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History of Malaysia

Malaysia is located on a strategic sea-lane that exposes it to global trade and various cultures. Strictly, the name "Malaysia" is a modern concept, created in the second half of the 20th century. However, contemporary Malaysia regards the entire History of Malaya, spanning thousands of years back to Prehistoric times, as its own history, and as such it is treated in this page.

An early western account of the area is seen in Ptolemy's book Geographia, which mentions a "Golden Khersonese," now identified as the Malay Peninsula. Hinduism and Buddhism from India and China dominated early regional history, reaching their peak during the reign of the Sumatra-based Srivijaya civilisation, whose influence extended through Sumatra, Java, the Malay Peninsula and much of Borneo from the 7th to the 13th centuries.

Although Muslims had passed through the Malay Peninsula as early as the 10th century, it was not until the 14th century that Islam first firmly established itself. The adoption of Islam in the 14th century saw the rise of a number of sultanates, the most prominent of which was the Sultanate of Malacca. Islam had a profound influence on the Malay people, but has also been influenced by them. The Portuguese were the first European colonial powers to establish themselves on the Malay Peninsula and Southeast Asia, capturing Malacca in 1511, followed by the Dutch in 1641. However, it was the British who, after initially establishing bases at Jesselton, Kuching, Penang and Singapore, ultimately secured their hegemony across the territory that is now Malaysia. The Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1824 defined the boundaries between British Malaya and the Netherlands East Indies (which became Indonesia). A fourth phase of foreign influence was immigration of Chinese and Indian workers to meet the needs of the colonial economy created by the British in the Malay Peninsula and Borneo.

Japanese invasion during World War II ended British domination in Malaysia. The subsequent occupation of Malaya, North Borneo and Sarawak from 1942 to 1945 unleashed nationalism. In the Peninsula, the Malayan Communist Party took up arms against the British. A tough military response ended the insurgency and brought about the establishment of an independent, multi-racial Federation of Malaya on 31 August 1957. On 22 July 1963, Sarawak was granted self-governance. The following month on 31 August 1963, both North Borneo and Singapore were also granted self-governance and all states formed Malaysia on 16 September 1963. Approximately two years later, the Malaysian parliament passed a bill without the consent of signatories of the Malaysia Agreement 1963 to separate Singapore from the Federation.[3] A confrontation with Indonesia occurred in the early-1960s. Race riots in 1969 led to the imposition of emergency rule, and a curtailment of political life and civil liberties which has never been fully reversed. Since 1970 the Barisan Nasional coalition headed by United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) had governed Malaysia until defeated by the Pakatan Harapan coalition which was headed by ex-UMNO leader Mahathir Mohamad on 10 May 2018.


The economy of Malaysia is the third largest in Southeast Asia, after Indonesia and Thailand, and is the 35th largest economy in the world. Labour productivity in Malaysia is significantly higher than in neighbouring Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines or Vietnam due to a high density of knowledge-based industries and adoption of cutting-edge technology for manufacturing and digital economy. According to the Global Competitiveness Report 2019, the Malaysian economy is the 27th most competitive country in the world.

Malaysian citizens enjoy affluent lifestyle compared to almost all other ASEAN countries. Their standard of living are closer to the Western Europe countries such as Portugal and Spain, and closely resembled the developed part of Eastern Europe such as Poland, Latvia, and Czech Republic. This is due to a fast growing export oriented economy, a relatively low national income tax, highly affordable local food, and transport fuel, as well as a fully subsidized single payer public-healthcare. Moreover, social welfare benefit with direct cash benefit transfer called Cost of Living Assistance is also in place since 2011. With an income per capita of 34,657 PPP Dollars (IMF World Economic Outlook, March 2020) , Malaysia is the third wealthiest nation in Southeast Asia after the smaller city-states of Singapore and Brunei. Malaysia has a newly industrialised market economy, which is relatively open and state-oriented. The Malaysian economy is highly robust and diversified with the export value of high-tech products in 2015 standing at US$57.258 billion, the second highest after Singapore in ASEAN. Malaysia exports the second largest volume and value of palm oil products globally after Indonesia.


The climate of Malaysia can be described as typical tropical climate, with the coastal plains averaging 28째C, the inland and mountain areas averaging 26째C, and the higher mountain regions, 23째C. The area's relative humidity is quite high, and ranges between 70 and 90 percent. Malaysia has extreme variations in rainfall that are linked with the monsoons. Generally speaking, there is a dry season (June to September), and a rainy season (December to March). Western and northern parts of Malaysia experience the most precipitation, since the north- and westward-moving monsoon clouds are heavy with moisture by the time they reach these more distant regions. Lightweight cotton clothing is advised throughout the year, with an umbrella or raincoat for sudden cloudbursts. No matter where you go, be prepared for high temperatures and humidity.


The culture of Malaysia draws on the varied cultures of the different people of Malaysia. The first people to live in the area were indigenous tribes that still remain; they were followed by the Malays, who moved there from mainland Asia in ancient times. Chinese and Indian cultural influences made their mark when trade began with those countries, and increased with immigration to Malaysia. Other cultures that heavily influenced that of Malaysia include Persian, Arabic, British. The many different ethnicities that currently exist in Malaysia have their own unique and distinctive cultural identities, with some crossover.