British Intervention in Malaya

Extension of British Interests
Part I: Background
What is imperialism & colonialism?
• conquest, control, expansion, rule, exploitation, cultural
Why do countries go overseas and then expand & control?
• first for trade
• then to safeguard the benefits of trade
• then the idea of trade dimmed, overtaken by
administrative processes
Part I: The British in Malaya
When one country or state interferes in
the affairs of another state
For example:
In 1874, British intervened in Perak on the request of Raja
Abdullah of Perak
Part I: Reasons for Non-Intervention
[1] EIC’s goal – to maximise profits through peaceful
trading only
[2] Loss of monopoly of China trade
- EIC’s profits declined due to competition – unwilling to
interfere and spend money to settle disputes in Malay
[3] Busy with India – developing the sub-continent which
was quite sufficient for the British
[4] Straits Settlements - only ports-of-call for China trade
- they themselves did not have much to offer
- administrative cost higher & SS not making money
[5] to continue being friendly with Siam – who all along had
interests in Northern Malaya
Part I: Unofficial Intervention
Unofficial Intervention:
It was impossible to stay totally neutral & hands-off
• British interests had to be safeguarded
- did not want to lose profits & opportunities
- lives of British subjects sometimes at stake
- British merchants complained and requested for help
- prestige & reputation to upkeep
- investments to be protected – Kedah, Perak, Malacca,
Pahang, Trengganu, Johore
• would withdraw once the problems were solved
Part II: Reasons for Intervention in Malaya
[1] Industrial Revolution in Britain
- need for raw materials & markets
- Malaya had plenty of tin - used for canned food in USA
- with the China trade waning, investments & new
markets elsewhere became more necessary
[2] Opening of Suez Canal
- Ferdinand de Lesseps’ engineering allowed for shorter
time & distance between West and East
- interests grew: European countries/merchants arrived
in SEA in an unprecedented flood
eg: French went to Siam, Dutch to Aceh, Germans to Malaya
- need to protect trade route along Straits of Melaka –
though more revenue especially for Singapore – but to
be wary also of competitive presence
Part II: Reasons for Intervention in Malaya
[3] Fear of foreign intervention
- British feared that Dutch & Germans might colonise
Malay States – since these states were ‘free’, did not
belong to any power
- the Germans were expanding aggressively
- they just defeated France, now they were finding their
‘place in the sun’ – China, S’pore, Malay Peninsula
- either to stay ahead or face possibility of losing foothold
“…it would be difficult to justify an objection to the Native States
applying for aid to other Powers if the British Government refuses to
lend its aid.”
Lord Kimberley
Part II: Reasons for Intervention in Malaya
[4] Change of government in Britain
- 1874, Conservative Govt which was more imperialistic,
adopted new policy of intervention
- new PM Disraeli called to build up the empire
- Lord Kimberley who was the new Secretary of State for
the Colonies belonged to a new breed of politicians who
believed Britain had a responsibility to spread the benefits
of its rule to the world ‘white men’s burden’
“whether any steps can be taken to promote the restoration of peace
and order to secure protection to trade and commerce…it would be
advisable to appoint a British officer to reside in any of the states”
Lord Kimberley
Sir Andrew Clarke
Part II: Reasons for Intervention in Malaya
[5] Anarchy in the Malay States
- succession dispute, wars
among Chinese miners, piracy
→ loss of business, profits, lives,
safety, reputation
- British merchants invested a
great deal in the Peninsula – and
the Chinese were also important
to their business
- trade was worth $3m a year –
largely from British capital
- British, European & Chinese
merchants in SS petitioned for
British Govt to restore order
Part III: Intervention in Perak
[1] Succession Disputes
- Raja Abdullah contested with Raja Ismail for throne
- they became involved in Larut Wars
[2] Larut Wars
- Chinese secret societies fought over control of tin
[3] Piracy
- British vessels were attacked
[a] Succession Disputes
Council of
Chiefs: powerful
– could leave out
an old man with
experience of
son of Sultan
Abdullah died
Ja’afar died
Abdullah’s son,
* Contenders to
skipped one post
remained in the
same position
throne when Ali
Part III: [b] Larut Wars
• Also known as the rivalry of the Chinese secret societies
– basically a series of squabbles between two groups of
tin miners that erupted into fierce open warfare
• Tin was discovered in the Larut area in 1848
• Investments from the Chinese business community
poured in – later joined by the Western merchants
• 5000 Chinese immigrants arrived immediately
• The rivalry was mainly due to greed and jealousy –
resulting in the quest to control as many mines in Larut
as possible
[b] Larut Wars
Ghee Hin
Sang Neng Hakkas
Ho Hup Seah secret society
Tan Kim Cheng triad leader
from Singapore
WH Read
Hai San
Toa Peh Kong Hokkiens
Go Kwan Cantonese
Ho Seng secret society
Ngah Ibrahim
Captain Speedy
Governor of Penang
“a man of sufficient abilities to…show us a good system of
Governor Andrew Clarke
Pangkor Island Meeting, 15 January 1874, on board Pluto:
1. Frank Swettenham settled dispute with the Malay chiefs
2. William Pickering persuaded warring Chinese to accept British mediation
All agreed to disarm and not to break the peace

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