Melaka is located on the Western Coast of Peninsular Malaysia facing
the Straits of Melaka, about 147 kilometers from Kuala Lumpur and
245 kilometers from Singpore. Melaka is actually found sandwiched
between the states of Negeri Sembilan and Johor. It can be reached
by excellent roads from Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. Internally it
is serviced by a very good network of roads leading to all the historical
places of interest. It covers and area of 658 square kilometers
and is divided into three districts namely Alor Gajah, Melaka Tengah
Melaka was founded by Parameswara (or Raja Iskandar) the last Malay
ruler of Temasik (ancient Singapore) in 1396 when he and his followers
retreated up the straits to Muar, then to Sungai Ujung before settling
at Bertam near the estuary of Melaka River.
Finding the place of strategic location, he decided to make a permanent
settlement there, naming it "Melaka" after the name of
the tree he leaned against.
The Melaka Sultanate occupies a special position in the history
of Malaysia. Its inauguration marked the beginning of the emergence
of a new Malay empire. The birthplace of the Malay Sultanates and
Malaysia's historic city, Melaka provided the stage on which the
Portuguese, Dutch and English played out their roles in shaping
Melaka emerged as a strong maritime trading state under the industrious
Parameswara and his chiefs. Melaka also began to be noticed by Muslim
traders from West Asia and India, who until that period, had been
concentrating their activities in Aru, Pedir and Pasai en-route
to the East, especially China. Because of its strategic location
straddling the Straits of Melaka, it thrived as a port-of-call and
a centre of entrepot trade with ships and merchants from China,
Japan, India, Arab and South Africa.
In 1511, it fell to the hands of the Portuguese, followed by the
Dutch in 1641 after a fierce battle. In 1795, Melaka was given to
the British to prevent it falling to the French when the Netherlands
was captured during the Napoleonic Wars. It was returned to the
Dutch in 1818 under the treaty of Vienna but was later exchanged
by the British for Bangkahulu, Sumatra. From 1826 onwards, the British
East India Company along with Singapore and Penang governed it,
under the Straits Settlement administration in Calcutta.
The Dutch, who held Melaka for over a century, left many fine buildings
marking their heritage. The most imposing relic of the Dutch period
is the Stadthuys, a strikingly pink town hall which is today the
oldest Dutch building in the Far East. Right next to it stands the
bright red Christ Church, constructed with pink bricks imported
from Holland and covered with local red lacerite. Today, these buildings
together with the ruins of the Portuguese built A Famosa and St.
Paul's Church are the most prominent reminders of the Europeans'
presence in Melaka.
After World War II, anti-colonial sentiment bred in the country
among the nationalists, the result of which was the proclamation
of Independence by Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra, Malaysia's first Prime
Minister, at the Padang Pahlawan (Warrior's Field) at Bandar Hilir,
Melaka on 20 February 1956.