Malaysia is a country in South East Asia (near Indonesia) whose strategic sea-lane position brought trade and foreign influences that fundamentally influenced its history. Hindu India, the Islamic Middle East and Christian Europe to its west, and China and Japan with one of successive phases of outside influence, followed by the mid-twentieth century establishment of independence from foreign colonial powers.
Hindu and Buddhist cultures imported from India dominated early Malaysian history. They reached their peak in the Sumatran-based Srivijaya civilization, whose influence extended through Sumatra, Java, the Malay Peninsula and much of Borneo from the 7th to the 14th centuries. Although Muslims had passed through Malaysia as early as the tenth century, it was not until the 14th and 15th centuries that Islam first established itself on the Malayan Peninsular.
The adoption of Islam by the fifteenth century saw the rise of number sultanates, the most prominent of which was the Melaka (Malacca). Islamic culture has had a profound influence on the Malay people, but has also been influenced by them. The Portuguese were the first European colonial powers to establish themselves in Malaysia, capturing Malacca in 1511, followed by the Dutch.
However, it was the British, who after initially establishing bases at Jesselton, Kuching, Penang and Singapore, ultimately secured their hegemony across the territory that is now Malaysia. The Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1824 defined the boundaries between British Malaya and the Netherlands East Indies (which became Indonesia). A fourth phase of foreign influence was immigration of Chinese and Indian workers to meet the needs of the colonial economy created by the British in the Malay Peninsula and Borneo.