Thomas Stamford Raffles

Sir Thomas Stamford Bingley Raffles (26 July 1781 - 5 July 1826) was the founder of the city (now country) of Singapore, and is one of the best-known of the many Englishmen who created the largest empire the world has ever seen.


Thomas Stamford Raffles

Little is known of Raffles' parents. At age 14 he started working as a clerk in London for the British East India Company, the quasi-government trading company that shaped much of England's overseas conquests. In 1805 he was sent to what is now Penang in the country of Malaysia, then called Prince of Wales Island, starting a long association with southeast Asia.

Raffles was appointed Lieutenant Governor of Java in 1811 and promoted to Governor of Sumatra shortly thereafter, during the period when Britain took administrative control of the Dutch colonies while the Netherlands were preoccupied with the Napoleonic Wars in Europe. During his Governorship, Raffles introduced partial self-government, stopped the slave trade, restored and researched Borobudur and other ancient monuments, and replaced the Dutch forced agriculture system with a land-tenure system of land management. He also researched and wrote a book entitled History of Java, describing the history of the island from ancient times.

In 1815 he left again for England after the island of Java was returned to control of the Netherlands following the Napoleonic Wars. He came back to the island of Sumatra in 1818, and on 29 January, 1819, he established a free-trade post at the southern tip of the Malayan Peninsula—a site that became Singapore. Raffles declared the foundation of what was to become modern Singapore on 6 February of that year, securing transfer of control of the island to the East India Company. By the time he left for good in 1823, the city was on its way to become the largest port in the world.

Raffles was also a founder and first president of the Zoological Society of London. He was knighted in 1817.

In Singapore, his name lives on in Raffles College, Raffles Institution, Raffles Hotel, Stamford Road, Stamford House, Raffles City and Raffles Place, while he is also remembered in the name of the largest flowers in the world, the Rafflesia.

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