warm taste; it is used to flavor many kinds of baked goods, confections, puddings, meats, sausages, sauces, vegetables, and such beverages as eggnog. 6. Other items in high demand from the east included silk, porcelain and tea from China. Also, spices and Indian textiles (like muslin) from India.
  5. 5. Singapore in the Johore-Riau Sultanate The Age of Exploration 7. The Age of Exploration (also called the Age of Discovery) refers to a period between the early 15th century and 17th century when Europeans explored Africa, the Americas, Asia and Oceania. 8. European trade links with the east were cut off when the Roman Byzantine Empire fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453. This made European states like Portugal, Spain and later Holland Britain and France to seek out new sea routes to the east by sea which encourage sea exploration. 9. Scientific discoveries in this period like methods of shipbuilding which allowed them to build oceangoing sailing ships like caravels and galleons which allowed them to face strong winds and ocean currents in different parts of the world. 10. The age of exploration also led to a way of mapping out wind patterns, currents and weather patterns in a more systematic and mathematical way which helped them develop detailed charts and maps which allowed them to sail further. 11. Navigational instruments like the astrolabe and quadrant were also developed which made it easier to navigate across the ocean. 12 New routes were soon discovered to the East and the Americas. Christopher Columbus Ferdinand Magellan Vasco Da Gama Main achievement: First person to discover the New World or the Americas. Originally wanted to search for a new route to Asia Main achievement: First person to travel around the world and mapped out his route Main achievement: Discovered a new route to Asia around the Cape of Good Hope. 4. The End of Melaka and disunity among Malay Kingdoms (1511 to 19th century) 1. In 1511, Melaka fell to Portugal. Admiral Afonso de Albuquerque, the new viceroy of Goa, travelled to Melaka with 19 warships, 800 Portuguese soldiers and 600 Indian mercenaries. On their way, they raided Pasir and Pedir. Then after a bitter and hard fought battle, the Portuguese occupied Melaka. Thousands were killed in the fighting, including civilians. 2. Several former vassal states of Melaka like Aceh broke away and created their own powerful kingdoms. In 1514, Sultan Ali Mughayar Shah (1514-1530) declared Acehnese independence and the creation of the Sultanate of Aceh Darrusalam. 3. The last ruler of Melaka, Sultan Mahmund, fled from the Portuguese and shifted his istana(palace) several times. He was helped by his loyal Orang Laut followers who knew the river systems in the Singapore-Johore and Riau-Lingga area well and soon a whole chain of Johore forts were built along the Johore River.
  6. 6. 4. The Johore-Riau sultanate was founded in 1530 when Sultan Mahmud’s son, AlauddinRiayat Shah, set up the Johor Sultanate along the Johor River at Sayong Pinang. He continued to use Singapore as a naval outpost until 1600 to continue trade opportunities and the naval fight to establish a new Malay empire. 5. The rulers of the Johore-Riau sultanate were able to trace their lineage back to Sri Tri Buana of Singapura. However, this ended on 3 Sept 1699 when Sultan Mahmud was assassinated by his own nobles. Sultan Mahmud was childless and because of this, Bendahara Abdul Jalil has made himself the new Sultan. 6. Bugis settlers from south Sulawesi became important allies of the Johore sultanate. They were so influential that they controlled many royal positions in the royal court. 7. The Orang Laut who had once been faithful messengers and naval warriors of the Johore-Riau sultanate were side-lined and lost the important role they play in the royal court. 5. Singapore’s connections with the Johor-Riau Sultanate 1. The Portuguese were the first western settlers in this region. Their accounts give a new western eyewitness account of events in Singapore from 1511 to the 17th century. 2. Singapore was probably a naval outpost to warn the Sultan of enemy Portugueseships attacking the Johore River where the his istana(palace) was sometimes located. It also continued to serve as an important economic link to the Riau-Lingga islands which provided soldiers and followers for the Johore-Riau Sultan. 3. Singapore in this period was also a minor trading port which even had a Shahbandar (Harbourmaster) living on the banks of the Singapore River or Kallang River. The Shahbandar governed in the name of the Sultan and collected trade taxes on his behalf. 4. We know this because after conquering Melaka in 1511, Afonso de Albuquerque wrote about his conquests. He wrote about meeting theLaksamana of Melaka who was about 80 years old who lived in Singapore. Some historians believe that he might even have been Hang Tuah, the legendary Malay warrior who lived in the Malaccan Sultanate in the 15th century. 5. Detailed Portuguese maps (Eg. 1604 Map of Godino de Eredia) also tell us about many places known to us today in the Johore-Riau Sultanate – BlakangMati, TanjongRhu, SungeiBedok, New Strait, Old Strait, TanjungRusa, Terusan. These places were probably settled by the Orang Laut and Malays. 6. Archaeological finds from the Kallang River also show that there were settlements that traded in some local Malay pottery. 7. Arcaheolgoical evidence of the Singapore settlement in the Singapore River however vanished after the 1600s. In the wars between the Portuguese, Acehese and Johore-Riau sultanate, the settlements were probably raided and destroyed. The settlement might also have moved to safer Malay bases in the area such as the Kallang River Basin rather than at the mouth of the Singapore River.
  7. 7. 6. The Portuguese and Dutch rivalry (16th to early 19th century) 1. In Europe, Portugal and Holland competed for naval control of the maritime trade in Southeast Asia. 2. The Dutch created the Dutch East India Company (VeereenigdeOost-IndischeCompagnie, VOC) as a private chartered company which had the right to carry out colonial trade and activities in Asia to compete with Portugal in the early 17th century. 3. The VOC can be considered to be the first international corporation in the world and was the first company to issue stock. It had it’s own governors, administrators, army and navy which could wage war, negotiate treaties, mint money and establish colonies. For the Netherlands government, it was a profitable and effective way to finance war and set up colonies abroad 4. The VOC made alliances with Johor-Riau Sultanate and other kingdoms. They worked together to attack and seize Portuguese shipping 5. In the waters around Singapore, Dutch ships together with Johore-Riau forces attacked Portuguese shipping . In 1603, the Portuguese ship Santa Catarina was seized in the waters off Singapore which fetched 3.5 million florins, a large sum in it’s time. More naval battles between Portugal and the Dutch East Indies were fought off the Straits of Singapore and the coast of Changi. 6. In 1641, the Dutch even captured Melaka with help from the Johor-Riau Sultanate. The Dutch built the Stadhuy in modern day Malacca. They controlled Malacca till 1825. In return, the Dutch agreed not to seek territories with Malay kingdoms. 7. By 1611, The Dutch had established trading posts in Banten in West Java and Batavia (Jakarta) in Northwest Java. This allowed them to shift the main trade routes to the Sunda Straits. Melaka became less important to the Dutch. 8. The Dutch policy of shifting the East-West trade fromthe Straits of Melaka to the Sunda Straits led to a decline in trading acitivy in Singapore. 9. In Singapore, there was however still trade going on as archaeology reveals. Underglze blue-and- white porcelain from the late Ming period were found in the Kallng River area. Dutch VOC coins were also found in arcaheolgocial excavations at Empress Place in 1998. 10. In 1695, a Dutch report gave information that there was a just a cluster of 10 pile-dwellings in Keppel Harbour and a “a custom-house for fish in the middle of the channel”. The ruler of Johor collected duties on the catch. 11. In 1703, the ruler of Johor even offered to give Singapore island to a British captain, Alexander Hamilton who was an independent British trader. The Sultan did not have any population on the island and it is possible that he made this offer because he wanted to encourage commercial activity there but did not have enough people to exploit Singapore’s position himself. Hamilton had no money, political support and authority to take advantage of the offer and he turned it down. Hamilton however see potential on the island becoming a prosperous port.
  8. 8. CHAPTER 3 (GLOSSARY) Desawarnana A Javanese poem called "Description of the Country" which is a eulogy to HayamWuruk, the Javanese King. It was written by a Buddhist monk, Prapanca in 1365 who describes the Majaphit Empire in its largest extent. It also refers to Singapura as a place which needed to be subdued and turned into a vassal state. Aceh Sultanate An Islamic kingdom (1496-1874) founded by Sultan MughayatSyah based on the northern province of Aceh in Sumatra which became a major regional power in the 16th and 17th century. Age of Exploration A period in history between the early 15th century and 17th century whih refers to a time when Europeans began to explort the world by sea in serach of trading partners, new goods, trade routes and later colonies. Alfonso de Albuquerque Portuguese general (1453-1515) who conquered Goa (1510) and of Melaka (1511). His conquests led to Portuguese domination of maritime trade in Southeast Asia in the 16th century. Ayutthaya A Thai kingdom based named after it's capity city in the Chao Phraya basin which existed from 1351 to 1767. Bendahara A Malay royal title which refers to the head of the nobility and chief advisor to the Sultan. The position is hereditory and he serves as Prime Minister to the sultan placed in charge of the day-to-day runings of the kingdom. Bugis An ethnic and linguistic group of people from southwest Sulawesi (Celebes) who were skilled fighters and traders and settled in different parts of Borneo and the Malay Peninsula when their main port in Macassar came under Dutch influence in 1667. They became influential in the Johore-Riau sultanate and occupied many royal positions in from the 17th to early 19th century. Godinho de Eredia Malay-Portuguese naval commander and writer (1563-1623) who surveyed, mapped and wrote about Malacca and the region . He also created a map of the region in 1602. Johor River Main river of Johor which is 120 km long which empties into the Straits of Johor in the south. Parts of it are as deep as 16 meters. Johore-Riau Sultanate An Islamic kingdom founded by Sultan AlauddinRiayat Shah in 1528 after the Portuguese conquered Melaka. At it's height it occupied the Riau-Lingga islands, Johor, Pahang and southeastern Sumatra.
  9. 9. Laksamana A title of Sanskrit origin which came to refer to the Admiral of the Malacca Sultanate who was in charge of the sea security of the Sultanate and trade routes. Majapahit A Buddhist-Hindu Javanese kingdom founded in 1294- based in Trowulan which grew to become a large empire in the late 14th century under King HayamWuruk and Prime Minister Gajah Mada. It declined and ceased to exist by the 16th century. Malacca Sultanate Malay kingdom on the west coast of peninsular Malaysia founded by Parameswara, a native of Palembang, Sumtra. Based in Melaka, his empire lasted from 1400 to 1511 when it was occcupied by the Portuguese. Ming Dynasty Ruling dynasty of China from 1368 to 1644 after the collapse of the Mongol-led Yuan Dynasty. Except for the reign of the Yongle Emperor (1360-1424) and the late Ming period, foreign trade was discouraged in this period. Parameswara A royal title which means "supreme lord". The title was first used in 5th century India and popularized in Southeast Asia. The term also refers to the last ruler of Singapura and founder of the Melaka Sultanate, SyahIskander Shah. Peranakan A native-born person of mixed local and foreign ancestry in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore of which the Peranakan Chinese form the largest group. There are also Peranakan Arabs, Dutch and Indians. Riau-Lingga islands An island group off the southern coast of Singapore and eastern Sumatra comprised of the Riau (Eg. Batam, Batam, Karimun) and Lingga islands (Eg. Lingga ,Singep) where the Orang Laut might have originated from. Sang Aji A Sanskrit title which means 'Revered Chief'. This was one of the titles given to the ruler of Singapore. Sang Rajuna Tapa High ranking court official in 14th century Singapore. According to the Malay Annals, he opened the gates of Singapura to Majapahit forces to avenge the humiliation of his daughter by Parameswara. Shahbandar Persian title adopted by Malay rulers of port states which refers to the postion of harbour master. They ruled on behalf of the Sultan and collected taxes with jurisiction over foreign traders calling or residing at the ports. Spice Trade A term used to refer to the historicai trade between Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and Europe in aromatic plant substances like cinnamon, pepper, nutmeg and cloves.
  10. 10. Sukhothai A land-based Thai Kingdom in north-central Thailand named after its capital city which existed between 1292 and 1438 when it was absorbed in the the kingdom of Ayutthaya. Sultan Mahmud The last sultan of the Malaccan Sultanate who ruled Malacca from 1488 to 1511. Temenggong A Malay royal title which refers to the chief placed in charge of law and order. Tome Pires A Portuguese apothecary (pharmacist) from Lisbon who spent time in Malcca and wrote about his travel experiences in Southeast Asia in the book Suma Oriental. V.O.C. (VeereenigdeOost- IndischeCompagnie) Also called the Dutch East India Company (1602-1798), the VOC was a company chartered by the States-General of the Netherlands aimed at exploring, trading and colonizing territories east of the Cape of Good Hope. The Company later controlled Banten(1610) and Batavia (1619) in Java, Malacca (1641) and expanded into Sumatra. Vasco Da Gama Portuguese naval commander and explorer (1469-1524) who led an expedition around the Cape of Good Hope in 1497 to discovered a route to the Indian Ocean. Zheng He A eunuch of Central Asian ancestry who commanded seven voyages from 1405 to 1433 to Southeast Asia, India, the Middle East and the coasts of Africa during the Ming Dynasty. FURTHER READING Books Kwa, Chong Guan, Heng, Derek, & Tan, Tai Yong.Singapore, a 700 year history: from early emporium to world city. Singapore: National Archives of Singapore, 2009. Miksic, J.N. Singapore and the Silk Road of the Sea 1300-1800. Singapore: NUS Press and National Museum of Singapore, 2013) Websites Spice Trade: Slides for Maritime trade: asianmaritimetradebefore1500hi-r River Forts of Johor and the Fall of Melaka: