Singapore 101: Your Guide to the Lion City


When Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles landed in what is now Singapore on 29 January 1819, he determined that the island, which at the time was covered by swamps, had very great potential.

It was known by Sir Thomas that British traders wanted a base in the region, and he thought it might be the perfect spot. Following negotiations with local rulers, a treaty was signed, establishing Singapore as a trading station.

Free trade policies attracted merchants from as far away as the the Middle East and the United States.

Singapore’s importance grew throughout the 19th Century as trade between East and West increased. By 1860, the population, which had numbered 150 when Raffles first landed there, had grown to 80,792. Included were Chinese, Indians, and Malays.

World War II

Singapore came under attack on 8 December 1941, when Japanese aircraft bombed the city. It fell to the invaders on 15 February 1942, remaining under Japanese occupation for three and one half years.

Britain regained control over Singapore with the Japanese surrender in 1946. It became a British Crown Colony the following year. Singapore became self-governing in 1959, and Lee Kuan Yew became its first prime minister.

Singapore and Malaya briefly merged, becoming Malaysia in 1963. Within two years, the federation broke up, with Singapore becoming an independent republic on 22 December of that year.

Singapore Today

With a population of 5 million, Singapore is now one of the richest and stablest countries in Asia. Highly cosmopolitan, it has a Chinese majority, with large Malay and Indian minorities. It also has the world’s sixth highest percentage of resident foreigners, who make up 42% of the population.

Singapore is the world’s second most densely populated country and has its fourth highest GDP. Singapore has four official languages: English, Mandarin, Malay, and Hindi.

What to Do

Most hotels, restaurants, and shopping centres are located along Orchard Road. Key tourist attractions include Chinatown, Night Safari, the Singapore Zoo, Haw Par Villa, Jurong Bird Park, Little India, and the Singapore Science Centre.

Readers Respond

Writes L. in Singapore

Hi – were you in Singapore and didn’t tell me? Ciao.

5 September 2010 (via email)

Writes C. in Inverness, Britain:

Nice piece, Michael!

Just FYI, there was an interesting article about Singapore (“The Humiliation of Singapore”) in the History Magazine of Wharncliffe as well (the “War in the Pacific and Far East” edition).”

4 September 2010 (via Facebook)

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