Today Singapore is a world centre for trade, shipping and tourism, but two hundred years ago Singapore was just a deserted island off the coast of Malaya with only a few fishermen living there.
Stamford Raffles was an Englishman who helped to make Singapore. Raffles, the son of an English sea captain, was born in Jamaica in 1781. Because his parents were poor he left school when he was 14 and started work in a trading company in London. The trading company was called the British East India Company. It was an important and powerful company that sent ships all over the world. As well as trading, the company officials sometimes became rulers of the countries they traded with. Raffles did his work well and soon began to get higher positions in the company. He was often sent to other countries and he became very interested in foreign places. He became the ruler of Java and in 1817 he wrote a book called History of Java.
In 1819 Raffles went to rule the island of Singapore. At that time Singapore was covered with forest and there were only a few poor fishermen living there. Some of them were pirates and when a ship came near the island, they went out to it in small boats. They attacked the ships, stole things from them and sometimes killed the sailors. The waters around Singapore were dangerous and ships were afraid to come near the island.
When Raffles came, he made laws and stopped the pirates. He made some of the people policemen and they made sure that the new laws were kept. Singapore became safe and people were no longer afraid. Many people came to live in Singapore and ships were no longer afraid to visit there. The ships came to buy and sell things and the island began its history as a trading centre for the world. Raffles built many houses, buildings and roads. Now people could easily go from one place to another on the island. Besides houses and roads, Raffles built schools and he brought in teachers from Britain to work in the schools. The lessons were taught in both English and Malay, and the teachers wrote school books to help their students. Many Europeans came to Singapore and started companies.
Raffles did many other things in his life. He was interested in the history of the Malay people so he learned their language. He read many history books in the Malay language and then he wrote them in English so that other people could read them too. He was also interested in studying the things of nature. He went into the forests looking for different plants and animals to study and he sent some of these back to England so that people there could see them and understand more about other places. He brought plants such as coffee and sugar to Indonesia so that the people could start growing them for themselves.
In 1824 Raffles and his wife returned to England. He put all of his books, plants and animals on the ship but before it reached England, a fire began on the ship and everything was lost. Despite this, Raffles started the London Zoo and was its first president. Raffles died at the age of 45 in 1826.
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