Straits Settlements

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The Straits Settlements were a group of British territories located in Southeast Asia.

Originally established in 1826 as part of the territories controlled by the British East India Company, the Straits Settlements came under direct British control as a crown colony on 1 April 1867. The colony was dissolved as part of the British reorganisation of its South-East Asian dependencies following the end of the Second World War.

The Straits Settlements consisted of the individual settlements of Malacca, Penang (also known as Prince of Wales Island), Christmas Island (until 1946 and part of Singapore until 1957) and Singapore, as well as (from 1907) Labuan, off the coast of Borneo. With the exception of Singapore, these territories now form part of Malaysia.


History and government

The establishment of the Straits Settlements followed the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1824 between the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, by which the Malay archipelago was divided into a British zone in the north and a Dutch zone in the south. This resulted in the exchange of the British settlement of Bencoolen (on Sumatra) for the Dutch colony of Malacca and undisputed control of Singapore. Its capital was moved from Penang to Singapore in 1832.

On 1 April 1867 the Settlements became a British crown colony, making the Settlements answerable directly to the Colonial Office in London instead of the Calcutta government based in India. Earlier, on 4 February 1867, a "Letters Patent" had granted the Settlements a colonial constitution. This allocated much power to the Settlements' Governor, who administered the colony of the Straits Settlements with the aid of an Executive Council, composed wholly of official (i.e. ex-officio) members, and a Legislative Council, composed partly of official and partly of nominated members, of which the former had a narrow permanent majority. The work of administration, both in the colony and in the Federated Malay States, was carried on by means of a civil service whose members were recruited by competitive examination held annually in London.

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