Penang today bears the mark of an early history of successive foreign
influences - from the early Indian Civilization that took root in
northern Malaya to that of the Portuguese, Dutch and later the British
who came to this part of the world in search of spices and stayed to
participate in the lucrative trade.
The history of modern Penang can be traced back to1786 when Francis
Light managed to persuade the Sultan of Kedah to cede "Pulau Pinang"
(Betel Nut Island) to the British East India Company. Light landed at
the site of the present Esplanade and according to local legend, fired
gold coins into the surrounding jungle to induce his men to clear the
area. The island was originally named Prince of Wales Island and the
settlement that soon grow up was named Georgetown after King George lll.
In 1800, the Sultan of Kedah further ceded a strip o land on the
mainland across the channel which Light named Province Wellesley, after
the then governor of India. In 1832, Penang formed part of the Straits
Settlement with Melaka and Singapore. It flourished and grow to be a
major trading post for a lucrative trade in tea, spices, china and
cloth. For more than a hundred years, it remained under British Colonial
rule until 1957 when it gained independence and became on of the states
of the newly formed Federation of Malaya and later Malaysia in 1963.