Ptolemy showed the Malay Peninsula on his early map with a label that translates as "Golden Chersonese", the Straits of Malacca were referred to as "Sinus Sabaricus". From the mid to the late first millennium, much of the Peninsula as well as the Malay Archipelago were under the influence of Srivijaya.
There were numerous Chinese and Indian kingdoms in the 2nd and 3rd centuries CE. The coming of the Chola reduced the majesty of Srivijaya, which had exerted influence over Kedah and Pattani and even as far as Ligor.
The Buddhist kingdom of Ligor took control of Kedah shortly after, and its King Chandrabhanu used it as a base to attack Sri Lanka in the 11th century. During the first millennium, the people of the Malay Peninsula adopted Hinduism and Buddhism and the use of the Sanskrit language until they eventually converted to Islam.
In the early-15th century, the Malacca Sultanate was established under a dynasty founded by Parameswara , a prince from Palembang within the Srivijayan empire. During this period, Temasek was also attacked by a Javanese fleet from Majapahit.
There are also references that indicate that some members of the ruling class and the merchant community residing in Malacca were already Muslims. The Chinese chronicles mention that in 1414, the son of the first ruler of Malacca visited Ming to inform them that his father had died. Parameswara's son was then officially recognised as the second ruler of Malacca by the Chinese Emperor and styled Raja Sri Rama Vikrama, Raja of Parameswara of Temasik and Melaka and he was known to his Muslim subjects as (Sultan Sri Iskandar Zulkarnain Shah) or (Sultan Megat Iskandar Shah), and he ruled Malacca from 1414 to 1424.
In 1511, Malacca was conquered by Portugal, which established a colony there. The sons of the last Sultan of Malacca established two sultanates elsewhere in the peninsula — the Sultanate of Perak to the north, and the Sultanate of Johor (originally a continuation of the old Malacca sultanate) to the south. After the fall of Malacca, three nations struggled for the control of Malacca Strait: the Portuguese (in Malacca), the Sultanate of Johor, and the Sultanate of Aceh. This conflict went on until 1641, when the Dutch (allied to the Sultanate of Johor) gained control of Malacca.
Britain established its first colony in the Malay Peninsula in 1786, with the lease of the island of Penang to the British East India Company by the Sultan of Kedah. In 1824, the British took control of Malacca following the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1824 which divided the Malay archipelago between Britain and the Netherlands, with Malaya in the British zone. In 1826, Britain established the crown colony of the Straits Settlements, uniting its four possessions in Malaya: Penang, Malacca, Singapore and the island of Labuan. The Straits Settlements were initially administered under the East India Company in Calcutta, before first Penang, and later Singapore became the administrative centre of the crown colony, until 1867, when they were transferred to the Colonial Office in London.
During the late-19th century, many Malay states decided to obtain British help in settling their internal conflicts. By the turn of the 20th century, the states of Pahang, Selangor, Perak, and Negeri Sembilan, known together as the Federated Malay States (not to be confused with the Federation of Malaya), were under the de facto control of British Residents appointed to advise the Malay rulers. The British were "advisers" in name, but in reality, they exercised substantial influence over the Malay rulers.
The remaining five states in the peninsula, known as the Unfederated Malay States, while not directly under rule from London, also accepted British advisers around the turn of the 20th century. Of these, the four northern states of Perlis, Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu had previously been under Siamese control. The other unfederated state, Johor, was the only state which managed to preserve its independence throughout most of the 19th century. Sultan Abu Bakar of Johor and Queen Victoria were personal acquaintances, and recognised each other as equals. It was not until 1914 that Sultan Abu Bakar's successor, Sultan Ibrahim accepted a British adviser.
On the island of Borneo, Sabah was governed as the crown colony of British North Borneo, while Sarawak was acquired from Brunei as the personal kingdom of the Brooke family, who ruled as white Rajahs.
Following the Japanese Invasion of Malaya and its subsequent occupation during World War II, popular support for independence grew. Post-war British plans to unite the administration of Malaya under a single crown colony called the Malayan Union foundered on strong opposition from the Malays, who opposed the emasculation of the Malay rulers and the granting of citizenship to the ethnic Chinese. The Malayan Union, established in 1946 and consisting of all the British possessions in Malaya with the exception of Singapore, was dissolved in 1948 and replaced by the Federation of Malaya, which restored the autonomy of the rulers of the Malay states under British protection.
The Malayan Emergency, as it was known, lasted from 1948 to 1960, and involved a long anti-insurgency campaign by Commonwealth troops in Malaya. Independence for the Federation within the Commonwealth was granted on 31 August 1957.
In 1963, Malaya along with the then-British crown colonies of Sabah (British North Borneo), Sarawak and Singapore, formed Malaysia. The Sultanate of Brunei, though initially expressing interest in joining the Federation, withdrew from the planned merger due to opposition from certain segments of its population as well as arguments over the payment of oil royalties and the status of the Sultan in the planned merger.
The early years of independence were marred by the conflict with Indonesia (Konfrontasi) over the formation of Malaysia, Singapore's eventual exit in 1965, and racial strife in the form of race riots in 1969.
Between the 1980s and the mid-1990s, Malaysia experienced significant economic growth under the premiership of Mahathir bin Mohamad. The period saw a shift from an agriculture-based economy to one based on manufacturing and industry in areas such as computers and consumer electronics. It was during this period, too, that the physical landscape of Malaysia has changed with the emergence of numerous mega-projects.
In the late-1990s, Malaysia was shaken by the Asian financial crisis as well as political unrest caused by the sacking of the deputy prime minister Dato' Seri Anwar Ibrahim. In 2003, Dr Mahathir, Malaysia's longest serving prime minister, retired in favour of his deputy, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi
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