Singapore was first mentioned in a 3rd Century Chinese account, which described it as "Pu-luo-chung", or island at the end of the peninsula. In the 7th Century, a Malayan Buddhist Empire was established on the island of Sumatra. Temasek (Sea Town) as Singapore was then known, was a prosperous trading outpost of this empire. However, it is said that in the 13th Century, a member of the Royal family, Sang Nila Utama, was searching for a site to build a new city. Arriving at the sandy shores of the island, he mistook a tiger for a lion. Taking this as a good omen, he decided to build his new city here, naming it Singapura, the Sanskrit words for Lion City. Singapore's modern name was thus born.
Singapore remained an obscure fishing village under the possession of the Sultanate until the fateful day in January 1819. Sir Stamford Raffles, an official of the British East India Company, had combed the Straits of Malacca for a small trading station to counter the Dutch influence in the area. The tiny fishing village of Singapore was perfect because it was at the crossroads of the East and West. He then signed an agreement with the Sultan of Johor, giving the British the right to establish a trading port on the island and to proclaim it a free port. It was against this political backdrop that Sir Stamford Raffles established Singapore as a trading station. The policy of free trade attracted merchants from all over Asia and from as far afield as the United States and the Middle East. The main trade items were tea and silk from China, timber from Malaya, and spices from Indonesia. The colony also imported opium and fabrics from India, as well as English-manufactured goods from Britain. By 1824, just five years after the founding of modern Singapore, the population had grown from a mere 150 to 10,000.
During World War II in 1942, the security was rudely shattered when the Japanese invaded North Malaya and advanced towards Singapore. The British administration in Singapore surrendered on February 8, 1942. Under the Japanese ruling, Singapore was renamed Syonan (light of the South), and the commerce died down.
After the war in August, 1945, Singapore became a Crown Colony. In 1959, however, full elections were held and self-government under a new constitution was granted in Singapore. It joined Malaysia to become one country in September 1963 but differences between the leaders became serious enough for a separation. Singapore became an independent nation on August 9, 1965.
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