10. The East Indies

For centuries European trade with India and Cathay (China) had been conducted along the various tributaries of the Silk Road. Eastern products such as precious metals and gem stones, perfumes, spices and fine textiles were highly prized in Europe, but were subject to high transport costs and, once the Ottomans took control of Constantinople in 1453, militant political and financial interference. However, the Venetians managed to maintain the trade in eastern goods through Constantinople and the Levantine ports, and charged exorbitant prices to their customers in Western Europe. The Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama finally made direct contact with the Indies in 1498 via the Cape of Good Hope in southern Africa. For nearly a century the Portuguese retained a trading monopoly on this seaborne route to the East Indies, Arabia and the east coast of Africa. They also planted the Roman Catholic Christian religion in much of the region. One problem was that most eastern countries had little interest in European products and would only take payment in silver or gold and possibly slaves from Africa. Much of the supply of silver from mines in Spanish-America finished in the hands of Portugal’s eastern trading partners. Later in the early 17th century, trade was in decline, Portugal was beginning to lose naval superiority and Dutch and English traders were also beginning to prospect for business in the region. The Mughal Empire in India reached the height of its power at that time.

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The Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama finally made direct contact with the Indies in 1498 via the Cape of Good Hope in southern Africa.  For nearly a century the Portuguese had a trading monopoly on this seaborne route to the East Indies, Arabia and the east coast of Africa. They also planted the Roman Catholic Christian religion in much of the region. One problem was that most eastern countries had little interest in European products and would only take payment in silver or gold and possibly slaves from Africa. Much of the supply of silver from mines in Spanish-America finished in the hands of Portugal’s eastern trading partners.  However, some scholars and rulers became interested in western scientific and artistic technology manifest in such things as scientific instruments, clocks and mirrors. Later in the 16th century, trade was in decline and Portugal was beginning to lose military superiority in some of the Indonesians islands. Dutch and English traders were also beginning to prospect for business in the region.


1600 Dec 31 Elizabeth I grants a charter to London merchants for exclusive overseas trading rights with the East Indies. Initial factories or trading posts are set up in Java and the Moluccas islands in Indonesia.

1602 James Lancaster leads an East India Company fleet to Bantam in Java, where he buys great quantities of peppercorns. Disease and hostile Dutch traders make life difficult for company employees. Competition with the Dutch East India Company is fierce and the English company eventually concentrates on trade in silk and cotton products with the mainland of India.

1611 The East India Company establishes a post at Masulipatam, a major source of textiles on the Carnatic (Coromandel) Coast in south-east India.

1612 An East India Company ship commanded by Captain Best defeats the Portuguese in a naval engagement off Swally or Suvali, N W India.

1616 The East India Company trades at Berhampore, Bengal.

1619 By agreement with the Moghul Emperor Shah Jahangir, the Company opens a factory or trading post at Surat, the Moghul’s richest port in North-West India.

1640 The East India Company establishes the St George fortress at Madras.

1650 A decree of Shah Jehan frees East India Company from road taxes in Agra and Oudh provinces.

1653 Due to continuing hostility with the Dutch, The East India Company moves its HQ from Bantam in Java to Madras.

1654 English ships are granted access to all Portuguese ports in the East.

1661 King John IV of Portugal gives Bombay (along with Tangiers in North Africa) as part of her dowry when his daughter Catherine de Braganza marries Charles II of England.

1668 The King leases Bombay to the East India Company for £10 a year. The company also grants him a large loan at 6% per annum.

1682 The Emperor Aurangzeb grants the Company trading rights in Bengal.

1684 Fort St George, Madras becomes the East India Co Presidency HQ on the Carnatic Coast and the Bay of Bengal.  Bombay replaces Surat as the East India Company’s HQ in western India and the Persian Gulf.

1690 Job Charnock, the East India Company chief agent in Bengal, after a struggle with the Nawab of Bengal, obtains permission from Aurangzeb to establish a factory at Calcutta.

1700 Fort William, Calcutta is established by the East India Company. Calcutta becomes the capital of the Company’s third Presidency in India and eventually its centre from which much of India is ruled.

1717 After being cured of a serious ailment by Doctor Hamilton, a Company physician, the Moghul Emperor Farrukh Siyar exempts the Company from paying taxes and tolls in Bengal in return for a single annual fee. Traders from all three presidencies are also to be free from interference by local authorities.

1739 The Shah of Persia invades India, occupies Delhi and takes away much of the Moghul Emperor’s wealth, including the Peacock throne, the Koh-i-Noor diamond and other precious stones. This precipitates the rapid decline of the Moghul Empire

1746 France becomes the East India Company’s chief competitor for trade and political power. French forces capture Madras and defeat a relieving force sent by the local Nawab (ruler). Company activities are transferred to Fort St David.

1748 Madras is restored to the Company at the Treaty of Aix la Chapelle.

1749 Disputed successions to the Nizam of Hyderabad (a semi-independent state in the Moghul Empire) and his client the Nawab of the Carnatic causes an outbreak of war between opponents favoured by French and British support. France gains influence over Hyderabad and the Nawab of the Carnatic becomes a client of the British East India Company.

1751 Siege of Arcot. Robert Clive leads a small number of Company troops to take the home city of the French-supporting pretender to rule the Carnatic. He holds the city against great odds and the enemy retires when Marathas send help to Clive.

1756 Siraj ud Dowlah, the new Nawab of Bengal, seizes Fort William and captures Calcutta.  A large number of British and Indian prisoners died whilst confined in the Black Hole of Calcutta.

1757 The Battle of Plassey. Colonel Robert Clive leads an East India Company army which defeats Siraj ud Dowlah, who is executed by his own people. The Company assumes control of Bengal.

1760 Sir Eyre Coote leads a Company army, comprised mainly of Indian sepoy troops, which routs the French at the Battle of Wandiwash and captures the French fort at Pondicherry (1761). The end of serious French influence in India.

1764 Battle of Buxar. East India Company troops led by Hector Munro defeat an Indian army of the Emperor Shah Alam II, led by the Nawabs of Awadh (Oudh) and Bengal.

1765 The Treaty of Allahabad grants the East India Company the right to collect taxes on behalf of the Emperor from the eastern province of Bengal-Bihar-Orissa. The treaty marks the beginning of Company political control in India. Moghul power is severely depleted as Rajputs and Marathas form an unfriendly Hindu bloc in Central India and British are firmly in control of large areas in the East. The strongest Muslim ruler in India is now the Sultan of Mysore in the south.

1766 The Monghyr Mutiny by white officers of the East India Company is put down by Robert Clive, Governor of Bengal. He makes a deal to hire British army units to help secure the Company’s position in India.

1767-9 The first inconclusive war with Hyder Ali the Sultan of Mysore.

1770 Millions die in the Great Bengal Famine.

1772 The East India Company is forced to seek a government loan to avoid bankruptcy, for which widespread corruption in the Company is blamed.

1773 The Regulating Act passed by Parliament is intended to give the British Government oversight of the East India Company, where corruption and malpractice is a cause for outrage.

Warren Hastings becomes Governor-General of the three Company Presidencies (effectively the head of British government in India). He carries out far-reaching reforms in the administration of India, the organisation of Hindu and Muslim forms of law and other improvements including public granaries.

The ruler of Cooch Bihar, a state to the north of Bengal, acknowledges British sovereignty as Company troops help him resist an invasion from Bhutan.

1779-84 Encouraged by promise of French naval help, the Sultan of Mysore in alliance with the Nizam of Hyderabad, threatens Madras whilst the warlike Maratha confederation do the same for Bombay. Hastings takes measures to retrieve the situations; he overcomes the Indian threats and prevents the French fleet from making landfall. However, Hastings has spent much of Company finances meant for other purposes in retrieving the situation.

1784 The East India Company Act introduced by William Pitt the Younger. It brings the Company and management of India more completely under the control of the British government.

1785-87 The British remain neutral during a war between Tipu Sultan of Mysore and a coalition of Hyderabad/Marathas.

1788 Warren Hastings returns to London and is impeached for misgovernment and corruption. He is acquitted in 1795. Replaced by Lord Cornwallis, who brings in many more reforms inspired by Pitt and involves Indians in the civil service.

1789 British and the Hindu Marathas overcome Tipu Sultan in the Third Mysore War, despite his attempts to enlist help from the Ottoman Empire and France (Napoleon attempted to open a land route to India with his campaign in Egypt).

1799 The Fourth Mysore War. Tipu Sultan of Mysore is defeated and killed at Seringapatam by an army which includes a regular British army unit led by Arthur Wellesley, the future Duke of Wellington. Britain takes over the governance of south west India.

Mysore war rockets are captured and used by Britain in the Napoleonic Wars.

1803 Struggle with the Maratha Empire. Delhi and Agra are taken by General Lake. Major General Arthur Wellesley wins the battle of Assaye which he describes as his finest victory. The Indian heartland is now a British possession.

1815 Following Nepalese raids into Sikkim and Bengal, three battalions of Gurkha soldiers are raised to serve with the Bengal Army.

1817-18 The remaining Maratha Empire strongholds are taken over by regular British and Indian army units. They are distributed among the princely allies of the East India Company. The Marathas’ Pindari allies, armed horsemen who had plundered the Indian peasant villages for many years past, are hunted down and are completely dispersed.

1824 British assume control of Arakan, Manipur and parts of Assam as part of the Bengal Presidency during the First Anglo-Burmese War. However, the cost to the Company is great – it suffered a financial crisis and has to give up its monopoly on the China Trade.

1838 Upper Assam is formally annexed, where the Assam Company shortly after begins to grow tea.

1839 Anglo-Indian force invades Afghanistan, which Britain fears could become Russia’s gateway into India. (Russia has become a major power towards the end of the Napoleonic wars and is building an empire among its Asian neighbours.) The ruler of Afghanistan is deposed and replaced by a British nominee in Kabul.

1842 The Retreat from Kabul. Afghans make life in Kabul untenable for the British. Some 16,000 British and Indian troops, camp followers and civilian men, women and children are harassed and attacked until only one remains alive to complete the wintertime journey back to Jalalabad. It is the worst disaster the British have sustained in India up to that time. Kabul is entered and retribution follows later in the year. 115 British captives are released and some Indian sepoys are released from slavery.

1843 General Sir Charles Napier, against orders, overcomes the Sindh Emirate in North West India (now part of Pakistan) which has remained hostile despite the retaking of Kabul. He allegedly sends a famous telegram with the news containing the single Latin word ‘Peccavi’ (I have sinned).

1845-6 The first Sikh War. The Sikh kingdom in the Punjab, North West India, had been built up by Ranjit Singh. Following his death in 1839, the Afghan war and the annexation of Sindh, powerful factions within the well-trained and organised Sikh army, fearing intervention by the East India Company, invade Company territory, but the leaders are divided and their armies are defeated.

1846 The Sikhs pay an indemnity and hand over Kashmir which the British sell to the Rajah of Jammu. A British resident is appointed head of a Regency Council in Lahore, capital of the Punjab.

1848 The Second Sikh War. The Sikh army with Afghan allies rebels against Company control but loses the battle of Gujrat and retreats to Rawalpindi, where it surrenders.

1849 The British take over the Punjab from its young maharajah Duleep Singh, who is removed to England where he becomes friendly with Queen Victoria.

Britain now rules or has ultimate control through the East India Company over nearly all India up to the North West Frontier with Afghanistan. The Calcutta Presidency rules all North India, including the newly acquired Punjab, with the Bengal Army as its reserve military force. This is easily the largest of the three presidential armies.

1853 Rangoon and Lower Burma are taken. The territory is ruled from Calcutta.

Telegraph and postal systems are being set up throughout the empire and the first railway is built in India from Bombay to the neighbouring town of Thane.

Darjeeling and Morag are annexed into Bengal from Sikkim.

1857 The Indian Mutiny or Rebellion. Relations between British officers and Indian sepoys have become more distant over time. Extra strains are imposed by new rules about overseas remuneration for sepoys and other matters. Public works and judicial/economic reforms instituted by Governor General the Earl of Dalhousie spread the unsettled climate of distrust into the general population. The incompetent ruler of the wealthy but corrupt state of Oudh, home of many Bengal army sepoys, is removed and Oudh is taken into the Company’s control. Units of the Bengal army refuse to use the new Enfield rifle which uses a cartridge greased with tallow. Ony four purely British battalions of Company or regular army soldiers are serving throughout Bengal, alongside a few artillery batteries, when Hindu troops at Meerut mutiny and kill British officers and their wives. They march on Delhi and persuade the Muslim Bahadur Shah to declare himself Emperor. Hindu and Muslim units join the uprising.

1858 The British Government intervenes and institutes the Raj, headed by the viceroy to take over all aspects of the East India Company rule and its assets in India. It also proclaims the policy of non-intervention in Indian religious matters. The 560 Indian principalities can adopt any heirs they desire so long as they swear allegiance to the British crown.

1859 The last elements of the Indian Mutiny are defeated with the help of troops shipped in from other parts of the empire. Awful acts of cruelty have been performed by mutineers at Cawnpore and elsewhere and the British responded with their own dreadful acts of vengeance. The orgy of violence is mostly confined to the northern areas of the Gangetic plain and most of India was not involved in those horrific events.

A land tax and salt and opium monopolies remain in Crown hands to help pay administrative and military costs.

People from central India are employed on indentured labour contracts to work on tea plantations in Assam.

1861 The Indian Councils Act transforms India’s executive council at Calcutta with 6 portfolio holders plus the military commander in chief, all answerable to the viceroy. Law- making powers are returned to the presidencies of Madras and Bombay. British personnel in India’s armies are substantially increased and Indian sepoys of different religions serve in every regiment.

The Archaeological Survey of India is founded by director general Alexander Cunningham, who published early work on the ancient Indus Civilisation city of Harappa.

1869 The Suez Canal opens. Steam powered voyages from the UK to India are reduced to 3 weeks duration.

1876 Parliament endows Queen Victoria with the title Empress of India.

1878 Russian takeover of Turkmenistan and a delegation sent to Kabul prompts the Second Afghan War. Britain replaces the emir.

1879 The British resident in Kabul is assassinated. General Sir Frederick Roberts (known to his troops as ‘Bobs’) occupies Kabul.

1880 Bobs relieves the besieged city of Kandahar. Britain takes control of Quetta and the strategic Khyber Pass on the North West Frontier and Afghanistan becomes a British Protectorate.

1885 The Indian National Congress is founded by retired Indian Civil Service officer Allan Octavian Hume with the viceroy’s approval.  With the aim of providing a platform for dialogue between educated Indians and the Raj, its first president is Womesh Chunder Bonnerjee.

1886 Upper Burma is taken into the Raj.

1892 The Indian Councils Act. Local administrative councils are formed which include elected Indian members.

1903-4 The Younghusband Expedition is sent by Viceroy Lord Curzon to Tibet, a satellite of the Qing dynasty in China, to resolve Tibet/Sikkim border problems and ensure a feared Russian intervention would be opposed. Ostensibly the mission is successful but it is condemned in London.

1905 Curzon divides Bengal into predominantly Muslim East Bengal and the Hindu-majority West Bengal. The beginning of sectarian/communal politics.

The Swadeshi movement, committed to a ‘buy Indian’ campaign and the boycott of British goods, is also begun.

1906 The All-India Muslim League is formed.

1909 The Indian Councils Act introduces the Minto-Morley Reforms which attempt to widen the democratic representation of the people. Indians are given limited roles in central and provincial legislatures. Muslims become a separate electorate with double representation.

1911 Bengal is reunited and the Raj capital is moved to New Delhi. The King Emperor attends the Delhi Durbar.

1914 Outbreak of the Great War. Indian troops are sent to the Western Front and are in action by October. 9,000 died during the war in France and Flanders.

Indian Muslims serving in Mesopotamia are not happy to serve in the war against the Ottoman Sultan, who is the Caliph of the Islamic world. 60,000 Indians die in the anti-Ottoman campaigns.

1915 Mohandas Gandhi returns to India after 21 years in South Africa.

Revolt of the Rajput 5th Light Infantry Regiment in Singapore. British officers and civilians are killed.

1919 The Jallianwalla Bagh massacre is ordered by General Dyer at Amritsar in the Punjab.

The Government of India Act fails to satisfy most of the various demographics of the Indian population.

1920 Gandhi institutes the Non Cooperation Movement.

1921 Gandhi becomes Leader of the Indian National Congress party. Tour by the Prince of Wales is interrupted by riots.

1922 Gandhi calls off non-cooperation, but is imprisoned. Jawaharlal Nehru becomes prominent in Congress.

1924 John Marshall, director general of the Archaeological Survey of India announces discoveries by Indian archaeologists which indicate the existence of an unknown ancient Indus civilisation at Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro.

1928 The Simon Commission arrives to consider constitutional reforms. All its members are British and it meets widespread boycotts by Indians of different persuasions.

1930 Gandhi returns to politics with his Salt March, complaining about the unjust Salt Tax. He is imprisoned once more.

1935 The Government of India Act gives considerable power to India’s provinces, where it proposes the establishment of representative government. However, a weak central parliament in New Delhi will have no authority over such matters as foreign policy, defence, and much of the budget. Full powers for these matters remains in the hands of the Viceroy, who can dissolve provincial legislatures and rule by decree. The act recommends separate communal electorates be retained until tensions between Hindus and Muslims die down and the franchise continues to be based on property ownership and education. The act contains no specific promise of dominion status for India.

1937 Burma is taken out of the Raj and becomes a separate colony.

Nehru leads Congress to comfortable but not overwhelming victory in country-wide elections. Mohammed Ali Jinnah’s Muslim League has disappointing results and is rejected as a coalition partner by Congress.

1939 The viceroy declares India is at war with Germany. Congress rejects involvement in the war – representatives and ministers resign from state administrations. The Muslim League supports the war effort.

1940 The Muslim League passes the Pakistan Resolution which proposes to set up a separate Islamic state.

1941 The British Empire is at war with Japan after it attacks eastern colonies.

1942 Sir Stafford Cripps is sent to offer post-war dominion status, with the right of provinces to secede, in return for wartime support by Indians. Congress refuses any idea of breaking up India. Gandhi launches the Quit India movement and is imprisoned again. Nehru and other Congress leaders are also put in prison.

British forces retreat from Burma.

1943 The Provisional Government of Free India or Azad Hind, headed by Subhas Chandra Bose forms the Indian Nationalist Army in Japanese-controlled Singapore, with the intention of fighting alongside Japan to secure Indian independence.

The Bengal Famine. More than 2 million people die in the poverty-stricken provinces as measures are put in place to prevent Japanese access to local rice and give preferential supplies to military and essential workers. Made worse by natural weather disasters, crop failures and a shortage of shipping for provisions from other areas.

1944 The battles of Imphal and Kohima. The Japanese and their Azad Hind allies are forced to retreat at the gateway into eastern India.

1946 Violent inter-communal riots break out between Hindus and Muslims in Bengal and emphasise the growing division between Congress and Muslim League political inclinations.

1947 The last viceroy Lord Mountbatten brings forward the date for independence. He divides the country into two states, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and multi-cultural India. Independence is achieved amidst widespread sectarian conflict and massacres as major population movements occur across the newly-drawn borders of the new states.

1948 Gandhi is assassinated by an Hindu extremist at a prayer meeting.


1824-6 The First Anglo-Burmese War. A territorial conflict between the expanding Burmese kingdom of Ava and the East India Company eager to expand its trading operations into the disputed lands of Arakan, Manipur and Assam. The British government is also anxious to forestall French interference in the area. Expensive to the Company in terms of treasure and lives, it nevertheless forces Burma to withdraw and pay a hefty indemnity.

1852-3 Second Anglo-Burma War. Commodore Lambert, the British ambassador appointed by Dalhousie, the Governor General of India, provokes a naval confrontation and occupies Rangoon. Pegu or Lower Burma (the northern entrance to the Malay Peninsula) is annexed without a formal treaty.

1885 The third Anglo-Burma War. Britain discovers a Burmese delegation to France is attempting to negotiate a political alliance and military supplies. The French withdraw from a business agreement with Burma, but an ongoing Indo-Burmese boundary dispute and trade difficulties persuade Britain to make demands which would effectively end Burmese independence. Mandalay is taken and the king surrenders. However, Burmese rebels continue to oppose the British for about a decade.

1937 Burma is separated from the Indian Raj and is administered as a separate colony.

1942 Japanese forces aided by the Azad Hind Indian National Army invade Burma. British forces retreat to the Indian border.

1944 the battles of Imphal and Kohima. Japanese is forced back from the gateway into India.

1948 Burma becomes an independent republic and today is named as Myanmar. It is not a member of the Commonwealth of Nations.


1796 Ceylon is the world’s biggest producer of cinnamon. The coasts, including the fine natural harbour of Trincomalee, are ruled by the Dutch with a Swiss mercenary garrison. A British agent secures the surrender of the defending forces with a bribe and takes control of the island. The East India Company manages trade and commercial business. The governor, responsible for law and administration, is answerable to both the Company and the British government.

1802 Treaty of Amiens. Holland cedes the island to Britain and it becomes a Crown colony.

1803 Governor Frederick North occupies Kandy, the capital in the interior. An occupying garrison of about 1000 British and Malay personnel is massacred. One man survives hanging and is rescued. Hostilities end in 1805.

1815 Legal and social reforms have earned support of the local Asian and European populations, whilst the ruler of Kandy alienates his powerful nobility and Buddhist establishment, resulting in an internal revolution. The King is exiled and Kandy is annexed into the British Empire by the Kandyan Convention.

1817 Kandy leaders regret the agreement and rise in rebellion. After it is defeated the aristocracy of Kandy is abolished.

1832 Colebrook-Cameron Commission proposes an end to compulsory labour and government trade monopolies with limits to the governor’s powers; it advises that the civil service be open to all, regardless of race or caste, that education be improved for natives so they may serve in civil service positions and that the judicial system be reformed, with equal treatment for natives and Europeans. The reforms are resisted by subsequent governors and some remained unimplemented, but Ceylon was put on the road towards self-government far in advance of other British colonies inhabited by non-Europeans.

1850 The Governor Lord Torrington is recalled after unduly harsh punishment, including executions, for leaders who had taken part in riots.

1867 Railways and tea come to Ceylon. Beginning of settlement by indentured labourers from the Tamils of India.

1869 Beginning of the end of the important coffee industry due to coffee rust disease.

1881 The Ceylon Volunteers from a Singhalese defence force.

1910 The Ceylon Defence Force is created.

1915 Small Buddhist/Muslim communal riots are mistaken for a treasonable foreign plot. Some are killed and many imprisoned leading to the beginning of a nationalist movement.

1948 Ceylon becomes independent and later takes the name Sri Lanka in 1972.

South East Asia

1614 The East India Company founds a factory at Sambas, south Borneo.

1617 The East India Company establishes a factory at Bantam which becomes the Company Presidency, HQ of all East India Company activities in South-East Asia and India.

1682 The East India Company establishment at Bantam is closed down when the Dutch are awarded exclusive trading rights and take possession of the company properties.

1786 The East India Company establishes a settlement in Penang on the straits between Sumatra and Malaya giving it access to the rich spice trade of Indonesia.

1795 The Royal Navy seizes Malacca from the Dutch East India Company which is under the control of Revolutionary France.

1819 Sir Stamford Raffles establishes a settlement in Singapore on the straits between Sumatra and Malaya on behalf of the East India Company

1826 Formation of the Company administered Straits Settlements. Singapore, Malacca, the Dindings, Pangkor, Penang and its mainland dependency of Wellesley.

1833 The East Indies Company loses its monopoly on trade with China, reducing the Straits’ trading importance to the Company.

1842 The Sultan of Brunei grants James Brooke territory in Sarawak, where he becomes ‘The White Rajah’.

1846 Labuan off the coast of North Borneo, formerly a possession of the Sultan of Brunei, becomes a Crown Colony with James Brooke as governor and commander in chief.

1858 The Straits Settlements become part of the British Raj in India.

1867 The Straits Settlements become a Crown colony.

1877 North Borneo is ceded to a British syndicate headed by Albert Dent by the Sultan of Brunei. It becomes a full British protectorate in 1882.

Rubber plants are introduced into Malaya from Brazil.

1888 Brunei gains a measure of British protection. Christmas Island is annexed by Britain and is administered from the Straits Settlements and by the British Phosphates Company.

1896 Perak, Selangor, Negri Sembalan and Pahang form the Federated Malay States.

1906 Brunei becomes a British protectorate.

Labuan becomes part of the Straits Settlements colony.

1941-2 Japan occupies all British territories in South East Asia.

1946 After Japanese occupation, Singapore, Malaya (formed from the Straits Settlements and the Malay States) North Borneo (incorporating Labuan) and Sarawak become Crown colonies.

1948-60 Malayan Emergency. British and Commonwealth troops conduct a campaign against communist and nationalist guerrillas.

1956 Singapore gains self-rule, but Britain retains responsibility for defence and foreign affairs.

1957 The Federation of Malaya becomes independent.

1958 Christmas Island becomes an Australian dependency.

1963 Singapore, North Borneo (renamed Sabah) and Sarawak, join with the federation of Malaya to become Malaysia.

1964 Race riots in Malaysia – Singapore, with a large multi-ethnic and Chinese population, is expelled from the federation.

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