About Melaka :: The History of Malacca
Melaka is known as a historically rich state and is recognised as one which epitomised the spirit of a nation, forged through the crucible of a tumultuous and intricate history.
Melaka was founded by Parameswara (or Raja Iskandar) the last Malay ruler of Temasik (ancient Singapore) in 1396 when he and his followers retreated up the straits to Muar, then tu Sungai Ujung before settling at Bertam near the estuary of Melaka River.
Finding the place is of strategic location, he decided to make a permanent settlement there, naming it “Melaka” after the name of the tree he leaned against.
The Melaka Sultanate occupies a special position in the history of Malaysia. Its inauguration marked the beginning of the emergence of a new Malay empire. The birthplace of the Malay Sultanates and Malaysia’s historic city, Melaka provided the stage on which the Portuguese, Dutch and English played out their roles in shaping history.
Melaka emerged as a strong maritime trading state under the industrious Parameswara and his chiefs. Melaka also began to be noticed by Muslim traders from West Asia and India, who until that period, had been concentrating their activities in Aru, Pedir and Pasai en-route to the East, especially China. Because of its strategic location straddling the Straits of Melaka, it thrived as a port-of-call and a centre of entrepot trade with ships and merchants from China, Japan, India, Arab and South Africa.
In 1511, it fell to the hands of the Portuguese, followed by the Dutch in 1641 after a fierce battle. In 1795, Melaka was given to the British to prevent it falling to the French when the Netherlands was captured during the Napoleonic Wars. It was returned to the Dutch in 1818 under the treaty of Vienna but was later exchanged by the Brisith for Bangkahulu, Sumatra. From 1826 onwards, the British East India Company along with Singapore and Penang governed it, under the Straits Settlement administration in Calcutta.
The Dutch, who held Melaka for over a century, left many fine buildings marking their heritage. The most imposing relic of the Dutch period is the Stadthuys, a strikingly pink town hall which is today the oldest Dutch building in the Far East. Right next to it stands the bright red Christ Church, constructed with pink bricks imported from Holland and covered with local red lacerite. Today, these buildings together with the ruins of the Portuguese built A Famosa and St. Paul’s Church are the most prominent reminders of the Europeans’ presence in Melaka.
After World War II, anti-colonial sentiment bred in the country among the nationalists, the result of which was the proclamation of Independence by Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra, Malaysia’s first Prime Minister, at the Padang Pahlawan (Warrior’s Field) at Bandar Hilir, Melaka on 20 February 1956.
Melaka History: 14th Century
The Sejarah Melayu (Malay Annals) relate that Parameswara was a fourteenth-century Palembang prince who, fleeing from a Javanese enemy, escaped to the island of Temasik (present-day Singapore) and quickly established himself as its king. Shortly afterward, however, Parameswara was driven out of Temasik by an invasion by the Siamese, and with a small band of followers set out along the west coast of the Malay peninsula in search of a new refuge. The refugees settled first at Muar, Johor, but they were quickly driven away by a vast and implacable horde of monitor lizards; the second spot chosen seemed equally unfavorable, as the fortress that the refugees began to build fell to ruins immediately.
Parameswara moved on. Soon afterward, during a hunt near the mouth of a river called Bertam, he saw a white mouse-deer or pelanduk kick one of his hunting dogs. So impressed was he by the mouse-deer’s brave gesture that he decided immediately to build a city on the spot. He asked one of his servants the name of the tree under which he was resting and, being informed that the tree was called a Melaka, gave that name to the city. The year was 1396.
Melaka History: 15th Century
1400 After defeated by Majapahit forces, Parameswara, a prince from Palembang, moved to Temasik (the original name for Singapore) and later on opened Melaka.
1403 The first Chinese envoy, Yin Ching, arrives in Melaka.
1409 The Chinese Imperial Fleet, under Admiral Cheng Ho, visits Melaka.
1411 Parameswara visits the Ming Emperor in China.
1414 Parameswara embraces Islam and changes his name to Raja Iskandar Shah.
1424 Parameswara’s son, Seri Maharaja, ascends the throne and later assumes the title “Sultan”, becoming the first ruler to do so in this region. He changes his name to Sultan Muhammad Shah and rules according to the principles of Islam, establishing palace etiquettes and spreading Islam in this region.
1445 Raja Ibrahim, the youngest son of Sultan Muhammad Shah becomes ruler upon his father’s death and assumes the name, Sultan Abu Shahid.
1446 Sultan Abu Shahid’s accidental death results in Sultan Muzaffar Shah, his elder brother, assuming the throne.
1447 The first Siamese attack on Melaka but was repelled by Melakan fleet.
1456 Tun Perak is appointed as the Bendahara, or Prime Minister, and becomes the most well known of all the Bendaharas responsible for the rise of Melaka.
1458 Sultan Mansor Shah succeeds his father, Sultan Muzaffar Shah.
1477 Sultan Mansor Shah passes away and is succeeded by his son, Sultan Alauddin Riayat Shah.
1488 An enterprising and just ruler, Sultan Alauddin dies of poisoning in Pagoh. Sultan Mahmud Shah ascends the throne due to the efforts of Tun Perak and Hang Tuah (a legendary warrior).
1498 Tun Perak passes away.
Melaka History: 16th Century
1500 Tun Mutahir, the cousin of Tun Perak, is appointed Bendahara.
1509 The first Portuguese trading expedition, led by Diego Lopez de Sequiera arrives in Melaka with a fleet of ships, becoming the first European to reach this archipelago.
1510 Bendahara Tun Mutahir is murdered. Sultan Mahmud Shah temporarily retires and is succeeded by his son, Sultan Ahmad Shah.
1511 After a 10 day siege, Melaka falls to the Portuguese armada, led by Alfonso D’ Albuquerque. The Portuguese rule in Melaka lasts for over 130 years.
1512 Albuquerque returns to Goa in January after completing the “A Famosa” fortress that incorporated a five storey tall tower. Sultan Mahmud Shah attacks the Portuguese in Melaka.
1513 Patih Unus, a Javanese trader later to become Sultan Demak of Sumatra, attacks Melaka.
1516 Laksamana (Admiral) Hang Nadim, son of Hang Tuah attacks Melaka.
1518/19 Sultan Mahmud Shah’s army surrounds the city for three months.
1523 Sultan Mahmud Shah attacks Melaka.
1524 Admiral Hang Nadim besieges Melaka and cuts off its food supply.
1537 First Acehnese attack on Portuguese in Melaka.
1545 Fr. Francis Xavier arrives in Melaka for the first time. He was to visit Melaka five more times.
1551 Combined forces of Johor, Japara and Perak attack Melaka and hold it under siege for three months.
1553 Fr. Francis Xavier, who dies in Sanction Island, near Canton, China, is buried in St. Paul’s Church. After nine months, his remains are moved to Goa.
1567/68 With help from Johor, the Acehnese attack Melaka again but are defeated.
1571 The Acehnese attempt an attack on Melaka again but their invasion is foiled by a storm.
1575 Japara attacks Melaka.
1585/86 Johor attacks Melaka.
1588 The first English visitor, Ralph Ritch, arrives in Melaka.
1597 The Dutch attack Melaka.
Melaka History: 17th Century
1606 A combined Dutch and Johor force attacks Melaka. The timely arrival of Portuguese reinforcement from Goa saves Melaka.
1615/16 The Acehnese mount another attack on Melaka.
1628/29 The Acehnese hold Melaka for eight months before withdrawing.
1636 Dutch ships destroy Portuguese ships off the harbour.
1641 The Dutch and Johor Malays attack again. After a fierce battle, the Portuguese are forced to surrender. Dutch rule in Melaka lasts for 154 years.
1645 The Cheng Hoon Teng temple is built by Chinese head man, Lee Wei King. This is the oldest surviving temple in Malaysia.
1645 / 70 Dutch war with Naning in the interior.
1650 The Stadthuys or “State house”, the residence of the Dutch Governor, as well as the administrative centre is built.
Melaka History: 18th Century
1710 St. Peter’s church, the oldest functioning Christian Church in Malaysia, is built by the Dutch descendents comprising an architectural mix of Oriental and Occidental.
1753 The Christ Church is completed.
1756 The Bugis under Daing Kamboja attack Melaka.
1784 Raja Haji lands in Melaka to capture it but is killed.
1795 The British take over Melaka from the Dutch.
Melaka History: 19th Century
1806 The British begin the demolition of the Portuguese fortress and total abandonment of Melaka. They planned to transfer the trade and population to Penang in order to weaken Melaka’s standing as a trading centre.
1808 The timely arrival of Stamford Raffles, saves Melaka from total destruction.
1818 With the end of the Napoleonic Wars, Melaka is returned to the Dutch under the Treaty of Venice.
1819 Sultan Hussain Mohammad Shah of Johor cedes Singapore to the English East India Company. The Sultan’s grave lies within the ground of the Tranquerah Mosque.
1824 By Anglo-Dutch Traty, or Treaty of London, Melaka is firmly placed under British rule. Along with Penang and Singapore, Melaka is incorporated into the Straits Settement in 1826.
1867 The administration of the Straits Settlements is transferred from the Governor – General of India’s Office to the Colonial Office in London and Melaka becomes a British colony.
Melaka History: 20th Century
1904 The Queen Victoria Fountain is erected to commemorate Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee.
1942 The Japanese Occupation forces take over Melaka.
1945 Melaka is returrned to British rule after the Japanese surrender to the British in Singapore.
1948 A state of “Emergency” is proclaimed as Malaya fights against communist insurgency. Melaka joins the Federation of Malaya.
1956 The proclamation of the date of independence by Tunku Abdul Rahman, Malaysia’s first Prime Minister takes place at Padang Banda Hilir (Padang Pahlawan) in Melaka on 20th February.
1957 Malaysia achieves her independence on August 31st. Melaka’s last British Resident Commissioner, H.G. Hammet, hands the instrument of independence to the first local Governer.
1989 Melaka is declared a Historic City on April 15th.