History of Malaysia

Early History

Malaysia is a thriving modern medical tourism destination with a long and rich history.  There is evidence to suggest that much of peninsular Malaysia was inhabited at least 50,000 years ago.  One of the earliest people here were the Senoi, who are believed to have been the descendants of the first Austronesians, the ethnic group that can be traced down to present day Malays.  

In the first millennium, much of the Malay archipelago, which includes Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines, East Timor, and Brunei, was ruled by the Srivijaya Empire.  During the second and third centuries CE, there were invasions by Indian kings, including the Tamil Chola emperor, Rajendra Chola. Eventually, Srivijaya control of the region weakened, and soon, the Buddhist kingdom of Ligor took over control of the archipelago.  

Islam arrived in the 15th century, with the advent of Sultan Iskandar Shah, ruler of the Malacca Sultanate.  The Malacca kings ruled for more than a century, and their kingdom included all the areas which now come under peninsular Malaysia, southern Thailand, and Sumatra.  In 1511, Malacca fell to Portugal, and after this began a battle for control of the Malay archipelago among the Portuguese and the Sultans of Aceh and Johur.  In 1641, the Dutch, who had forged an alliance with the Sultanate of Johur, gained control of the archipelago.  

British Rule

The British entered the picture when Penang was leased by the Sultan of Kedah to the East India Company in 1786.  Soon, they became heavily involved in administrative affairs through what was called “gunboat diplomacy�? – the use of armed power to demonstrate might over a foreign people.  The British moved in to settle conflicts between Chinese and Malay gangsters, and cemented their control of the region through the Pangkor Treaty of 1874. 

Calls for independence from Britain soon grew and reached a peak during the Second World War when Britain announced plans to unify the administration of Malaysia under a single Malay state. 

Modern History

Finally, after years of guerilla operations by anti-insurgents, British control over Malaya ended, and Malaysia was formed in 1963.  The new federation included Malaya, Singapore, Sabah, and Sarawak.  In 1965, Singapore broke away to become a separate state. 

Malaysia today continues to maintain a delicate balance among the most important ethnic groups in the country.  This medical tourism center benefited immensely during the Asian economic boom of the 1980s, and many of the success stories of that boom can be seen in the high-tech hospitals and health care centers for which the country is known. 

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