The Full Wiki

Malay Peninsula: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.

Did you know ...

More interesting facts on Malay Peninsula

Include this on your site/blog:


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Locator map

The Malay Peninsula or Thai-Malay Peninsula (Malay: Semenanjung Tanah Melayu, Thai: คาบสมุทรมลายู) is in Southeast Asia. The land mass runs approximately north-south and, at its teminus, is the southern-most point of the Asian mainland. The area contains territories of Burma, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand.

The Titiwangsa Mountains is part of the Tenasserim Hills system, and forms the backbone of the Peninsula. They form the southernmost section of the central cordillera which runs from Tibet through the Kra Isthmus (the Peninsula's narrowest point) into the Malay peninsula.[1] The Straits of Malacca separates the Malay Peninsula from the Indonesian island of Sumatra while the south coast is separated from the island of Singapore by the Straits of Johor.

The Malay term Tanah Melayu (literally: 'Malay Soil') is generally used by the Malays and occasionally used in political discourse to describe uniting all ethnic Malay people on the peninsula under one Malay nation, although this ambition was largely realised with the creation of Malaysia.[citation needed]


  1. ^ The Physical Geography of Southeast Asia, Avijit Gupta

See also

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

MALAY PENINSULA (called by the Malays Tanah Malayu, i.e. the Malay Land), a lozenge-shaped strip of land projecting into the China Sea, and forming the most southerly portion of the continent of Asia. Geographically, the peninsula begins at the isthmus of Kra, io° N., at which point it is only between 60 and 70 m. in width, and the distance from sea to sea is further diminished by a large irregular salt-water inlet. Politically and anthropologically, however, this upper portion must be regarded as a continuation of the kingdom of Siam rather than as a section of Malaya. From the isthmus of Kra the peninsula extends south with a general inclination towards the east, the most southerly point being Tanjong Bulus in 1° 162' N. A line drawn diagonally down the centre from the isthmus of Kra to Cape Romania (Ramunya) gives the extreme length at about 750 miles. The breadth at the widest point, from Tanjong Pen-unjut in Trengganu to Tanjong Hantu in the Dindings territory, is about 200 m. The area is estimated at about 70,000 sq. m. The peninsula is bounded on the N. by Siam, on the S. by the island and strait of Singapore, on the E. by the China Sea, and on the W. by the Strait of Malacca.

Table of contents

Physical Characteristics

A range of granite mountains forms a backbone which divides the peninsula into two unequal portions, the larger of which lies to the east and the smaller to the west of the chain. Smaller ranges run parallel to the main mountain chain in many places, and there are numerous isolated spurs which have no connexion with either. The country is covered with limestone in many parts, and large isolated bluffs of this formation stand up in the plains both on the eastern and the western slopes. The descent from the summits of the range into the plain is somewhat less abrupt on the western than it is on the eastern side, and between the foot of the mountains and the Strait of Malacca the largest known alluvial deposits of tin are situated. On the eastern side of the range, after a steep descent, the granite formation speedily gives place to slates of vast depth, intersected here and there by fissures of quartz containing gold, and in many places covered by limestone which has been superimposed upon the slates. The highest known peak in the main range is that of Gunong Korbu, 7217 ft. above sea-level. The highest mountain is believed to be Gunong Tahan, which forms part of an isolated range on the eastern side, between Pahang and Kelantan, and is estimated at about 8000 ft. The west coast throughout its whole length is covered to a depth of some miles with mangrove swamps, with only a few isolated stretches of sandy beach, the dim foliage of the mangroves and the hideous mud flats presenting a depressing spectacle. On the east coast the force of the north-east monsoon, which beats upon the shores of the China Sea annually from November to February, has kept the land for the most part free from mangroves, and the sands, broken here and there by rocky headlands thickly wooded, and fringed by casuarina trees, stretch for miles without interruption. The islands on each coast present the features of the shore to which they are adjacent. On both the east and the west coast the islands are thickly wooded, but whereas the former are surrounded by beautiful sands and beaches, the latter are fringed by mangrove-swamps. The whole peninsula may be described as one vast forest, intersected in every direction by countless streams and rivers which together form the most lavish water-system in the world. Only an insignificant fraction of these forests has ever been visited by human beings, the Malays and even the aboriginal tribe having their homes on the banks of the rivers, and never, even when travelling from one part of the country to another, leaving the banks of a stream except for a short time when passing from one river-system to another. The bulk of the jungle, therefore, which lies between stream and stream, has never been trodden by the foot of man. The principal rivers on the west coast are the Perak, the Bernam and the Muar. The first-named is far finer than its fellows, and is navigable for steamers for about 40 m. from its mouth, and for native craft for over 250 m. It is exceedingly shallow, however, and is not of much importance as a waterway. The Bernam runs through flat swampy country for the greater part of its course, and steam-launches can penetrate to a distance of over 100 m. from its mouth, and it is therefore probably the deepest river. The country which it waters, however, is not of any value, and it is not much used. The Muar waters a very fertile valley, and is navigable for native boats for over 150 m. On the east coast the principal streams are the Petani, Telubin, Kelantan, Besut, Trengganu, Dungun, Kmamun, Kuantan, Pahang, Rompin, Endau and Sedeli, all guarded by difficult bars at their mouths, and dangerous during the continuance of the north-east monsoon. The deepest rivers are the Kuantan and Rompin; the largest are the Kelantan and the Pahang, both of which are navigable for native boats for a distance of over 250 m. The Trengganu river is obstructed by impassable rapids at a distance of about 30 m. from its mouth. The rivers on the east coast are practically the only highways, the Malays always travelling by boat in preference to walking, but they serve their purpose very indifferently, and their great beauty is their chief claim to distinction. Magnificent caves are found on both slopes of the peninsula, those at Batu in Selangor being the finest on the west coast, while those of Chadu and Koto Glanggi in Pahang are the most extensive yet visited by Europeans on the east coast. They are all of limestone formation. So far as is known, the Malay Peninsula consists of an axial zone of crystalline rocks, flanked on each side by an incomplete band of sedimentary deposits. Granite is the most widely spread of the crystalline rocks; but dikes of various kinds occur, and gneiss, schist and marble are also met with. These rocks form the greater part of the central range, and they are often - especially the granite - decomposed and rotten to a considerable depth. The sedimentary deposits include slate, limestone and sandstone. Impure coal has also been recorded. The limestone has yielded Proetus, Chonetes and other fossils, and is believed to be of Carboniferous age. In the sandstone Myophoria and other Triassic fossils have been found, and it appears to belong to the Rhaetic or Upper Trias. 1 The minerals produced are tin, gold, iron, galena and others, in insignificant quantities.

The tin occurs in the form of cassiterite, and is found chiefly in or near the crystalline rocks, especially the granite. As stream tin it occurs abundantly in some of the alluvial deposits derived from the crystalline area, especially on the west coast. Only two tin lodes are worked, however, and both are situated on the east coast, the one at Kuantan in Pahang, the other at Bandi in Trengganu territory. On the west coast no true lode has yet been discovered, though the vast alluvial deposits of tin found there seem to make such a discovery probable in the future. Since 1890 the tin produced from these alluvial beds has supplied between 50% and 75% of the tin of the world. Gold is worked with success in Pahang, and has been exploited from time immemorial by the natives of that state and of Kelantan. Small quantities have also been found on the western slope in Perak.

Climate, &c. - It was formerly the custom to speak of the Malay Peninsula as an unhealthy climate, and even to compare it with the west coast of Africa. It is now generally admitted, however, that, though hot, it compares favourably with that of Burma. The chief complaint which Europeans make concerning it is the extreme humidity, which causes the heat to be more oppressive than is the case where the air is dry. On the other hand, the thermometer, even at Singapore on the southern coast, which is the hottest portion of the peninsula, seldom rises above 98° in the shade, whereas the mean for the year at that place is generally below 80°. On the mainland, and more especially on the eastern slope, the temperature is cooler, the thermometer seldom rising above 93° in the shade, and falling at night below 70°. On an average day in this p art of the peninsula the temperature in a European house ranged from 88° to 68°. The number of rainy days throughout the peninsula varies from 160 to over 200 in each year, but violent gusts of wind, called " Sumatras," accompanied by a heavy downpour of short duration, are more common than persistent rain. The rainfall on the west coast varies from 75 to 120 in. per annum, and that of the east coast, where the north-east monsoon breaks with all its fury, is usually about 1 55 in. per annum. Malarial fevers make their appearance in places where the forest has been recently felled, or where the surface earth has been disturbed. It is noticed that labourers employed in deep mines worked by shafts suffer less from fever than do those who are engaged in stripping the alluvial deposits. This, of course, means that a new station, where clearing, digging, and building are in progress, is often unhealthy for a time, and to this must be attributed the evil reputation which the peninsula formerly enjoyed. To Europeans the climate is found to be relaxing and enervating, but if, in spite of some disinclination for exertion, regular exercise is taken from the beginning, and ordinary precautions against chills, more especially to the stomach, are adopted, a European has almost as good a chance of remaining in good health in the peninsula as in Europe. A change of climate, however, is imperatively necessary every five or six years, and the children of European parents should not be kept in the peninsula after they have attained the age of four or five years. The Chinese immigrants suffer chiefly from fever of a malarial type, from beri-beri, a species of tropical dropsy, and from dysentery. The Malays formerly suffered severely from smallpox epidemics, but in the portion of the peninsula under British rule vaccination has been introduced, and the ravages of the disease no longer assume serious dimensions. Occasional outbreaks of cholera occur from time to time, and in the independent states these cause terrible loss of life, as the natives fly from the disease and spread the infection in every direction. As a whole, the Malays are, however, a remarkably healthy people, and deformity and hereditary diseases are rare among them. There is little leprosy in the peninsula, but there is a leper hospital near Penang on Pula Deraja and another on an island on the west coast for the reception of lepers from the Federated Malay States.

Flora and Fauna

The soil of the peninsula is remarkably fertile both in the plains and on the mountain slopes. In the vast forests the decay of vegetable matter during countless ages has enriched See R. B. Newton, " Notes on Literature bearing upon the Geology of the Malay Peninsula; with an Account of a Neolithic Implement from that Country " (Geol. Mag., 1901, pp. 128-134). See also the various reports by J. B. Scrivenor in Suppl. Perak Goa. Gazette, 1905.

the soil to the depth of many feet, and from it springs the most marvellous tangle of huge trees, shrubs, bushes, underwood, creepers, climbing plants and trailing vines, the whole hung with ferns, mosses, and parasitic growths, and bound together by rattans and huge rope-like trailers. In most places the jungle is so dense that it is impossible to force a way through it without the aid of a wood-knife, and even the wild beasts use well-worn game-tracks through the forest. In the interior brakes of bamboos are found, many of which spread for miles along the river banks. Good hard-wood timber is found in plenty, the best being the merabau, penak, rasok and chengal. Orchids of countless varieties abound. The principal fruit trees are the duri-an, mangosteen, custard-apple, pomegranate,. rambut-an, pulas-an, langsat, rambai, jack-fruit, coco-nut, areca-nut, sugar-palm, and banana. Coffee, tobacco, sugar-cane, rice, pepper,. gambier, cotton and sago are cultivated with success. Great developments have been made of recent years in the cultivation of rubber in British Malaya. The principal jungle products are gutta and rubber of several varieties, and many kinds of rattan. The mangrove grows on the shores of the west coast in profusion. Agilawood, the camphor tree, and ebony are also found in smaller quantities.

The fauna of the peninsula is varied and no less profuse than is the vegetable life. The Asiatic elephant; the seladang, a bison of a larger type than the Indian gaur; two varieties of rhinoceros; the honey bear (bruang), the tapir, the sambhur (rusa); the speckled deer (kijang), three varieties of mouse-deer (napoh, plandok and kanchil); the gibbon (ungka or wawa'), the siamang, another species of anthropoid ape, the brok or coco-nut monkey, so called because it is trained by the Malays to gather the nuts from the coco-nut trees, the lotong, kra, and at least twenty other kinds of monkey; the binturong (arctictis binturong), the lemur; the Asiatic tiger, the black panther, the leopard, the large wild cat (harimau akar), several varieties of jungle cat; the wild boar, the wild dog; the flying squirrel,. the flying fox; the python, the cobra, and many other varieties of snake, including the hamadryad; the alligator, the otter and the gavial, as well as countless kinds of squirrel, rat, &c., are found throughout the jungles of the peninsula in great numbers. On the east coast peafowl are found, and throughout the interior the argus pheasant, the firebacked pheasant, the blue partridge, the adjutantbird, several kinds of heron and crane, duck, teal, cotton-teal, snipe, wood-pigeon, green-pigeon of several varieties, swifts, swallows pied-robins, hornbills, parakeets, fly-catchers, nightjars, and many other kinds of bird are met with frequently. A few specimens of solitary goose have been procured, but the bird is rarely met with. The forests literally swarm with insects of all kinds, from cicadae to beautiful butterflies, and from stickand leaf-insects to endless. varieties of ants. The scorpion and the centipede are both common. The stud y of the insect life of the peninsula opens a splendid field for scientific research, and the profusion and variety of insects found in these forests probably surpass those to be met with anywhere else in the world.

Political Divisions and Population

Politically the Malay Peninsula is divided into four sections: the colony of the Straits Settlements and the Federated Malay States; the independent Malay State of Johor, which is within the British sphere of influence; the non-federated states under British protection; and the groups of states to the north of Perak and Pahang which are now recognized as lying within the sphere of influence of Siam. The colony of the Straits Settlements consists of the islands of Singapore, Penang and the Dindings, the territory of Province Wellesley, on the mainland opposite to Penang, the insignificant territory of the Dindings, and the town and territory of Malacca. The Federated Malay States under British protection consist of the sultanates of Perak, Selangor and the Negri Sambilan on the west coast, and the sultanate of Pahang on the east coast. Johor is the only Malay state in the southern portion of the peninsula, the whole of which is within the British sphere, which has been suffered to remain under native rule. The non-federated states. under British protection (since 1909) are Kelantan, Trengganu, Kedah and Perlis (Palit). The population of the peninsula numbers about 2,000,000, of whom about 600,000 inhabit the colony of the Straits Settlements, about 900,000 the Federated Malay States, about 200,000 the Malay State of Johor, and about 250,000 to 300,000 the remainder of the peninsula. The population of the peninsula includes about 850,000 Chinese, mostly immigrants or descendants of immigrants from the southern provinces of China, of whom about 300,000 reside in the colony of the Straits Settlements, 365,000 in the Federated Malay States,. 150,000 in Johor, and the remainder in smaller communities or as isolated traders scattered throughout the villages and small towns of the peninsula. The Malay population of the peninsula, including immigrants from the eastern archipelago, number some 750,000 to Soo,000, while the Tamils and other natives of India number about ioo,000, the aboriginal natives of the peninsula perhaps 20,000, Europeans and Americans about 6500, and Eurasians about 9000. The colony of the Straits Settlements, and to a lesser extent the towns of the Federated Malay States, carry a considerable heterogenous population, in which most of the races of Asia find their representatives.

Races of the Peninsula. - Excluding the Tai, or Siamese, who are undoubtedly recent intruders from the north, there are three races which for an extended period of time have had their home in the Malay Peninsula. These are the Semang or Pangan, the Sakai or Jakun, and the Malays. The Semang, as they are most usually called by the Malays, are Negritos - a small, very dark people, with features of the negroid type, very prognathous, and with short, woolly hair clinging to the scalp in tiny crisp curls. These people belong to the race which would seem to be the true aboriginal stock of southern Asia. Representatives of it are found scattered about the islands from the Andaman group southwards. The state of civilization to which they have attained is very low. They neither plant nor have they any manufactures except their rude bamboo and rattan vessels, the fish and game traps which they set with much skill, and the bows, blow-pipes and bamboo spears with which they and the produce of their hunting and fishing. The most civilized of this people are seldom seen even by the Sakai. From time to time cannot, however, be taken as typical of their race, and other specimens are armed. They are skilful hunters, however, catch fish by in geniously constructed traps, and live almost entirely on jungle-roots of these people is found in Upper Perak, and the members of this clan have acquired some knowledge of the art of planting, &c. They they have been raided by the latter, and many Negritos are to be found in captivity in some of the Malayan villages on the eastern side of the peninsula. The mistake of speaking of the Sakai tribes as practically identical with the Semang or Pangan has very frequently been made, but as a matter of fact the two races are absolutely distinct from one another. It has also been customary to include the Sakai in the category of Malayan races, but this too is undoubtedly incorrect. The Sakai still inhabit in greatest numbers the country which forms the interior of Pahang, the Plus and Kinta districts of Perak, and the valley of Nenggiri in Kelantan. Representatives of their race are also found scattered among the Malayan villages throughout the country, and also along the coast, but these have intermixed so much with the Malays, and have acquired so many customs, &c., from their more civilized neighbours, that they can no longer be regarded as typical of the race to which they belong. The pure Sakai in the interior have a good knowledge of planting rice, tapioca, &c., fashion pretty vessels from bamboos, which they decorate with patterns traced by the aid of fire, make loin-cloths (their only garment) from the bark of the trap and ipoh trees; are very musical, using a rude lute of bamboo, and a noseflute of a very sweet tone, and singing in chorus very melodiously; and altogether have attained in their primitive state to a higher degree of civilization than have the Semang. They are about as tall as the average Malay, are slimly built, light of colour, and have wavy fine hair. In their own language they usually have only three numerals, viz. na-nun, one; nar, two; and ne', three, or variants of these; all higher arithmetical ideas being expressed by the word kerpn, which means " many." A few cases have been recorded, however, of tribes who can count in their own tongue up to four and five. Among the more civilized, however, the Malay numerals up to ten are adopted by the Sakai. An examination of their language seems to indicate that, it belongs to the Mon-Khmer group of languages, and the anthropological information forthcoming concerning the Sakai points to the conclusion that they show a greater affinity to the people of the Mon-Khmer races than to the Malayan stock. Though they now use metal tools imported by the Malays, it is noticeable that the names which they give to those weapons which most closely resemble in character the stone implements found in such numbers all over the peninsula are native names wholly unconnected with their Malay equivalents. On account of this, it has been suggested that in a forgotten past the Sakai were themselves the fashioners of the stone implements, and certain it is that all tools which have no representatives among the stone kelts are known to the Sakai by obvious corruptions of their Malayan names. The presence of the Sakai, a people of the Mon-Khmer stock, in the interior of the peninsula has also been considered as one of many proofs that the Malays intruded from the south and approached the 004° D peninsula by means of a sea-route, since had they swept down from the north, being driven thence by the people of a stronger breed, it might be expected that the fringe of country dividing the two contending races would be inhabited by men of the more feeble stock. Instead, we find the Sakai occupying this position, thus indicating that they have been driven northward by the Malays, and that the latter people has not been expelled by the Mon-Khmer races from the countries now represented by Burma, Siam and French Indo-China. The Sakai population is dying out, and must eventually disappear. (With regard to the Malay, see Malays.) Archaeology. - The only ancient remains found in the peninsula are the stone implements, of which mention has already been made, and some remarkable ancient mines, which are situated in the Jelai valley in Pahang. The stone implements are generally of one or two types: a long rectangular adze or wedge rudely pointed at one end, and used in conjunction with a mallet or flat stone, and a roughly triangular axe-head, which has evidently been fixed in the B too R. Pah a+ g B Gulf of Siam 104 D C A NLB'O = D I A s° A too° hang Kut 1.141 Kon Pt. Rang 1.? Phu-Kwok r :.

i H Kato Pa Ngan K Junk Ceylon Puket 1. Langkawi I. P. Tubah.4. Guno rg?er Gep ? i: i Prov. We11Qs ey =?

alp 1 Dindings Medan Scale, t:R.000,000 English Miles oto 50 too 150 Railways «.*+ British Possessions...-... ......... Federated Malay under British Protection....... Siamese Malay States ...........i;: State Capitals Capitals of Provinces in Siam e Capital ring [?

1 Meaara t7 ?

.,., ta Bharu " Trengganu Di, ngun Cape) qMalac o an °  ?Medang r? s ' g 26? Sang  ? 0 ° _._.? R  ??.. .. -- Kuala Lu w raF Kwalon 8. Cape Ca-Mau cleft of a split stick. A few stones, which might perhaps be arrowheads, have been found, but they are very rare. The mines, which have been constructed for the purpose of working quartz lodes containing gold, are very extensive, and argue a high stage of civilization possessed by the ancient miners. They consist of a number of circular or rectangular pits sunk from the cap of a hill, and going down to a depth of in some cases as much as 120 ft., until in fact the miners have been stopped by being unable to cope with the quantity of water made when the level of the valley was reached. The shafts are placed so close together that in many instances they are divided by only a couple of feet of solid ground, but at their bases a considerable amount of gallery work has been excavated, though it is possible that this was done by miners who came after the people who originally sank the shafts. Native tradition attributes these mines to the Siamese, but no importance can be attached to this, as it is very general for the Malays to give this explanation for anything which is obviously not the work of their own ancestors. A theory, which seems to have some probability in its favour, is that these mines were worked by the Khmer people during the period of power, energy and prosperity which found its most lofty expression in the now ruined and deserted city of Angkor Thom; while another attributes these works to the natives of India whose Hindu remains are found in Java and elsewhere, whose influence was at one time widespread throughout Malayan lands, and of whose religious teaching remnants still linger in the superstitions of the Malays and are preserved in some purity in Lombok and Bali. In the absence, however, of any relics of a kind which might lead to the identification of the ancient miners, their nationality and origin are matters which must continue to be mere questions of speculation and conjecture.


The first hint to reach Europe concerning the existence of habitable lands to the eastward of the Ganges is to be found in the writings of Pomponius Mela (A.D. 43) which speak of Chryse, or the Golden Isle, as lying off Cape Tamus - supposed to be the most easterly point in Asia - and over against the estuary of the Ganges. Thereafter there occur vague references to Chryse in the Periplus of the Erythrean Sea, &c., but the earliest trace of anything resembling first-hand knowledge concerning the peninsula of Indo-China and Malaya is revealed in the writings of Ptolemy, whose views were mainly derived from those of his predecessor Marinus of Tyre, who in his turn drew his deductions from information supplied to him by the mariner Alexander who, there is every reason to think, had himself voyaged to the Malay Peninsula and beyond. In the light of present knowledge concerning the trade-routes of Asia, which had been in existence for thousands of years ere ever Europeans attempted to make use of them, it is safe to identify Ptolemy's Sinus Perimulicus with the Gulf of Siam, the Sinus Sabaricus with the Straits of Malacca from their southern portals to the Gulf of Martaban, the Aurea Chersonesus with the Malay Peninsula, and the island of Iabadius or Sabadius - the reading of the name is doubtful - with Sumatra, not as has often been mistakenly attempted with Java. Although the first definite endeavour to locate the Golden Chersonese thus dates from the middle of the 2nd century of our era, the name was apparently well known to the learned of Europe at a somewhat earlier period, and in his Antiquities of the Jews, written during the latter half of the 1st century, Josephus says that Solomon gave to the pilots furnished to him by Hiram of Tyre commands " that they should go along with his stewards to the land that of old was called Ophir, but now the Aurea Chersonesus, which belongs to India, to fetch gold." After the time of Ptolemy no advance in knowledge concerning the geography of south-eastern Asia was made until Cosmas Indicopleustes, a monk and an Alexandrian Greek, wrote from personal knowledge between A.D. 530 and S50. His primary object was to prove that the world was built after the same shape and fashion as the Ark made by the Children of Israel in the desert; but he was able to show that the Malay Peninsula had to be rounded and thereafter a course steered in a northerly direction if China was to be reached. Meanwhile inter-Asiatic intercourse by means of sea-routes had been steadily on the increase since the discovery of the way to utilize the monsoons and to sail directly to and fro across the Indian Ocean (attributed to the Greek pilot Hippalus) had been made. After the decline of the power of Rome, the dominant force in Asiatic commerce and navigation was Persia, and from that time onward, until the arrival of the Portuguese upon the scene early in the 16th century the spice trade, whose chief emporia were in or near the Malay Peninsula, was in Persian or Arab hands. There is considerable reason to think, however, that the more frequent ports of call in the Straits of Malacca were situated in Sumatra, rather than on the shores of the Malay Peninsula, and two famous medieval travellers, Marco Polo and Ibn Batuta, both called and wintered at the former, and make scant mention of the latter.

The importance of the Malay Peninsula, as has been noted, consisted in the privilege which its locality conferred upon it of being the distributing centre of the spices brought thither from the Moluccas en route for India and Europe. As early as the 3rd century B.C. Megasthenes makes mention of spices brought to the shores of the Ganges from " the southern parts of India," and the trade in question was probably one of the most ancient in the world. So long, however, as India held the monopoly of the clove, the Malay Peninsula was ignored,'the Hindus spreading their influence through the islands of the archipelago and leaving traces thereof even to this day. The Mahommedan traders from Persia and Arabia, following the routes which had been prepared for them by their forebears, broke down the Hindu monopoly and ousted the earlier exploiters so effectually that by the beginning of the i 6th century the spice trade was almost exclusively in their hands. These traders were also missionaries of their religion, as indeed is every Mahommedan, and to them is due the conversion of the Malays from rude pantheism, somewhat tinctured by Hindu mythology, to the Mahommedan creed. The desire to obtain the monopoly of the spice trade has been a potent force in the fashioning of Asiatic history. The Moluccas were, from the first, the objective of the Portuguese invaders, and no sooner had the white men found their way round the Cape of Good Hope and established themselves successively upon the coast of East Africa, in the neighbourhood of the Gulf of Aden and the Malabar coast, than Malacca, then the chief trading centre of the Malayan Archipelago, became the object of their desire. The first Portuguese expedition sent out to capture Malacca was under the command of Diogo Lopez de Siqueira and sailed from Portugal in 1508. At Cochin Siqueira took on board certain adherents of Alphonso d'Alboquerque who were in bad odour with his rival d'Almeida, among them being Magellan, the future circumnavigator of the world, and Francisco Serrao, the first European who ever lived in the Spice Islands. Siqueira's expedition ended in failure, owing partly to the aggressive attitude of the Portuguese, partly to the very justifiable suspicions of the Malays, and he was presently forced to destroy one of his vessels, to leave a number of his men in captivity, and to sail direct for Portugal. In 1510 a second expedition against Malacca was sent out from Portugal under the command of Diogo Mendez de Vasconcellos, but d'Alboquerque retained it at Cochin to aid him in the retaking of Goa, and it was not until 1511 that the great viceroy could spare time to turn his attention to the scene of Siqueira's failure. After some futile negotiations, which had for their object the recovery of the Portuguese captives before hostilities should begin, an assault was delivered upon Malacca, and though the first attempt to take the city failed after some hard fighting, a second assault made some days later succeeded, and Malacca passed for ever into European hands. The Portuguese were satisfied with the possession of Malacca itself and did not seek further to extend their empire in Malaya. Instead they used every endeavour to establish friendly relations with the rulers of all the neighbouring kingdoms, and before d'Alboquerque returned to India he despatched embassies to China, Siam, and several kingdoms of Sumatra, and sent a small fleet, with orders to assume a highly conciliatory attitude toward all natives, in search of the Moluccas. Very soon the spice trade had become a Portuguese monopoly, and Malacca was the great headquarters of the trade. It should moreover be noted that Magellan's famous expedition had for its object not the barren feat of circumnavigation but the breaking down of this monopoly, without violating the terms of the papal bull which gave to Spain the conquest of the West, to Portugal the possession of the East. In 1 528 a French expedition sailed from Dieppe, penetrated as far as Achin in Sumatra, but returned without reaching the Malay Peninsula. It was, however, the first attempt ever made to defy the papal bull. In 1591, three years after the defeat of the Armada, Raymond and Lancaster rounded the Cape, and after cruising off Penang, decided to winter in Achin. They subsequently hid among the Pulau Sambilan near the mouth of the Perak river, and thence captured a large Portuguese vessel which was sailing from Malacca in company with two Burmese ships. In 1595 the first Dutch expedition sailed from the Texel, but it took a more southerly course than its predecessors and confined its operations to Java and the neighbouring islands. During this period Achin developed a determined enmity to the Portuguese, and more than one attempt was made to drive the strangers from Malacca. Eventually, in 1641, a joint attack was made by the Achinese and the Dutch, but the latter, not the people of the sturdy little Sumatran kingdom, became the owners of the coveted port. Malacca was taken from the Dutch by the British in 1795; was restored to the latter in 1818; but in 1824 was exchanged for Benkulen and a few more unimportant places in Sumatra. The first British factory in the peninsula was established in the native state of Patani on the east coast in 1613, the place having been used by the Portuguese in the 16th century for a similar purpose; but the enterprise came to an untimely end in 1620 when Captain Jourdain, the first president, was killed in a naval engagement in Patani Roads by the Dutch. Penang was purchased from Kedah in 1786, and Singapore from the then sultan of Johor in 1819. The Straits Settlements - Singapore, Malacca and Penang - were ruled from India until 1867, when they were erected into a crown colony under the charge of the Colonial Office. In 1874 the Malay state of Perak was placed under British protection by a treaty entered into with its sultan; and this eventually led to the inclusion in a British protectorate of the neighbouring Malay States of Selangor, Sungei Ujong, the cluster of small states called the Negri Sembilan and Pahang, which now form the Federated Malay States. By a treaty made between Great Britain and Siam in 1902 the northern Malay states of the peninsula were admitted to lie within the Siamese sphere of influence, but by a treaty of 1909 Siam ceded her suzerain rights over the states of Kelantan, Trengganu, Kedah and Perlis to Britain.

Singapore is the political, commercial and administrative headquarters of the colony of the Straits Settlements, and the governor for the time being is ex officio high commissioner of the Federated Malay States, British North Borneo, Sarawak, the Cocos-Keeling and Christmas Islands, and governor of Labuan.

See Sir F. Swettenham, British Malaya (1906); H. Clifford, Further India (1904); Journal of the Malay Archipelago, Logan (Singapore); Journal of the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society (Singapore); Weld, Maxwell, Swettenham and Clifford in the Journal of the Royal Colonial Institute (London); Clifford in the Journal of the Royal Geographical Society (London). (H. CL.)

<< Malay Archipelago

Malays >>


Simple English

The Malay Peninsula (Malay: Semenanjung Tanah Melayu) is a big peninsula in Southeast Asia. The place is divided into three political parts. This includes:

  • the northwest is the extreme south part of Myanmar
  • the middle area and northeast is the south part of Thailand
  • the south is the part of Malaysia called Peninsular Malaysia or West Malaysia


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address