Why Did the British Want to Have a Trading Settlement in Singapore?

2 February 2017

In this essay, I would like to discuss on why the British wanted to have a trading settlement in Singapore. The British needed a new trading settlement in the region. This was to break the Dutch monopoly in the Malay Archipelago, because, though the British then had already established two trading settlements at Penang and Bencoolen, they were not located near the main trading area in the Archipelago, thus were not suited to become major trading centres. Penang was located too far up, thus away from the Straits of Malacca, the main ship passageway for the India-China trade.

Bencoolen, on the other hand, faced the Indian Ocean, overseeing the entrance to the Sunda Straits, so it was a much less important area. As a result, the Dutch continued to spread their monopoly of trade to more and more areas in the region. The British were afraid that their commercial trade with China would be affected if the Dutch continued to occupy more areas in the Archipelago. Furthermore, the British were prohibited from operating in Dutch-controlled ports, with the exception of Batavia, where unfavourable prices were imposed.

Why Did the British Want to Have a Trading Settlement in Singapore? Essay Example

So, Sir Stamford Raffles, the Lieutenant Governor of the British colony at Bencoolen, reasoned that to compete with the Dutch, a new trading port in the region was needed. Singapore was chosen by the British as their new trading settlement because of its good position for trade. It was located at the southern entrance of the Straits of Melaka, thus occupied a central position on the main trade route between India and China. Due to its commanding position, it would become an important port of call for British on their way to China.

Even better was the opening of Hong Kong and other treaty ports in China, which caused more traders to sail to China. Singapore, which was located on the main China route, would as a result benefit from this increased trade. Sir Stamford Raffles understood that Singapore would prosper, and become a major port for traders from Europe, the Middle East, India, China and Southeast Asia. So, Singapore was chosen. Singapore possessed an excellent natural harbour, one of the safest harbours in the region. Singapore had a deep harbour, which can make escellent docking facilities.

It was inland, thus good for protecting the ships from stormy winds. It also had fresh water supplies, and timber for repairing ships. This made it a favourable place for the British to have a trading settlement. There was no Dutch presence in Singapore, thus able to be established as a British trading settlement, which was one reason why many other areas were unsuitable. Though it was under the sphere of influence of the Dutch through the Johor sultanate, Raffles found a way around it. Singapore was part of the Johor-Riau sultanate, which was under the control of Sultan Abdul Rahman, who was under the control of the Dutch.

Of course, the Dutch would not allow the British to occupy Singapore as it would threaten the Dutch position. However, the Temenggong saw the arrival of Raffles as an opportunity for him to regain power in Johor court politics, having a European powerbacking his struggle. So, he informed Raffles of the ‘legal loophole’ surrounding the coronation of Sultan Abdul Rahman. There was the story of how Tengku Abdul Rahman became the Sultan instead of his elder brother, Tengku Hussein, who was the rightful heir.

When the former Sultan had died, Tengku Hussein was away in Pahang getting married, whereas his younger brother, Tengku Abdul Rahman was present. The Bugis chiefs in Riau, together with the Dutch, decided to make the younger son, Tengku Abdul Rahman the new Sultan. Tengku Hussein had no choice but to live quietly in Riau. After listening to the story, Raffles came up with plan that would allow the British to start their trading settlement in Singapore. Without Dutch presence, Raffles was able to maneuver stealthily without agitating the Dutch immediately.

With the Temenggong’s support and Raffles’ own sly intelligence, he arranged for Tengku Hussein to be smuggled into Singapore, recognized him as the rightful Sultan, and then obtained permission to start the settlement. So, the British managed to start their settlement in Singapore in spite of the original Dutch control over the island. On February 6 1819, Sultan Hussein and the Temenggong signed a treaty with Raffles, which allowed the British to start a trading settlement there. To conclude, the British wanted to have a trading settlement in Singapore as it was trying to replace the Dutch as the dominant power in the archipelago.

The British also chose Singapore, and not other sites, as Singapore location was very favourable, being in the trade route between China and India. Singapore was also an excellent natural harbour, safe for protecting ships. Finally, though Singapore supposed to be under the Dutch, the political situation was very murky. Thus, the British were able to start a trading settlement here, and not at other sites which were under the strict control of the Dutch. So, Singapore was the most suitable place to help the British break the Dutch monopoly of trade in the Malay Archipelago.

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Why Did the British Want to Have a Trading Settlement in Singapore?. (2017, Feb 05). Retrieved August 1, 2021, from https://newyorkessays.com/essay-why-did-the-british-want-to-have-a-trading-settlement-in-singapore/
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