Melaka or Malacca (both: məlăkˈə) [key], state (1991 pop. 504,502), 640 sq mi (1,658 sq km), Malaysia, S Malay Peninsula, on the Strait of Malacca. Formerly one of the Straits Settlements, it was constituted a state of Malaya in 1957 (see Malaysia). Nearly half the population are Malay; about two fifths are Chinese. The capital, on the strait, is the historic city of Melaka or Malacca (1991 pop. 112,873). Until the 17th cent., Malacca was one of the leading commercial centers of SE Asia. It was founded c.1400 by a Malay prince who had been driven from Singapore after a brief reign there. The city quickly gained wealth as a center of trade with China, Indonesia, India, and the Middle East. Its sultans, aided by the decline of the Madjapahit empire of Java and by the friendship of China, extended their power over the nearby coast of Sumatra and over the Malay Peninsula as far north as Kedah and Pattani. More importantly, Gujarati traders introduced Islam to the Malay world through Malacca. In 1511, Malacca was captured by the Portuguese under Alfonso de Albuquerque. The sultan fled first to Pahang and then to Johor. In the mid-16th cent. St. Francis Xavier preached in Malacca. Portugal's control was frequently contested by Aceh and Johor. In the early 17th cent. the Dutch entered the region, allied themselves with Johor, and captured Malacca in 1641 after a long siege. They utilized the city more as a fortress guarding the strait than as a trading port. The Dutch retained nominal control until 1824, although during the wars of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic period (1795–1818) the British occupied Malacca at the request of the Dutch government-in-exile. In 1824 the Dutch formally transferred Malacca to Great Britain. The modern city, of slight economic importance, retains traces of its past in its Portuguese and Dutch buildings and Portuguese-Eurasian community. The majority of the city's inhabitants are Chinese, who have acquired many Malay customs.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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