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History of Johor

The name "Johor" originated from the Arabic word Jauhar, which literally means "Precious Stones". Founded in the early 16th century by the son of Sultan Mahmud Shah, the last Sultan of Malacca, after fleeing from the Portuguese in Malacca, it grew into the Johor Empire that covered the Riau Archipelago.

Unable to retake Malacca, Johor harassed and attacked the Portuguese during their 130-year rule. Johor became a threat to the Portuguese in maintaining dominance within the Straits.

The history of Johor from the late 1500s to the late 1600s is characterized by a series of succession struggles interspersed with strategic alliances struck with regional clans and foreign powers to maintain its political and economic hold in the Straits. Competing against the Achehs of northern Sumatra and the port-kingdom of Malacca under the Portuguese, Johor engaged prolonged warfare with her rivals, often striking alliances with friendly Malay states and in particular the Dutch. In 1641 Johor joined forces with the Dutch succeeded in capturing Malacca. By 1660, Johor became a flourishing entrepôt, although weakening and splintering of the empire in the late seventeenth and eighteenth century reduced its sovereignty.

In the 18th century, the Bugis of Sulawesi and the Minangkabau of Sumatra controlled the political powers in the Johor-Riau Empire. However, in the early 19th century, Malay and Bugis rivalry commanded the scene. In 1819, the Johor-Riau Empire had broken into mainland Johor, controlled by the Temenggong, and the Sultanate of Riau-Linggi, controlled by the Bugis. This is when the history of modern Johor began. In 1855, under the terms of a treaty between the British in Singapore and Sultan Ali of Johor, the control over the State was formally ceded to Dato' Temenggong Daeng Ibrahim, with the exception of the Kesang area (Muar), which was finally handed over in 1877. Temenggong Ibrahim opened up Bandar Tanjung Puteri (later to become Johor's present-day capital) in south Johor as a major town.