EARLY HISTORY OF BRUNEI

BRIEF HISTORY OF BRUNEI

Brunei’s full name is Negara Brunei Darussalam (The Country of Brunei, Abode of Peace) The pre-Islamic history of Brunei is unclear, but archaeological evidence shows the country to have been trading with the Asian mainland as early as CE 518. Islam became predominant during the 14th century and the Brunei Sultanate rose to prominence in the 15th and 16th centuries, when it controlled coastal areas of North-West Borneo, parts of Kalimantan and the Philippines. The Dutch, Portuguese and Spanish began arriving after the 16th century. Brunei lost outlying possessions to the Spanish and the Dutch and its power gradually declined as the British and Dutch colonial empires expanded. [Source: thecommonwealth.org ^^]

The Sultanate of Brunei's influence peaked between the 15th and 17th centuries when its control extended over coastal areas of northwest Borneo and the southern Philippines. Brunei subsequently entered a period of decline brought on by internal strife over royal succession, colonial expansion of European powers, and piracy. In 1888, Brunei became a British protectorate; independence was achieved in 1984. The same family has ruled Brunei for over six centuries. Brunei benefits from extensive petroleum and natural gas fields, the source of one of the highest per capita GDPs in Asia. [Source: CIA World Factbook]

In the 19th century the Sultan of Brunei sought British support in defending the coast against Dayak pirates, and ennobled James Brooke, a British adventurer, as Rajah of Sarawak in 1839. The British proceeded to annex the island of Labuan in 1846. North Borneo became a British protected state in 1888 and Brunei voluntarily accepted the status of a British protected state under the Sultan, with Britain having charge of its foreign relations. The loss of Limbang district to Sarawak in 1890 split Brunei into two and remains an obstacle to good relations with Malaysia to this day. ^^

In 1906 a treaty was signed between Britain and Brunei making Brunei a full protectorate. The treaty assured the succession of the ruling dynasty, with the arrangement that a British resident would advise the Sultan on all matters except those concerning local customs and religion. In 1929 large resources of oil were discovered in Seria; these and subsequent discoveries made Brunei a wealthy country. A written constitution was introduced, giving Brunei internal self- rule and allowing for a legislative council. The residency agreement of 1906 was revoked, transferring the resident’s power to the Sultan and appointed officials below him. Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien promulgated the nation’s new Constitution on September 29, 1959.^^

During 1962 there were sporadic and unsuccessful attempts at rebellion, instigated by the North Borneo Liberation Army. These were put down with the help of British Gurkha units flown in from Singapore and the Sultan declared a state of emergency. This has been renewed every two years since. In the 1960s, Brunei considered merging with the Federation of Malaysia, which at the time included the provinces of the Malaysian peninsula, Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore. The idea was opposed by the Brunei People’s Party, which at that time held 16 seats in the 33-member legislative council, and which proposed instead the creation of a state comprising Northern Borneo, Sarawak and Sabah. The Sultan finally decided against joining the Federation. ^^

In 1971, under an agreement with the UK, Brunei ceased to be a British protected state. The constitution was amended to give the Sultan full control over all internal matters, the UK retaining responsibility for defence and foreign affairs. Brunei became a fully independent sovereign state on 1 January 1984. ^^

Ancient History of Brunei

There is archaeological evidence that early modern humans were present in Borneo 40,000 years ago. These early settlers were later replaced by successive waves of Austronesian migrants, whose descendants form the many ethnic and cultural groups living in Borneo today, alongside more recent immigrants from China, Indonesia, the Philippines and India. [Source: Brunei Tourism ~]

There is archeological and historical evidence that indicates that Brunei was inhabited at least as early as the A.D. 6th century. Chinese historical records from this period use he name “Poli” or “Puni” to describe ancient Brunei. According to Chinese sources Islam had arrived in Brunei by 1371 and the people at that time used an Arabic-like script called jawi.

Early Borneo kingdoms were under the cultural, economic and political influence of larger Hindu and Buddhist kingdoms in the Indonesian archipelago. There is evidence of early trade with India and China dating as far back as the 6th century, with a rich trade in camphor, spices, precious woods and exotic jungle products in the area that is now modern-day Brunei. Before the region embraced Islam, Brunei was within the boundaries of the Sumatran Srivijaya empire, then the Majapahit empire of Java. ~

According to Royal Ark: “Excavations unearthed near the capital suggest that the Chinese may have controlled, or at least traded in the area as early as 835 AD. Camphor and pepper seem to have been prized objects of trade. Brunei hard camphor had a wholesale value equivalent to its own weight in silver. The kingdom was undoubtedly a very wealthy and cultured one. Ming dynasty accounts give detailed information about visits and tribute missions by rulers of P'o-ni during the late fourteenth and early fifteenth century. Their names and titles suggest either Hindu or Buddhist influence, not Islamic. The texts confirm that the state was tributary to the Hindu Javanese Majapahit Empire, but sought and received Chinese protection in 1408.” [Source: Royal Ark]

Mysterious Grave in Bandar Seri Begawan

Rozan Yunos wrote in the Brunei Times, Many people have walked past the walled small roof structure opposite the General Post Office Building in the car park yard of the TAIB Building in Bandar Seri Begawan. Many have in fact parked their cars next to it. However, not many have realized that they are actually parked to a grave. A grave which is very interesting and full of mystery. It is not even known whether it is a grave. It was said that before the World War, the site was actually a huge mound of some thirty feet tall. It was blown up by a bomb during the Second World War and the mound was said to be empty even though according to legend, there should be at least a few people who were buried there.<=>[Source: Rozan Yunos, Brunei Times, April 7, 2007]

“The grave was said to belong to a lady by the name of Dang Ayang. Dang is the Brunei colloquial term for Dayang and Ayang is the name of that person. Those who know it called the grave Kubur Dang Ayang. Some have called it Kubur Raja Ayang. It was said that the lady is actually of Royal parentage. Legend has it told that this was a very sad story. Apparently in the old days, a sister and a male sibling was caught in an unlawful relationship (sumbang mahram is the Malay term). According to the laws then, the crimes must be punished by being stoned to death. It was said that nobody then had the heart to stone them to death but neither could they leave them unpunished. So the authorities compromised. <=>

“What they did was to build a cavern in the middle of the forest (remember most Bruneians in those days live along the river and this 'kubor' or grave was about a mile inland then - so it is quite far from the other Bruneians). The two of them had to live in it. Some versions said only Dang Ayang lived in it and other versions said both of them. The cavern was fitted with air ventilation. Presumably some food was left with them as there was supposedly a small chimney where smoke can be seen coming out of the chimney. This smoke indicated that they were still alive. They must have been kept there for a long while until one day no more smoke was seen coming out of the chimney and everyone presumed that she or they died. <=>

“Nobody knew when the graveyard started to be walled but presumably someone did it because it is still technically a grave and up to now it is left there - to be left unknown and a rather sad testimony to an indiscretion of a young Brunei couple. If one was to visit the grave, there is a broken tombstone which tells the story of the lady and who she was. Even though she was not named on that tombstone but instead she was called the daughter of a certain person. According to a paper written by the Principal of the History Centre, she was most likely a member of the aristocracy whose father was of Arabic origin and said to be related to the third Sultan. Sultan Sharif Ali was of Arabic origin. <=>

“It was most likely too that the crime was committed in 1452 during the reign of Sultan Sulaiman (circa 1432-1485). It was said that the lady upon realising what she committed was an enormous sin that she and her entourage (so it wasn't just one person but the whole household) voluntarily went to their deaths. Given the context of the time and the parentage, the deed perpetrated was deemed to be very serious and merited such punishment. <=>

“On the tombstone it was written in Arabic too that it is hoped that the punishment meted out is sufficient compensation for the sin that was committed for the body (bodies) of those who committed the sin and pray that they are in peace and a prayer so that the Al-Mighty will forgive them. Based on the writings on the tombstone, it is understood that for every sin committed, the authorities must carry out the punishment necessary for it. It also reflected the strength of the religion then to the point that the punishment has to be meted out regardless of who the perpetrator was. What has happened can be a lesson for all. <=>

“Even though the punishment seemed harsh, some have said that the punishment that one will receive in the hereafter will be harsher if the punishment during the lifetime was light. The young couple understood what they did was wrong. They also understood that they must be punished and they accepted the punishment voluntarily. That is a lesson for us too. To know when we do something wrong and to know when we must pay for it. Hopefully the story of the young couple will make us better persons and that their grave can be a constant reminder to us.” <=>

Islam Arrives in Brunei

Trade with the Arabian Peninsula and with Indian Muslim traders saw the introduction of Islam to Brunei. In 1405, Brunei’s monarch embraced Islam and ruled as Sultan Muhammad, founding a dynasty which continues today.

According to Royal Ark: “Islamic tombs have been found and dated to 1264, 1432 and 1499, and a letter from the ruler of P'o-ni to the Emperor of China dates from 1371 and is written in Arabic script. However, none of them has any inscriptions, names or indications that they belonged to rulers or members of the Royal family. As late as 1514 the Captain-General of Malacca reported that although the merchants of Brunei were Muslim, their king remained a pagan. The Temenggong of Malacca at that time was a Brunei Muslim and seems to have confirmed this information. In the following year, the Portuguese Superintendent of the Spice Trade reported that it was "not long since" the King had become a Muslim. Thus dating the conversion to ca 1515 not 1363. Such a date would also tally with mention of the part played by the Johore sultanate, established after 1511, in the conversion of the ruler. [Source: Royal Ark =]

“The paucity of Royal tombs and engraved headstones is also remarkable, until one realises that as Hindus or Buddhists they would have been cremated, not buried. It is obvious from this that contemporary foreign records do not corroborate the official chronology. The ruler of Brunei probably did not convert to Islam until ca. 1515. For a considerable period thereafter, a significant portion of the population, perhaps including a rival branch of the Royal Family, may have adhered to the old religion. =

“Modern Bruneian writers make valiant attempts at trying to reconcile the official Islamised version of history with Western and Chinese sources. The Sinosized Sanskrit names are transliterated in such a way as to accord with Islamic names. Any names that cannot be arranged, are simply omitted from the Malay versions altogether. However, as one historian has shown by detailed references to Imperial banquet records, the kings who visited the Chinese court ate pork. One Brunei historian, confronted with the difficulty of this evidence, simply turns the tables and says that the historian concerned found the very opposite.” =

Early History of Chinese in Brunei

Rozan Yunos wrote in the Brunei Times, “Pengiran Dr Haji Karim in his book said that the history of the Chinese in Brunei is not a short history based on the historical entries in Chinese records which goes as far back as more than a thousand year ago. At first the relationship between the forerunner of today's Brunei, Poli and Polo, was as far back as 502 AD to 566 AD. With Poni, another forerunner state, that would be another two hundred years later. [Source: Rozan Yunos, Brunei Times, April 30, 2012 <>]

“By the time of the Song Dynasty (960 AD to 1296 AD), the Chinese traders were trading more extensively compared to the traders in the dynasties before. The name Poni was stated much more often and extensively. In 977 AD, one Chinese trader name P'u Lu Xie came to the port of Brunei. With his help, Brunei was able to send an envoy to China and sign a friendship agreement. In 1264 AD, one Chinese Muslim by the name of Pu Kung Chih Mu died in Brunei. He was an envoy of the Southern Song Dynasty. <>

“Pengiran Dr Karim noted that most likely there was likely a Chinese community in Kota Batu as far back as the 13th century. During the reign of Sultan Sharif Ali, the third Sultan, the Salasilah Raja-Raja Brunei ("The Brunei Kings Genealogy") stated that the Chinese helped with the construction of the stone fort in Kota Batu as well as a defensive wall in Pulau Cermin. The 16th century Spanish Report in 1520 also described there were many Chinese that "the Chinese swarmed so densely that native power was eclipsed." <>

“The presence of the Chinese had influenced the architecture of buildings in Brunei then. Pengiran Dr Karim noted that there were similarities between the Tomb of Sultan Bolkiah with other tombs such as Tomb Puhaddin in Yangzhou and Tombs of the Emperor Ming in Beijing. The similarities of the layered tomb and decoration were obvious. Other similarities include the pillar base in an excavation found in Kota Batu with that of the palace of Emperor Ming in Nanjing and Beijing and also old mosques in both cities. <>

“The Salasilah Raja-Raja Brunei also described activities of the Chinese in the 17th century including Chinese trading vessels in Brunei with their captains Nang Pau, Kusi and Si Lu. Thomas Forrest in his book "A Voyage to New Guinea and the Moluccas, 1774 - 1776" described this scene "at Borneo-town, the Chinese sometimes build junks, which they load with the rough produce of the island Borneo, and send them to China ". He also described them as settling in Brunei, " ... here are many Chinese settled, who have pepper gardens the Chinese here are very active and industrious they bring all kinds of the manufacture of china and keep shops on board their junks, as well as ashore". However during the 18th century, the trade to Brunei had deteriorated and by the 19th century, there were not many ships coming to Brunei. With the opening of the Singapore freeport, Chinese vessels stopped coming to Brunei.” <>

Early Sultans of Brunei

Brunei’s monarchy has the distinction of being the oldest unbroken reigning dynasty in the world. The Sultanate of Brunei and its Malay sultans have been around for around 700 years. It was established it is said in the 13th century, when a prince from western Borneo became a sultan.

According to Royal Ark: “The early history of Brunei and its ruling dynasty is clouded in mystery, due not only to the paucity of records but also to attempts to construct an official Islamic version of history which blots out anything else. The officially published Royal genealogies are often at variance with verifiable foreign sources at certain periods in history, as well as with the national epic poem, the Syair Awang Semaun. Although parts of the latter have come to light, publication of the full text remains prohibited because it does not always confirm the published official texts. [Source: Royal Ark =]

“According to the official version of events, Brunei was founded by a band of fourteen saudara (brothers and first cousins), who eventually settled in the Brunei river near the present capital and chose one of their number as the first ruler. Some known versions of the Syair Awang Semaun state that they were all the sons of Dewa Amas of Kayangan, a part supernatural being who descended to earth at Ulu Limbang in an egg. Discovered by the Sang Aji, he was married to that ruler's daughter by whom he fathered one son. He travelled to thirteen settlements in the region in search of an auspicious ox. At each of the villages, he fathered thirteen (or twenty-two) other sons by thirteen different aboriginal wives, daughters of the local penghulu. Official accounts attempt to Islamise his origins but several elements of the story clearly emanate from the Hindu concept of the cosmic egg, hiranyagarbha. The Islamised Silsilah Raja-Raja Brunei also mentions a ruler named Sang Aji. However, it is clear from the histories of other states in the region that Sang Aji is actually the title used by Hindu rulers in the region, not necessarily the name of any particular ruler. =

“The first ruler chosen by the saudara to rule the newly founded state was Awang Alak Betatar, the son of Dewa Amas and the Sang Aji's daughter. He was not necessarily the eldest among them, but chosen to rule because of his fitness to do so. The official account states that he journeyed to Johor, embraced Islam, married the daughter of a Sultan "Bahkei" of Johor and received the title of Sultan Muhammad Shah from him. Alas, these events are dated to 1363 AD, some 150 years or so before the sultanate of Johor came into existence. Neither the Malay Annals, nor other records, show any connection between the Johor and Brunei dynasties, nor do they make mention of any Sultan "Bahkei". The earliest mention of any marriage connection with Brunei is in the sultanate of Pahang, an offshoot of the Malacca-Johor dynasty, much later in the sixteenth century.” =

Important Sultans of Brunei

The Sultan of Brunei comes from a family line that dates back over 600 years to 1405 when the first Sultan ascended the throne, founding a dynasty of which the current Sultan, His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah, is the 29th ruler. The early history of the nation’s unique monarchy can be pieced together from accounts taken from Chinese, Javanese and local Bruneian records. The first ruler, Sultan Muhammad Shah, known as Awang Alak Betatar, is said to be responsible for introducing Islam to Brunei, forever altering the course of the nation’s history and cultural landscape. [Source: Brunei Tourism]

The second ruler was Sultan Ahmad, followed by a third Arab Sultan, Sharif Ali, considered to be a descendant of the Prophet Mohammad. Also known as Sultan Berkat, he married the daughter of Sultan Ahmad and consolidated the monarchy with the Islamic faith. Following him was Sultan Sulaiman, who was succeeded by the most renowned ruler in Brunei's early history, Sultan Bolkiah. Under the rule of Sultan Bolkiah, Brunei began to expand into an empire, with territorial holdings that would eventually encompass the island of Borneo and parts of the Philippines.

Brunei's golden age centred on the reign of two remarkable rulers, Sultan Bolkiah and Sultan Hassan. Under their rule, Brunei’s Royal Court developed a splendour rivalling that of any other monarchy in the world, and the territorial and cultural influence of the country reached its peak. Visitors today can still marvel at the dignity of Brunei’s Golden Age as a great deal of historic relics from the era have been carefully preserved.

List of Sultans and Current Line of Succession to the Bruneian throne

The Sultan of Brunei comes from a family line that dates back over 600 years to 1405 when the first Sultan ascended the throne, founding a dynasty of which the current Sultan, His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah, is the 29th ruler. The early history of the nation’s unique monarchy can be pieced together from accounts taken from Chinese, Javanese and local Bruneian records. The first ruler, Sultan Muhammad Shah, known as Awang Alak Betatar, is said to be responsible for introducing Islam to Brunei, forever altering the course of the nation’s history and cultural landscape.

The second ruler was Sultan Ahmad, followed by a third Arab Sultan, Sharif Ali, considered to be a descendant of the Prophet Mohammad. Also known as Sultan Berkat, he married the daughter of Sultan Ahmad and consolidated the monarchy with the Islamic faith. Following him was Sultan Sulaiman, who was succeeded by the most renowned ruler in Brunei's early history, Sultan Bolkiah. Under the rule of Sultan Bolkiah, Brunei began to expand into an empire, with territorial holdings that would eventually encompass the island of Borneo and parts of the Philippines.

Brunei's golden age centred on the reign of two remarkable rulers, Sultan Bolkiah and Sultan Hassan. Under their rule, Brunei’s Royal Court developed a splendour rivalling that of any other monarchy in the world, and the territorial and cultural influence of the country reached its peak. Visitors today can still marvel at the dignity of Brunei’s Golden Age as a great deal of historic relics from the era have been carefully preserved.

The following is the list of Sultans of Brunei since 1363 (Name, Reign, Remarks, From, Until): 1) Muhammad Shah, 1363, 1402; Abdul Majid Hassan (Maharaja Karna), 1402, 1408, Died in Nanjing, China; 2) Ahmad, 1408, 1425; 3) Sharif Ali, 1425, 1432; 4) Sulaiman, 1432, 1485; 5) Bolkiah, 1485, 1524; 6) Abdul Kahar, 1524, 1530; 7) Saiful Rijal, 1533, 1581, Castille War broke out between Brunei and Spain; 8) Shah Berunai, 1581, 1582; 9) Muhammad Hassan, 1582, 1598; 10) Abdul Jalilul Akbar, 1598, 1659; 11) Abdul Jalilul Jabbar, 1659, 1660; 12) Muhammad Ali, 1660, 1661; 12) Abdul Hakkul Mubin, 1660, 1673; 13) Muhyiddin, 1673, 1690; 14) Nassaruddin, 1690, 1710; 15) Hussin Kamaluddin, 1710, 1730, First reign; 16) Muhammad Alauddin, 1730, 1737; 17) Hussin Kamaluddin, 1737, 1740, Second reign; 18) Omar Ali Saifuddin I, 1740, 1795; 19) Muhammad Tajuddin, 1795, 1807; 20) Muhammad Jamalul Alam I, 1804, 1804; 21) Muhammad Kanzul Alam, 1807, 1826; 22) Muhammad Alam, 1826, 1828; 23) Omar Ali Saifuddin II, 1828, 1852, Brunei ceded Sarawak to James Brooke; 24) Abdul Momin, 1852, 30 May 1885, Brunei ceded North Borneo (later known as Sabah); 25) Hashim Jalilul Alam Aqamaddin, 30 May 1885, 10 May 1906, United Kingdom established protectorate over Brunei in 1888; 26) Muhammad Jamalul Alam II, 10 May 1906, 11 September 1924; 27) Ahmad Tajuddin, 11 September 1924, 4 June 1950; 28) Omar Ali Saifuddien III, 4 June 1950, 4 October 1967, Abdicated; died on 7 September 1986; 29) Hassanal Bolkiah, 4 October 1967, Present, Brunei regained independence from the United Kingdom in 1984.

Sultanate of Brunei at Its Peak in the 15th and 16th Centuries

Brunei was a very powerful kingdom in the 15th and 16th centuries. It ruled over all of Sarawak, Sabah and Borneo as well as part of the Sulu Islands and the Philippines. Two great leaders from this period were the fifth ruler Sultan Bolkiah and the ninth ruler Sultan Hassan. The empire’s vast wealth, derived from international commerce, created a strong impression on early European explorers. They returned to Europe with stories of gold, regalia and majestic ceremonies.

According to Netty Royalty: “The Sultanate of Brunei was powerful from the 14th to the 16th century. In this period also the present reigning family of Brunei found its origin. According to the national epic poem the origins of the present sultanate started when Dewa Emas Kayangan came down from heaven in an egg. One of his children converted to the Islam and became the first sultan. Not much is known about the first sultans. Under the reign of the 5th sultan Bolkiah (1485-1521) the influence of the sultanate was extended. This prosperous era continued until the end of the reign of the 9th Sultan, Hassan. After his death, the country entered a period of decline. [Source: Netty Royalty]

According to Royal Ark: “Chinese, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish sources from the fourteenth to the sixteenth centuries frequently tell of the wealth and power of the sultanate. By at least the fifteenth century, the Brunei sultan controlled virtually the whole of the coastal regions along the northern coastline of Borneo, Sulu, parts of Mindanao and even Luzon, in the Philippines. This wealth and power naturally brought European traders, of whom the Portuguese were content to trade. The Spanish, however, established themselves in Luzon. Proximity, religious differences, and trading aims soon caused friction between Brunei and Spain. Skirmishes turned to hostility and eventually war. [Source: Royal Ark]

Arrival of Europeans and Decline of the Brunei Sultanate

Pinafetta, the Italian chronicler of the Magellan mission, visited Brunei in July 1521. Magellan was killed a few months earlier in the Philippines. Pinafetta reported that there were two large towns on either side of the Brunei River. Each town with its own king, one a Muslim ruler and the other pagan. Later, in April 1578, the Spanish invaders who entered the mosque found "a block of marble containing painted and gilded pictures of idols", which they then looted. [Source: Royal Ark]

According to Royal Ark: “The Spanish invaded Brunei in 1577 and again in 1578, when they occupied and annexed the capital and its outlying parts to the Spanish crown. However, they were compelled to withdraw within a year and Sultan 'Abdu'l Kahar resumed control of the kingdom. Not long afterwards, a fractious civil war of succession erupted, continuing for several years. A resolution only emerged once the sultan of Sulu, in the Philippines, intervened in support of one of the parties and tipped the balance of power in his favour. The fractious civil war had been bad enough, driving away trade and compelling people to emigrate elsewhere. However, the price of that help turned out to be enormously high. The victorious sultan also had to surrender a large slice of territory on the Northeast coast of Borneo to his saviour. Thereafter, the sultanate fell into a slow, long and steady decline. [Source: Royal Ark =]

“By the middle of the nineteenth century, the chief means of income were piracy and cattle raiding. As income had declined, taxation had increased to the point of extortion. This in turn drove more people away and encouraged rebellion in the provinces of the empire. It was not long before the session of territory became the main legitimate means of earning income. The remaining coastal regions and inland tracts of North Borneo were ceded to European adventurers and commercial interests. =

According to Netty Royalty: There were internal battles over royal succession and the rising powers of the Europeans in the region. In 1839, with the help of the British adventurer James Brooke, Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin II gained power of Sarawak. But after a conflict between these two men, the Sultan had to recognise Sarawak's independence in 1843. A treaty with Great Britain was signed in 1846, after the British had attacked Brunei Town. Sultan Hashim Jalilul Alam Aqamaddin in 1888 signed a treaty with Great Britain, that placed the Sultanate under British protection. Apart from the occupation by the Japanese from 1941 to 1945, the country remained under British protection, until its full independency on January 1st, 1984. [Source: Netty Royalty]

James Brooke and the White Rajas in Brunei

In later centuries, declining trade and colonial intrusions eroded the size and influence of Brunei, especially after the 1838 arrival of James Brooke. A swashbuckling English adventurer, James Brooke was appointed governor, or Rajah, of Sarawak, after helping the Sultan put down a rebellion. However, he soon consolidated power and started expanding the territory under British control, creating his own dynasty of “White Rajahs” that ruled until World War II. During their rule, the “White Rajahs” continued encroaching on Brunei’s territory, which was also under pressure from British trading companies which had already taken control of present-day Sabah state in Malaysia. [Source: Brunei Tourism ~]

In 1841, Brunei ceded Sarawak to James Brooke. In 1846, Brunei ceded Labuan to Britain. In 1847, Brunei signed Trade Relations Treaty with Britain. According to to Lonely Planet: “British adventurer James Brooke helped the sultan put down a rebellion from warlike inland tribes. As a reward, the sultan granted Brooke power over part of Sarawak. Appointing himself Raja Brooke, James Brooke pacified the tribespeople, eliminated the much-feared Borneo pirates and forced a series of ‘treaties’ onto the sultan, whittling the country away until finally, in 1890, it was actually divided in half. This situation still exists today – if Bruneians want to get to the Temburong district, they have to go through Sarawak. [Source: Lonely Planet *]

According to Royal Ark: “In the vast eastern territories, Sir James Brooke became first a vassal then independent Rajah of Sarawak. He embarked on a long process of annexation or seizure of provinces until at last, his territories encroached almost to Brunei town itself, and he made himself master of most of the Northern coast. Britain, needing a convenient coaling station, annexed the island of Labuan and its dependencies. By the late nineteenth century, the sultanate had shrunk to little more than Brunei water-town and the immediate hinterland. [Source: Royal Ark =]

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Vanity Fair magazine, Brunei Tourism, Prime Minister's Office, Brunei Darussalam, Government of Brunei Darussalam, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated June 2015

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