Singapore: Historical Overview                                        


Sir Stamford Raffles of the British East India Company sets up a trading post in Singapore. As a result, English is the official working language and the most widely used language in Singapore today.


Singapore, Malacca and Penang become a British colony of the Straits Settlements.


Singapore becomes capital of the Straits Settlements. The port attracts thousands of migrants from China, India and other parts of Asia.


The Straits Settlements become a crown colony of the British Empire.


The Suez Canal opens and trade booms.


Singapore becomes the main British naval base in East Asia.


During World War II, Japan bombs Singapore.


Singapore falls to Japan, who renames it Syonan (Light of the South).


Japan is defeated. Singapore returns to British rule by military administration.


Singapore becomes a separate crown colony.


Self-government is attained with Lee Kuan Yew as prime minister.


Singapore joins the Federation of Malaya, Sabah (North Borneo), and Sarawak in the Federation of Malaysia.


Singapore pulls out of the Federation of Malaysia, at Malaysia's invitation, amid political and ethnic tensions. The territory becomes an independent republic and joins the United Nations.


Last British military forces withdrawn from Singapore. 


Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew (photo) stands down after 31 years, but continues to exert significant influence as senior minister. Goh Chok Tong becomes new prime minister.


Ong Teng Cheong becomes first directly-elected president.


Caning of American teenager Michael Fay (photo) for vandalizing cars makes world headlines. 


Nick Leeson's disastrous dealings on Singapore stock exchange lead to the collapse of Barings (Britain's oldest merchant bank). He is convicted in Singapore and sentenced to six and a half years in jail.


Singaporean SilkAir airliner crashes into river in south Sumatra, with the loss of all 104 passengers and crew.


Singapore slips into recession for the first time in 13 years during Asian financial crisis.


S R Nathan becomes president without election after he is declared only candidate eligible to run.

Nick Leeson is released early from Singapore jail for good behavior.


Singapore Airlines 747 airliner crashes while taking off in high winds at Taipei airport, killing 81 passengers and crew.


Unprecedented anti-government rally - the first legal demonstration outside of election campaigns. Hundreds gather to support veteran opposition leader J.B. Jeyaretnam who faces bankruptcy and consequent expulsion from parliament.

Malaysia and Singapore agree to end long-standing disputes. The two nations build a new bridge and tunnel.


Outbreak of pneumonia-like Sars virus. Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong says outbreak is worst crisis country has faced. 


Lee Hsien Loong (photo), the oldest son of former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, is sworn in as prime minister.


Singapore and Malaysia settle a bitter dispute over land reclamation work in border waters.

Government approves a controversial plan to legalize casino gambling, paving the way for construction of two multi-billion dollar casino resorts.

President S R Nathan begins second term after winning elections from which his rivals were disqualified.

Execution of an Australian man for drug smuggling, despite high-level appeals for clemency, is condemned by Australia's attorney-general as barbaric.


Lee Hsien Loong's ruling People's Action Party wins general elections  which are seen as the first real test of the prime minister's popularity.


Two African men are executed for drug smuggling despite worldwide appeals for clemency.


Singapore appears to emerge from its worst recession on record.


British author Alan Shadrake convicted for insulting Singapore's judiciary in a book on the death penalty. Singapore still ranked as the best country in which to run a business, according to a World Bank annual report. 


Tony Tan (photo) is elected president, in the first election of its kind for 18 years.


Singapore experiences its first strike since the 1980s. Chinese bus drivers walk out complaining their pay is lower than local or Malaysian drivers.


Demonstrators hold an unusually large rally to protest against government plans to boost the population, mostly with foreign workers.

Singapore calls for urgent action from Indonesia after forest fires produce hazardous levels of air pollution over the state.

A riot involving some 400 foreign workers breaks out following the death of an Indian migrant worker knocked down by a bus. It is the first riot in Singapore in more than 30 years.


Singapore is a major worldwide banking, shipbuilding and petroleum center, as well as a popular and sophisticated tourist destination. Its modern seaport is one of the busiest in the world.