Singapore is a city-state located at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, about 85 miles (137 kilometres) north of the Equator. It consists of the diamond-shaped main island and some 60 small islets. This main island is separated from Peninsular Malaysia to the north by Johor Strait, a narrow channel crossed by a road and rail causeway that is more than half a mile long. The southern limits of the state run through Singapore Strait, where outliers of the Riau-Lingga Archipelago—which forms a part of Indonesia—extend to within 10 miles of the main island.
Night view of the city.
From 1867 to the 1940s, Singapore, having taken over Penang as capital of the Settlements, grew into a thriving entrepôt and settler-colony under the auspices of the British Empire, attracting large numbers of non-indigenous settlers and sojourners from the region and beyond. During the Second World War, Imperial Japan invaded and annexed the country, resulting in an interregnum of British colonial rule corresponding with a brief but bloody Japanese occupation from 1942 to 1945.
Following Japan’s surrender in 1945, it was returned to British control; in 1946, the Straits Settlements were dissolved, and Singapore became a standalone crown colony. In 1959 it was granted limited autonomy; in 1963, it became fully emancipated from the British Empire upon its federation with the territories of the erstwhile British Malaya and British Borneo to form the new country of Malaysia.
However, after two tumultuous years as a constituent state of the Malaysian Federation, marred by violent ethno religious strife and other intractable differences between indigenous and non-indigenous groups, the country was expelled in 1965, becoming the first country in modern history to gain independence against its will. After early years of turbulence, the newly sovereign nation defied odds by rapidly developing and industrialising under the leadership of the inaugural People’s Action Party to become a high-income economy and developed country within a single generation.
The port is the largest in Southeast Asia and one of the busiest in the world. It owes its growth and prosperity to its focal position at the southern extremity of the Malay Peninsula, where it dominates the Strait of Malacca, which connects the Indian Ocean to the South China Sea. Once a British colony and now a member of the Commonwealth, it first joined the Federation of Malaysia on its formation in 1963 but seceded to become an independent state on August 9, 1965.