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History of Malaysia

The original in inhabitants of Malaya, the "Orang Asli" were actually refugees from the south-western provinces of Yunan in China, fleeing conflicts in that area some 10,000 years ago. It then came under the rule of several different regional empires including the Hindu Sri Vijaya and Majapahit from the Indonesian Archipelago.

By the middle of the 14th century Islam arrived in Malaya via traders and merchants from India and began to spread rapidly as the local nobles embraced it, the influence of the Hindu Javanese Majapahit Empire was also waning at the time.

Early in the 15th century the island of Temasik (Singapore), was being attacked by the Majapahit Empire, a Temasik prince called Parameswara fled his country and founded a small fishing village that would one day be the nucleus of the Melaka empire. Embracing Islam and taking the title Iskandar Shah, the Melaka Sultanate was thereby formed and proceeded to experience exponential growth under the leadership of a dynasty of Malay Muslim rulers.

By the middle of the 15th century Melaka's wealth and power had grown to a point where it was considered the center for trade in the south-east Asian region, this was mainly due to its strategic positioning on the Straits of Melaka, right in the middle of the spice trade route and the successful persecution and subjugation of the numerous pirate clans in the region, merchant ships from all over Asia including India, the Middle East and China regularly crowded its harbor. It was also during this time that Malay culture and folklore reached its azimuth. These were the heyday of such historical figures as Tun Perak, Tun Teja, Hang Jebat and of course Hang Tuah.

Ironically its wealth and power, the source of its fame and fortune would also be the reason for its downfall. The first European visitors to Melaka, a small flotilla of Portuguese ships under the command of Diego Lopez de Sequira landed at Melaka in the year 1509. These ships were driven away but in 1511 a much greater fleet arrived and under the command of Alfonso de Albuquerque opened fire on the city and conquered Melaka. Drawn by the lure of the lucrative spice trade and the opportunity to strike a blow to the Islamic presence in the area, the Portuguese came with the aim of achieving three objectives, "For God, Glory and Gold", they would control a heavily fortified Melaka for the next thirty years.

The deposed Melaka Sultanate now based at its holdings in Johor launched constant attacks on the Portuguese fort throughout the years with little success, but with the coming of the Dutch in the late 1520's the Portuguese rule of Melaka was coming to an end. The allied forces of the Dutch East India Company and the deposed Malays defeated the Portuguese in 1531, but again the Malay rulers found themselves at the mercy of a foreign power, as the Dutch, their erstwhile allies turned on them and took Melaka for their own.

The less autocratic and generally more tolerant Dutch were considerably more successful than the Portuguese, mainly due to the fact that many of the regional powers were embroiled in conflicts of their own, the former Melaka Sultanate for example was embroiled in a bitter war with the state of Jambi a war from which it would never fully recover, and a major regional power, the northern Sumatran kingdom of Aceh was weakening quickly due to the unsuccessful wars they had waged against the Dutch power base at Batavia.

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