Until the late 1800s, Singapore was a small, sleepy fishing village owned by the Malay Sultan Hussein of Johor. After the British East India Company led by Sir Stamford Raffles discovered its strategic value as a regional trading post in the early 1800s, the quaint fishing village quickly turned into a center of commerce and political importance for the thriving Southeast Asia trade economy. Despite ongoing conflict between other colonial powers, Singapore became a British Crown Colony in 1867, and colonial influences have since remained evident in architecture, education, and culture. Almost a century of economic prosperity followed, and Singapore developed rapidly into a major city with the influx of foreign investments and heavy immigration, largely from India, Malaysia, and China.
In the 1940s, however, Singapore suffered greatly during World War II as Japanese forces conquered the whole of Malaya, driving many of the British and other European colonists from the region. After just seven days of battle, Singapore fell, and British forces charged with protecting Singapore surrendered, commencing nearly 4 years of suffering under the Japanese.
After the war ended, Singapore returned to British rule in 1945. Singaporeans, however, began to seek self-rule. In 1955, Singapore elected its first Chief Minister, David Marshall, who went to London to unsuccessfully negotiate Singapore’s independence. In 1957, his successor, Lim Yew Hock, assembled a delegation including the young People’s Action Party [PAP] member Lee Kuan Yew. In the 1959 elections, the PAP gained power, electing Lee Kuan Yew Singapore’s first Prime Minister, and Singapore finally attained self-governance.
In a bid to further solidify its independence from the British, Singapore joined the Federation of Malaya in 1963. Many conflicts and challenges eventually led to an unhappy separation, however, and the Republic of Singapore became an independent, democratic nation on 9 August 1965. In the same year, Singapore became part of United Nations and the Commonwealth of Nations.
Since then, massive industrialization and modernization have transformed the city, and Singapore has continued to grow as a highly cosmopolitan, increasingly Westernized city. Its strategic location, stringent governance and social planning, sound economic policies, and international trade have made Singapore a wealthy island nation known for its security, order, and racial harmony.
Singapore has well preserved the cultures of its three primary ethnic groups – Chinese, Malay, and Indian – while adopting very international practices and promoting racial harmony and integration. Furthermore, there remains a very welcoming environment for expatriates. In recent years, government and industry have actively promoted expatriate employment and talent recruitment, and the government hopes to grow its population, including the foreign population over the coming years.