History Of Singapore


Legend has it that many centuries ago, a Sumatran prince came to the island of Singapore and there, saw a lion. This was seen as a lucky portent and therefore he decided to call the city Singapura, which means Lion City.

There has been some dispute about whether there were even any lions in Singapore, but it has been thought possible that the prince in question (possibly Sang Nila Utama, a Srivijayan prince) may have come across a Malayan tiger.

Whether this is closer to the truth or not is unclear to this day!


Whether this legend has any basis in fact may remain unknown, but what is known is that the name Singapura means “lion” in Sanskrit. The original name Simhapura is derived from the words simha meaning lion and pura meaning city. This is the literal translation of the name “The Lion City”.

Singapore is certainly not the islands only name. It has also been known as Pulau Ujong since the third century. This name means “the island at the end” – the end referring to the end of the Malay peninsula and is a Malay word.


More recently, the British arrived in Singapore in 1819, in the shape of Sir Stamford Raffles (1781-1826).

He was a clerk for the British East India Company and recognised the potential of the island as a trading post.

At the time, however, the island was still formally in the domain of the Sultan of Johor. This was in the control of both the Dutch and the Bugis.

However, there was a dispute about who should become the next Sultan and Raffles helped exploit the situation to his, and his country’s advantage.

In 1824 the British became the new owners of Singapore.

Prior to the arrival of the British, the population of Singapore had been low, with only around an estimated 1000 people. Since they established the island as a trading post, this was to expand rapidly in the following decades, until in 1860 it reached 80,000. More than half of the population were Chinese. Ten years later, by 1870 the population swelled to the 100,000 mark.

In this era, the Suez Canal would increase the importance of Singapore in the region even further.


Singapore fell to Japanese occupation in February 1942. This loss was one of the worst disasters to befall the British campaign in World War Two. With heavy losses, the British were badly bruised as an occupying force and the failure to adequately defend the island against the Japanese would land a blow to their credibility, amongst the islanders.


Although the British returned to rule after 1945, they granted it self-governance in 1946.

In 1963, the island merged with Malaysia, still as part of the Commonwealth countries.

However, this was rather short lived, as a truce between the two countries was not to be found.


In 1965 Singapore gained independence in its own right.


Today, Singapore is best known as a highly developed economic power and is the only Asian country to achieve the triple rating AAA credit rating.

As such a well known centre of business excellence, it is perhaps not surprising that in 2016 it was declared the most expensive city in the world!