Penang Travel Tips And Things To Do In Penang


Penang History During The British Rule, 1786

Penang history was back dated to the 16th century when the island was then under the rule of Kedah state rulers.
Captain James Lancaster was one of the first British traders to discover Penang during a spice trade mission to East India in 1593.But he did not stay on as the island was hardly inhabited.

Many years later, Penang became a prominent trading port of call for spice and opium trading. In 1765 when Captain Francis Light landed in Penang, he saw this a lucrative opportunity for merchandise trading.
At that time the state of Kedah was constantly attacked by the Siamese and Burmese strong armies from the northern territories. The Rulers of Kedah were in urgent need of protection from neighbouring attacks and was forced to offer Penang in 1771 to the British in return for protection against the enemies.

Penang was officially handed over to the British in 1786, on 11th of August. Captain Francis Light officially became the founder of Penang and named it "Prince of Wales Island". Immediate steps were initiated to protect Penang and Kedah state from neighbouring attacks according to the treaty. A fortress, named Fort Cornwallis, was built at the seafront to watch over attacks from the enemies and defend the island. The British Union Jack flag was hoisted to mark the beginning of British influences and protection in Penang. In the Malay language the island was called "Pinang", which quite similar  to the British pronunciation for Penang.

After a few years when it was found out that the British did not honour the terms for protection of Kedah and Penang as stated in the treaty, the Rulers of Kedah were furious and declared war to take back Penang, but was defeated by the British troop. So Penang continued to remain under British rule in return for payment of Malayan $18,000.00 by the government of Penang to Kedah state under a new treaty.

Penang continued to prosper under Francis Light's control until his death on 21st October, 1794. He was succeeded by Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Wellesley. In order to take full control of the trading activities in Penang harbour and the food supplies from the Malay mainland of Malaya, Sir George Leith, the new Lieutenant Governor of Prince Of Wales Island negotiated and secured a narrow strip of land across Penang island in Malaya mainland. This strip of land belonged to Penang until today and was named as Province Wellesley.

Penang was the capital (1804 -1935)of the British Straits Settlement states, which were made up of Penang, Malacca and Singapore. This explained why the architectural influences of European foreigners are seen in these3 Straits Settlement States today, particular in Penang.

Penang became a strategic port for import and export cargoes, with traders sailing from India, Indonesia, Singapore and Burma ports. Penang then flourished under British rule until World War II in 1942, when the Japanese
army troops invaded South-East Asia countries. The British fled when Penang was constantly bombed by the Japanese army. World War II sufferings and torture by the Japanese lasted until their surrender in 1945 when the Americans dropped 2 atomic bombs, one  each in Hiroshima and Nagasaki city on 4th of September, Japan.

The British returned and regained their control of the Straits Settlement states after World War II. But then the Malay rulers began to realise that Malaya cannot continue to depend fully on the British for protection after seeing their weakness during Japanese invasion period.

The rulers of the 13 states in Malaya, including Penang and Singapore island, joined forces together and became united as 1 nation. The Chinese, Indians and Malays became more united under the guidance and leadership of Tunku Abdul Rahman and Independence day for Malaysia was declared on 31st August, 1957. Tunku Abdul Rahman became the first Prime Minister of Malaysia . Georgetown, Penang was awarded 'city' status in the same year.

Back To Penang Heritage & Culture

Copyright © 2021 All Rights Reserved

All trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

Contact Us | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy