Pangkor Treaty of 1874

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The Pangkor Treaty of 1874 was a treaty signed between the British and the Sultan of Perak. Signed on 20 January 1874, on the island of Pangkor off Perak, the treaty is significant in the history of the Malay states as it legitimized British control of the Malay rulers and paved the way for British imperialism in Malaya.


Sultan Abdullah of Perak

Perak was a major tin producer throughout the nineteenth century, leading the United Kingdom, which had already colonized Penang, Malacca and Singapore, to consider Perak of significant importance. However, local strife, collectively known as the Larut War, between the local Malay elites and frequent clashes between Chinese secret societies disrupted the supply of tin from the mines of Perak.

In 1871, Sultan Ali of Perak died. Raja Abdullah, as Raja Muda or heir apparent, should have succeeded to the throne, but because he had not been present at the burial of the late Sultan Ali, Raja Bendahara Raja Ismail was proclaimed Sultan of Perak instead. At around the same time, two Chinese secret societies, known as Ghee Hin led by Chin Ah Yam and Hai San led by Chung Keng Quee, constantly waged battle against each other for control of the tin mines.


Raja Abdullah later asked the British for help in solving these two problems. In her book "The Golden Chersonese and The Way Thither" (Published 1892 G.P. Putnam's Sons) Victorian traveller and adventuress, Isabella Lucy Bird (1831–1904), describes how Raja Muda Abdullah as he then was turned to his friend in Singapore, Tan Kim Ching. Tan, together with an English merchant in Singapore drafted a letter to Governor Sir Andrew Clarke which Abdullah signed. The letter expressed Abdullah's desire to place Perak under British protection, and "to have a man of sufficient abilities to show (him) a good system of government." On 26 September 1872 Chung Keng Quee had already presented a petition, signed by himself and 44 other Chinese leaders, seeking British interference following the attack of 12,000 men of Chung Shan by 2,000 men of Sen Ning. (The Petition.) The British immediately saw this as a great opportunity to expand its influence in Southeast Asia and strengthened its monopoly on tin. As a result, the Pangkor Treaty of 1874 was signed.

The Malay translation of the treaty was prepared by Frank Swettenham and Mohamed Said, the official interpreter (Munshi) for the Straits Settlements.[1]

Terms and conditions

The agreement dictated:


Raja Ismail did not attend the meeting arranged between Sir Andrew Clarke and Raja Abdullah. Raja Ismail obviously did not recognize the agreement but had no choice as he was faced with the alliance between Raja Abdullah and the British. As a result, Raja Abdullah was made Sultan, and Sir James W.W. Birch was appointed as Perak's first British Resident after the treaty came into force.

Following this precedent, the British actively became involved in three other Malay states: Negeri Sembilan, Selangor and Pahang. These states, along with Perak, were later reorganized into the Federated Malay States.

See also


  1. Swettenham, Frank (1941). Footprints in Malaya. London, New York, Melbourne: Hutchinson & Co. p. 33.
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