History of Malaysia

History of Malaysia is rich and interesting. The ruins of the A Famosa Portuguese fort in Malacca is one of the most popular Malaysia's historic sites.
History of Malaysia is rich and interesting. The ruins of the A Famosa Portuguese fort in Malacca is one of the most popular Malaysia's historic sites.

Thanks to its valuable position between the expanses of Asia and the thousands of islands that make up Indonesia, Malaysia's history is rich and interesting. At times an Islamic settlement, a colony that was part of the Dutch empire, a British-ruled state, and a Japanese-controlled war outpost, Malaysia has a history that is far bloodier, vivid, and interesting than most visitors expect.

Walk around Kuala Lumpur today and you'll be exposed to relatively few reminders of the Malaysia of yesterday. Modern shopping malls and train stations occupy the corners where colonial buildings used to stand, and high-tech camera shops and flashy restaurants take up spaces that were once the home of beautiful historic homes and colonial shop houses.

However, in the right parts of town, Malaysia's history is clearly visible. Visit Dataran Merdeka – literally Independence Square – and you'll get a taste of Malaysia's modern and colonial history. A large public square, the area was the headquarters of Britain's government in Malaysia and later the administrative center of the newly-formed Independent Malaysia.

Of course, Malaysia's history goes back far further than just its period of British rule. The city of Malacca, located on the western coast of Peninsular Malaysia, was the center of Portuguese, and later Dutch, rule in Malaysia. A former colony of Portugal during the 16th and 17th centuries, this small city was one of the first and only European trading posts in Southeast Asia.

From the National Monument in Kuala Lumpur to historic sites, buildings and museums Malaysia has many historic attractions.
From the National Monument in Kuala Lumpur to historic sites, buildings and museums Malaysia has many historic attractions.

At the time, however, it was also a point of contention between the Portuguese and the forces of the reigning sultans. During the 130-year Portuguese reign over Malacca, numerous wars were fought and the former trading post became known as something of a war zone. These wars continued as the Dutch and British controlled Malacca in an attempt to dominate the region's shipping pathways.

This type of fighting for trade dominance was commonplace throughout Malaysia and Indonesia at the time. Further north in Penang, the British attempted to control the island as a trading post during their long history in what was then called Malaya. From the Portuguese ruins in Malacca to British influence in Penang, there are countless examples of Malaysia's past scattered around the country.

Modern Malaysia, however, can thank the Chinese and Indian immigrants just as much as it can the Europeans for its current culture. Thanks to heavy immigration during its period as a British colony, much of Malaysia's modern history is based on the advances of Malay culture alongside that of the Chinese and Indian immigrants.

Penang, one of Malaysia's most popular tourist spots, is one of the centers of Chinese history in Malaysia. The long Chinese settlement in Penang has resulted in Taoist temples like Kong Hock Keong in Georgetown and Thni Kong Tnua, another Taoist settlement in Penang that was built in the mid 19th century by Hokkien Chinese immigrants.

With a history that combines Portuguese, Dutch, and British colonialism and Chinese, Indian, and Thai immigrant influences, Malaysia is a true melting pot of a country. A hotly contested territory for hundreds of years during the last millennium and a rapidly growing country today, a look at the historic sites of Penang, and Malacca is a must-do for inquisitive visitors to Malaysia.