Sultanate of Malacca
Before the arrival of the first Sultan, Malacca was a fishing village inhabited by local inhabitants known as Orang Laut. Malacca was founded by Parameswara, also known as Iskandar Shah, the last Raja of Temasek (present day Singapore) following a Majapahit attack in 1377. He found his way to Malacca around 1400 where he found a good port—it was accessible in all seasons and on the strategically located narrowest point of the Malacca Straits.
According to a popular legend, Parameswara was resting under a tree near a river during a hunt, when one of his dogs cornered a mouse deer. In self-defence, the mouse deer pushed the dog into the river. Impressed by the courage of the deer, and taking it as a propitious omen of the weak overcoming the powerful, Parameswara decided then and there to found an empire on that very spot. He named it 'Malacca' after the tree where he had just taken shelter at, the Malacca tree (Malay: Pokok Melaka).
Prominent Malaysian artist Syed Thajudeen visually depicted the epic tale of the founding of Malacca on canvas. The Beginning, a 4 panel painting measuring 183 x 512 cm is now a permanent collection at Galeri Petronas.
In collaboration with allies from the sea-people (orang laut), the wandering proto-Malay privateers of the Straits, he established Malacca as an international port by compelling passing ships to call there, and establishing fair and reliable facilities for warehousing and trade.
Mao Kun map
, from Wubei Zhi
, which comes from the early 15th century maps of Zheng He
's navigators and cartographers, showing Malacca (滿剌加) near the top left.
In Malacca during the early 15th century, Ming China actively sought to develop a commercial hub and a base of operation for their treasure voyages into the Indian Ocean. Malacca had been a relatively insignificant region, not even qualifying as a polity prior to the voyages according to both Ma Huan and Fei Xin, and was a vassal region of Siam. In 1405, the Ming court dispatched Admiral Zheng He with a stone tablet enfeoffing the Western Mountain of Malacca as well as an imperial order elevating the status of the port to a country. The Chinese also established a government depot (官廠) as a fortified cantonment for their soldiers. Ma Huan reported that Siam did not dare to invade Malacca thereafter. The rulers of Malacca, such as Parameswara (白里迷蘇剌) in 1411, would pay tribute to the Chinese emperor in person. In 1431, when a Malaccan representative complained that Siam was obstructing tribute missions to the Ming court, the Xuande Emperor dispatched Zheng He carrying a threatening message for the Siamese king saying "You, king should respect my orders, develop good relations with your neighbours, examine and instruct your subordinates and not act recklessly or aggressively."
Because of its strategic location, Malacca was an important stopping point for Zheng He's fleet. To enhance relations, Hang Li Po, according to local folklore, a daughter of the Ming Emperor of China, arrived in Malacca, accompanied by 500 attendants, to marry Sultan Manshur Shah who reigned from 1456 until 1477. Her attendants married locals and settled mostly in Bukit Cina.
"In the 9th month of the year 1481 envoys arrived with the [......] Malacca again sent envoys to China in 1481 to inform the Chinese that, while Malaccan envoys were returning to Malacca from China in 1469, the Vietnamese attacked the Malaccans, killing some of them while castrating the young and enslaving them. The Malaccans reported that Vietnam was in control of Champa and also sought to conquer Malacca, but the Malaccans did not fight back, because they did not want to fight against another state that was a tributary to China without permission from the Chinese. They requested to confront the Vietnamese delegation to China which was in China at the time, but the Chinese informed them since the incident was years old, they could do nothing about it, and the Emperor sent a letter to the Vietnamese ruler reproaching him for the incident. The Chinese Emperor also ordered the Malaccans to raise soldiers and fight back with violent force if the Vietnamese attacked them again.
1630 map of the Portuguese fort and the city of Melaka
In April 1511, Alfonso de Albuquerque set sail from Goa to Malacca with a force of some 1200 men and seventeen or eighteen ships. They conquered the city on 24 August 1511. After seizing the city Afonso de Albuquerque spared the Hindu, Chinese and Burmese inhabitants but had the Muslim inhabitants massacred or sold into slavery.
It soon became clear that Portuguese control of Malacca did not also mean they controlled Asian trade centred there. Their Malaccan rule was severely hampered by administrative and economic difficulties. Rather than achieving their ambition of dominating Asian trade, the Portuguese had disrupted the organisation of the network. The centralised port of exchange of Asian wealth had now gone, as was a Malay state to police the Straits of Malacca that made it safe for commercial traffic. Trade was now scattered over a number of ports among bitter warfare in the Straits.
The Jesuit missionary Francis Xavier spent several months in Malacca in 1545, 1546, and 1549. The Dutch launched several attacks on the Portuguese colony during the first four decades of the seventeenth century. The first attack took place in 1606 under the command of Dutch Admiral Cornelis Matelief de Jonge who laid siege to the town with the help of his Johor allies. He engaged the Portuguese armada which had been sent from Goa to offer armed relief to the besieged port. In 14 January 1641, the Dutch defeated the Portuguese in an effort to capture Malacca, with the help of the Sultan of Johor. The Dutch ruled Malacca from 1641 to 1798 but they were not interested in developing it as a trading centre, placing greater importance on Batavia (Jakarta) on Java as their administrative centre. However they still built their landmark, better known as the Stadthuys. In the Dutch era the building was white, the red paint is of later date.
Malacca was ceded to the British in the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1824 in exchange for Bencoolen on Sumatra. From 1824 to 1942, Malacca was under the rule of the British, first by the British East India Company and then as a crown colony. Due to dissatisfaction with British jurisdiction over Naning, Dol Said, a local chief and the East India Company had a war from 1831 to 1832, which resulted in a decisive British victory. It formed part of the Straits Settlements, together with Singapore and Penang. Malacca went briefly under the rule of Empire of Japan in 1942–1945 during World War II.
Post colonial era
After the dissolution of this crown colony, Malacca and Penang became part of the Malayan Union on 1 April 1946, which later became the Federation of Malaya in 1 February 1948. The declaration of independence was made by the first Prime Minister of Malaya, Tunku Abdul Rahman, at Padang Pahlawan on 20 February 1956, which eventually led to the independence of Malaya on 31 August 1957. In 16 September 1963, Malaysia was formed with the merger of Malaya with Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore, and Malacca became part of it. On 15 April 1989, Malacca was declared a historical city. It was then also listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site since 7 July 2008.