The Rise of Singapore as a British Trading settlement (notes)
1. The East India Company (EIC) and British growing interest in Asia (1600 – 1793)
1. The EIC was established to compete with the Spanish, Portuguese and Dutch over the spice trade and
to find a larger market for English merchants
2. The EIC was a private chartered company like the VOC set up in 1600. It was granted a royal monopoly
over British trade in India, Southeast Asia and China by Queen Elizabeth I.
3. Between 1600 to 1793, the EIC had hugesuccesses in India and China but it had limited successes in
Southeast Asia because the Dutch controlled many parts of Java, Sumatra and the Malay Archipelago.
4. In the 17th
century, India was split into areas ruled by local princes. The princes often fought
against each other. The Mughal Dynasty in India (1526-1857) found it difficult to hold the empire apart
and kingdom by kingdom, the EIC was able to increase its political influence in India.
5. By 1690, the EICwas able to establish important ports in Madras (1640), Bombay (1668), Calcutta
(1690). They were able to gradually build up a large powerful army in India by allying themselves with
various Indian kingdoms.
6. India cotton cloth, pepper and later opium became an important trade item for the EIC. It was
exported to Southeast Asia and Europe.
7. By the 18th century, the EIC was able to take advantage of the Mughal Empire;s weakness and wars in
Europe to defeat the French and rule the whole Indian subcontinent indirectly through it’s system of
trade and alliances.
EIC in China
8. The EIC were also very successful in China. In the 18th
century, there was a large international market
for Chinese goods like silk, tea and porcelain. The EIC were also to establish a trading post in Taiwan
(later transferred to Canton (Guangdong) and engaged in direct and regular trade with the China.
9.The EIC traded English woolens, Indian cottons and later opium to China to make a profit on the China
trade. Opium was very profitable because it was grown in India.
10. Even though the Qing dynasty had banned opium sale in China in 1729 as an illegal drug and the
British government was not directly involved in the sale of opium, the EIC made a large amount of profit
by producing it and selling it to China and Southeast Asia through private traders. By the 1760s, opium
became the most important trade item for English country traders and was smuggled into China.
11. In 1839, the Qing ruler burned thousands of chests of opium and banned the opium trade. The
British were furious and this led to the Opium Wars (1839-42; 1856-69). It resulted in China’s defeat and
more ports being open to foreign trade. Hong Kong was leased to Britain for 99 years which was used a
center to increase opium trade in China.
EIC in Southeast Asia
12. The EIC was however less successful in being able to find a trading port Southeast Asia in the 17th
13. Until 1819, they only had Penang and Bencoolen as trading ports but these were of limited value.
14. In Sumatra and Java, the EIC tried to establish trading posts in Bantam (Java, 1603) and Bengkulu
(Sumatra, 1685). They were however either faced with Dutch opposition or not profitable.
15. In the Malay Peninsula, British trade influence in the Malay courts grew slowly.British traders formed
close relations with Malay courts and often acted as advisors on political and military matters. Some of
the British traders spoke fluent Malay and even inter-married with locals. They traded in Indian cloth,
opium, muskets, cannon and gunpowder (even the knowledge to produce them) in exchange for
Chinese goods and local produce.
16. This led to a growing need to find places in the Malay Archipelago which were free of Dutch control
where the EIC could refit their ships and buy supplies for the trip to China.
2. The Rise of Singapore as a British trading settlement (1793 – 1819)
1. Between 1793 to 1819, the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars broke out in Europe.
2. Napoleon Bonaparte, a brilliant French general won many battles for the French army and seize
control of France in 1799. He then went on to conquer almost the whole of Europe by 1804.
3. Under the new French empire, Holland became a satellite state and was finally annexed in 1810.
4. During this time, the Stadholder (chief executive) and head of the Dutch Republic was William V,
Prince of Orange in Nassau. He fled to London and wrote a series of letters from the Kew Palace in
London to Dutch army officers and colonial governors. The letters urged them to resist France and to
cooperate with Britain by surrendering their ships and colonies to Britain for “safekeeping”.
5. The governors of Malacca, Ambon and West Sumatra obeyed but elsewhere, others were confused
and demoralized by the new instructions.
6. EIC British administrators like Stamford Raffles and William Farquhar this is a chance to make Britain
a leading trading nation in the world and break Dutch trade monopoly in Southeast Asia.
7. Stamford Raffles joined the EIC as a 14 year-old clerk in 1795 and was part of the EIC team which
planned and invaded Java in 1811. He became the governor of Java (1811-1816) and Governor-General
of Bencoolen in 1818. He was ambitious to make Britain a leading trading nation in the world and break
Dutch trade monopoly.
8. Colonel William Farquhar was a Scottish EIC army officer who was involved in the military expedition
against Malacca in 1795. He was based in Malacca for 23 years and promoted to become its commander
9. In 1818, Stamford Raffles was given permission by Lord Hastings, Governor-General of India, to look
for a suitable place to set up a British base at the southern end of the Straits of Melaka. He was given
the power to make treaties with Malay rulers in the region.
10. In 1819, the EIC board of governors in London found out about it and tried to put a stop to this. They
were worried that this would lead to a war with the Dutch. The letter however arrived 6 months later.
By then, Raffles had already established a trading port in Singapore
3. Establishment of Singapore as a trading port (1819-1824
1. Singapore was not Raffle’s first choice. Raffles proposed to the Governor of Penang, Colonel John
Bannerman, that he be given permission to negotiate a treaty with the enemy of the Dutch, the Aceh
Sultanate to try to get a port in the Straits of Malacca but this was denied.
2. Singapore was not Farquhar’s first choice. He thought that the Karimonislands was a better location.
Raffles thought it did not have a suitable deep harbor port.
3. Singapore was selected for the following reasons:
Geography: It had a deep-sea harbor. It was in a good geographical location between India and China
which can act as aenterpot for ships.
History: For Malay traders, Singapore was also remembered and locals as an ancient important port.
Raffles and Farquhar was aware of Malay references to Singapura as an ancient trading port.
Lack of Dutch presence: The Dutch resident was still in the Johor-Riau sultanate’s court in Tanjung
Pinang. He was not in Singapore yet.
Succession dispute: There was a succession dispute over the Johor-Riau Sultanate which Raffles could
take advantage of. Sultan Mahmud, the last ruler of the Johor-Riau Sultanate had died in 1810 and the
powerful Bugis faction in the Riau-Lingga court had used their influence to place Tungku Abdul Rahman
as the next Sultan.
The elder brother, Tengku Hussain Shah was in Pahang for his wedding and with the support from
others also laid claim to the throne. Raffles thought that he could recognize Tengku Hussain as the
rightful Sultan and sign a treaty with him.
4. Tengku Hussain referred to himself as Yang DipertuanSelat or Lord of the Straits. He signed off as Yang
Depertuan of Singapore in his letters to the Riau-Lingga court. IT is possible that as the raja of Singapore,
Hussein saw himself as someone who had given legitimacy to the settlement. He hoped to get a share of
the wealth created by Singapore through taxes and tribute. The wealth created would help Sultan
Hussain gain followers, loyalty and political power.
5. Singapore was managed by Temenggong Abdul Rahman. He was related by marriage to Tengku
Hussain Shah. He was a local Malay chief and his domain included a number of islands in the northern
part of the Riau islands and part of Johor. The Temenggong and his people came to Singapore between
1800 and 1818 because the Dutch gave their support to the Bugis in the Johor-Riau sultanate. The
Temenggongprobably hoped that with the British on his side, he would have an important part to play in
the Singapore entrepot and see his family reputation restored.
6. On February 6, 1819, Raffles chose to recognize Tengku Hussein as the legitimate successor of the
Johor-Riau sultanate. Raffles signed an agreement with Tengku Hussein and the Temenggong which
allowed the British to set up a trading settlement in Singapore on February 6, 1819.
7. In exchange, the Temenggong and Sultan Hussein received British protection, a yearly pension of
$3000 and $5000 respectively and half of all duties levied on goods and ships calling on Singapore.
4. Singapore the Early Years (1819-1824)
1. Raffles and Farquhar faced many challenges to set up Singapore as a British settlement between 1819
Military problem: Britain and Holland questioned
whether Raffle’s treaty with the Temenggong and
Sultan Hussein was legal. . There were even
rumors that the Dutch, Riau and Bugis forces were
preparing to attack and reclaim Singapore.
Farquhar only had only 120 Bengal sepoys at his
command with some light artillery.
Defensive positions were set up at the mouth of
the Singapore River and Fort Canning to prepare
for the attack. Money and reinforcements from
Penang and Bencoolen arrived.
Economic/ Manpower problem: There were not
enough skilled craftsmen, traders and money.
Food was limited to just fruit and fish caught by
the local Orang Laut
Farquhar used his influence in Melaka to
encourage traders, peddlers, carpenters, labourers
to migrate and work in Singapore
Revenue/Finance problem: There was not enough
money to run the British settlement in Singapore.
Such things as fighting piracy, establishing security,
building infrastructure like roads, buildings and
road/public maintenance all required money.
Money was obtained by obtained by selling
licenses for gambling and the sale of liquor and
opium. It helped pay for expeditions to put down
piracy and pay for street cleaners and even grass
cutters. Raffles faulted Farquhar for mismanaging
Singapore and their relationship soured.
City/ Urban planning: There was a lack of city
planning.To encourage new settlers, Farquhar
allowed them to build Chinese warehouses, Malay
attap houses and residences on the Padang and
north side of the river because it was less prone to
Raffles rebuked Farquhar for lack of city planning
and created his own Town Plan to keep the Padang
area and north side of the river clear for European
residents and government buildings. The different
races lived in different locations in his city plan and
roads were built parallel to each other. t
Crime and violence: There were incidents of
houses catching fire, robberies, fighting and
lawlessness. People went about armed. There was
tension between new traders and the followers of
the Temenggong. On 11 March 1823, Farquhar
A force of 11 men under the command of Francis
James Bernard, son-in-law of Farquhar was set up
to fight crime and violence.With occasional help
from Farquhar, Bernard held multiple roles as
magistrate, chief jailer, harbour master, marine
was even stabbed by an amok, Sayed Yassin. storekeeper, as well as personal assistant to
Farquhar. A jemador(Asian Sergeant), 8 peons
(patrolmen) who were from the Indian troops
stationed in Singapore, a jailor and a Malay writer
were employed at a monthly budget of $300.
2. The Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1824 was signed which resolved disputes between Holland
The treaty officially divided the Malay Archipelago into two: Malaya which would be a
British sphere of influence and the Dutch East Indies which would be under the Dutch
As part of the treaty, various colonial settlements were also exchanged. Holland
surrendered Malacca, all claims to Singapore and all her Dutch factories in India to
In exchange, Britain surrendered to the Dutch Bencoolen and all EIC possessions in
The Anglo-Dutch Treaty meant the decline and fall of the Johor-Riau sultanate as a
maritime regional power.
3. A new treaty was signed with the Temenggong and Sultan in August 1824 by Dr John
Crawfurd, the second resident of SIngapore
4. The Temenggong and Sultan expected a major share of the wealth from the settlement
through taxes and tributes. For them, this was done by demanding traditional ‘presents’ (hantar-
hantaran) from sea captains and forcing native ships to call at Singapore.
5. Customs like piracy, slavery and debt-bondage were also seen as not suited for British ideas
of a modern British entrepott.
6. On 2 August, 1824, British Resident Dr John Crawfurd claimed that the payments the rulers
had been receiving were not approved by the EIC in Calcutta and they now had to return the
7. The Temenggong and Sultan were unable to return the money and they asked to sign a new
treaty by Dr John Crawfurd.
8. In the new treaty, they had to forego their rights to Singapore and in exchange, the British
would clear their ‘debts’. Sultan Hussein and the Temenggongwould receive $33,200 and
$26,800 each. The Sultan and Temenggong would also receive $1300 and $700 annually.
1824 Anglo-Dutch Treaty Agreement signed between Britain and the Netherlands in London on 17
March 1824 to resolve territorial and colonial disputes among themselves
which was caused by British occupation of Dutch territories during the
Napoleonic wars (1799-1815)
Bencoolen/ Benkulu A place in Sumatra called Bengulu today which was once a British pepper-
trading center from 1685 to 1824.
Colonel John Bannerman Colonial adminsitrator and director of the East India Company (17159-1819).
He also Governor of Penang (1817-1819) before his death from cholera on
East India Company (EIC) An English company formed in 1600 to develop trade with the new colonies
in India , Southeast Asi and China. In the 18 century it assumed control of
Bengal and held it until the British army took over in 1858 after the Indian
Karimon Island Island group in the Riau islands about 40 km southewest of Singapore.
Mughal Dynasty A Muslim empre in India (1526-1857) founded by Babur, a Turkic chief
inAfghanistan who conquered India. His dynasty who ruled most of northern
India from the 1500s to 1857.
Napoleonic Wars Series of wars (1799-1815) fought between France, under Napoleon
Bonarparte, and different alliances at times made up of Britian, Prussia,
Russia and the Austro-Hungarian empire.
Opium A heavy scented addictive drug made from the dried juice of the opium
poppy plant which is used as a addictive narcotic drug and also in making
pain-killing medicine like morphine.
Padang Plain or open field in Malay. In Singapore, it refers to a stretch of field
originally by the sea located in the central region of Singapore.
Penang An island off the northwest coast of the Malay Peninsula, originally part of
the Malay Sultanate of Kedah, which came under British rule from 1786 to
Sphere of influence Territorial area where political and economic influence is dominated and
influenced by one nation.
Stadholder Chief executive officer of the provinces that formed a union leading to the
establishemnt of the Netherlands. He is tasked with maintaining peace and
provincial order in the early Duthc Republic.
Stamford Raffles British colonial administrator (1781-1826) from the East India Company who
was famous as the founder of modern Singapore. He was also lieutenant
governor of Java (1811-1816) and Fort Marlborough in Bencoolen (1817-
Sultan Hussein Shah Eldest son of Sultan Mahmud Shah. Also called Tengu Long or Tengku
Hussein (1776-1835), he was recognized as the rightful heir to the Johor-Riau
Sultanate by the British in 1819. He was unpopular with the British and his
fortunes declined after 1824 . In 1834, he relocated and died in Malacca.
Temenggong Ancient Maly title of nobility. It is traditionally translated as 'chief of police'.
Temenggong Abdul Rahman Malay Temenggong based in Singapore who as also one of the signatories to
the 19th centur agreements which allowed the East India company to set up
a trading post in Singapore. His grandson Abu Bakar was appointed as the
Sultan of Johor in 1886 by Queen Victoria.
Warren Hastings British colonial administrator (1732-1818) who was the first governor-
general of British India.
Willam Farquhar Colonial adminitrator and major-general from Scotland who worked for the
East India Company (1774-1839). Based largely in Malacca since 1795, he
was the Resident and commandant of Malacca (1803 - 1818) and later
Resident of Singapore (1819-1823)
http://infopedia.nl.sg/: A reliable and useful search engine for Singapore’s history
http://meridian103.com/issue-7/history/farquar/: An article on William Farquhar
http://remembersingapore.wordpress.com/2012/02/21/last-royal-palace-of-singapore/ : A
Singapore heritage blog entry about Istana Kampong Glam where Sultan Hussein lived
http://thelongnwindingroad.wordpress.com/tag/temenggong-abdul-rahman/: A Singapore
heritage blog entry about Temenggong Abdul Rahman and the Johor-Riau sultanate