The Early History of Malaysia

Malaysia is one of the more progressive countries in Southeast Asia that is known for its rainforests as well as famous world-class beaches. The country has a rich history combining Indian, Malay, Chinese, and even European influences. Its capital also features world-class buildings including the Petronas Twin Towers which are renowned for being the tallest twin towers in the world.

Ancient History

As early as 8,000 BC, stone age hunters and gatherers were already in the country. As time passed by, farmers started to come in and replaced the hunters. They promoted the slash and burn approach to agriculture. What they did was burn entire sections of a forest and then plant and grow crops.

Soon after, farmers that used metal slowly started to come in though they mostly occupied coastal areas. As such, they were not exclusively farming but ventured out to sea and fished for food as well. Later on, centralized states started to form within Malaya (original name) which traded heavily with India.

The time of Rivijaya

the state of Srivijaya of Sumatra (Indonesia at present) came to power some time in the 7th and 8th century and extended its reach towards Malaya. What is characteristic with this empire is that it controlled mostly the coastal areas and was not successful in exerting its influence inland.

It draws power from its strong trade ties with both China and India. They went on as far as controlling the Melaka Straits which was a crucial route between the China Sea and the Indian Ocean.


With power from a progressive trade agreement not only with the Chinese and Indian but the Arabs as well, Melaka soon rose to power and dominated Malaya. Their wealth attracted a Portuguese artillery later falling as an empire. It did not also help that the Thais overthrew him.

Colonized by the British

The British East India Company found themselves looking for a base and later occupying Penang in Malaya. An 1824 treaty in London saw the British and Dutch dividing the regions in the area where Malaya went to the British after being given up by the Dutch.

Again, the islands of Malay Peninsula was out of reach even from the British East India Company. They had control of the waters and coastal areas but were unable to exert their dominance over the entire country. It was also East India Company and not the British government that controlled the Straits Settlements.

Independence of Malaya

The Federation of Malaya was formed later on in 1948 which was a few years after the Japanese faced defeat. The British government tried to unify the country with the Malayan union but faced adamant opposition and was, later on, dropped in favor of the Federation. This was also after the Malayan Communist Party or MCP was formed in 1930.

THe MCP started attacking European estates and only declined post-1949 after being promised of independence. The Reid Commission in 1955 was formed which was to be the basis for the Malaya Constitution. soon after, it declared independence in 1957 with Tunku Abdul Rahan as its first prime minister.