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Malacca History

Melaka History


Melaka is known as a historically rich state and is recognised as one which epitomised the spirit of a nation, forged through the crucible of a tumultuous and intricate history.

Melaka was founded by Parameswara (or Raja Iskandar) the last Malay ruler of Temasik (ancient Singapore) in 1396 when he and his followers retreated up the straits to Muar, then tu Sungai Ujung before settling at Bertam near the estuary of Melaka River.

Finding the place is of strategic location, he decided to make a permanent settlement there, naming it “Melaka” after the name of the tree he leaned against.

The Melaka Sultanate occupies a special position in the history of Malaysia. Its inauguration marked the beginning of the emergence of a new Malay empire. The birthplace of the Malay Sultanates and Malaysia’s historic city, Melaka provided the stage on which the Portuguese, Dutch and English played out their roles in shaping history.

Melaka emerged as a strong maritime trading state under the industrious Parameswara and his chiefs. Melaka also began to be noticed by Muslim traders from West Asia and India, who until that period, had been concentrating their activities in Aru, Pedir and Pasai en-route to the East, especially China. Because of its strategic location straddling the Straits of Melaka, it thrived as a port-of-call and a centre of entrepot trade with ships and merchants from China, Japan, India, Arab and South Africa.

In 1511, it fell to the hands of the Portuguese, followed by the Dutch in 1641 after a fierce battle. In 1795, Melaka was given to the British to prevent it falling to the French when the Netherlands was captured during the Napoleonic Wars. It was returned to the Dutch in 1818 under the treaty of Vienna but was later exchanged by the Brisith for Bangkahulu, Sumatra. From 1826 onwards, the British East India Company along with Singapore and Penang governed it, under the Straits Settlement administration in Calcutta.

The Dutch, who held Melaka for over a century, left many fine buildings marking their heritage. The most imposing relic of the Dutch period is the Stadthuys, a strikingly pink town hall which is today the oldest Dutch building in the Far East. Right next to it stands the bright red Christ Church, constructed with pink bricks imported from Holland and covered with local red lacerite. Today, these buildings together with the ruins of the Portuguese built A Famosa and St. Paul’s Church are the most prominent reminders of the Europeans’ presence in Melaka.

After World War II, anti-colonial sentiment bred in the country among the nationalists, the result of which was the proclamation of Independence by Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra, Malaysia’s first Prime Minister, at the Padang Pahlawan (Warrior’s Field) at Bandar Hilir, Melaka on 20 February 1956.