Sarawak was unique within the British sphere of influence. For more than 100 years, this piece of land on Borneo island was ruled by an European family who considered themselves the custodian of this land. However, World War II changed all that and it was felt at the time that to ensure Sarawak didn’t go under due to financial strain as a result of the global conflict, London intervened and willing to adopt Sarawak as part of the-then shrinking empire that once ruled almost a quarter of the Earth’s total land area at its peak. Below is the street scene of old Kuching and a small picture of Sir Charles Vyner Brooke, the third and last White Rajah of this land.
Sarawak merupakan satu wilayah yang unik di bawah pengaruh British. Dalam jangka masa lebih dari 100 tahun, wilayah yang terletak di pulau Borneo ini diperintah oleh satu keluarga yang berasal dari Eropah yang menganggap diri mereka sebagai penjaga wilayah ini. Namun, Perang Dunia Kedua mengubah segalanya dan bagi memastikan Sarawak tidak mengalami masalah kewangan yang berterusan disebabkan konflik global ini, London telah bersetuju mengambil alih pucuk pemerintahan Sarawak dan menjadikannya ia sebagai sebahagian wilayah empayar yang pada satu ketika zaman kemuncak dahulu merangkumi hampir sesuku luas daratan Bumi. Tertera di bawah merupakan gambar panorama lama di Kuching dan gambar kecil di atasnya merupakan Sir Charles Vyner Brooke, Rajah Putih ketiga dan terakhir Sarawak.
News source: The Milwaukee Journal, 21 March 1946
Borneo was known in the West as a land of thick jungles, handsome amounts of flora and fauna and not to forget the deadly head hunters that roam the remote forest, far from the signs of modern civilization. For them, Borneo was almost mythical, a faraway land that was among the last places that were barely touched by modern and civilized trappings of urban life. Today, such perceptions are probably lesser, especially in regards to head hunters (or warriors as thought by some people). This news article reported the planned expedition of a group of Americans who insisted that despite the pessimism or misgivings the Western public had on places such as Borneo, the group leader was quoted as saying,
“It is true enough that savages of more or less headhunting proclivities lurk in the dark fastness of Borneo, but in justice these unenlightened tribesmen it is only fair that we remember that right here in Chicago, a city of civilized people, malevolent gunmen and bandit killers make life quite precarious.”
Article source: The Milwaukee Journal, 28 October 1928
By 20th century, Britain had already asserted its influence to almost all of Malay Peninsular, effectively in control of the region’s domestic political and economic affairs. Malaya (as it was known then) was a great economic importance to the British empire due to two things – rubber and tin. The region was among the largest supplier of rubber and tin in the world and contributed immensely towards the rapid industrialisation in the West. Almost half of the world’s rubber supply came from Malaya and that put Britain as a dominant global market player in such commodity.
The huge importance of rubber even attracted the attention of an American trust aided by a man with considerable political and financial influence. With the emerging industries centred on automobile production, the demand for rubber in the United States was seen as a phenomenon worthy of exploitation, and based on this news article, the domination of world rubber market was done through the control of the majority source of this commodity – Malaya. However, a British businessman saw this as a harmful and an uncompetitive act.
And a rather interesting line from this news article which said, “The supply comes from the wild trees of Borneo, and as they are cut down, the Borneo supply is bound to run short.” I’d say this was a Western capitalism at its ‘best’ when it comes to natural environment.
Article source: The Milwaukee Sentinel, 30 December 1910
In just less than 50 years, Japan rose from being an isolated country trapped in a feudal world into the most modern and foremost superpower in Asia, rivalling that of the West. However, it took the horrors and devastation of a conflict for the West (and perhaps the rest of the world) to finally realise the strength and capability of Japan. Russian Empire, under Tsar Nicholas II underestimated Japan’s military capability simply because Japan was a newly modernised country and had a sense that their military strength was not as powerful as Russia’s. Their bitter rivalry for a domination in the Far East came at the expense of weakening China. Though mild, the rivalry even reached far to the south where as the news article here briefly reported, Russia was unhappy with Britain’s decision to allow Japanese Imperial Navy to establish a naval base at Labuan.
Article source: The Sydney Mail, 25 January 1905