Historical findings suggest the Brunei kingdom began more than 1,500 years ago and was referred to as Puni or Puli in ancient Chinese texts. In the 14th Century, the country’s first ruler Awang Alak Betatar embraced the Islamic faith and changed his name to Sultan Muhammad Shah. As a territory administered by a Muslim government, subsequent Brunei sovereigns became known as Sultans.
The country’s Golden Age commenced in the 16th Century, reaching eminence when Brunei’s power was recognised throughout Borneo, the Sulu Archipelago and the Southern Philippines. The Golden Age coincided with the rule of Sultan Bolkiah and Sultan Hassan. During this period, both rulers were able to expand Brunei’s territory and extend its cultural influence. The two Sultans also pioneered Brunei’s Royal Court to its full grandeur and brilliance, rivalling other monarchies.
However, by the 19th Century, the Brunei Empire had been whittled away by wars, piracy and the colonial expansion of European powers. Following a treaty with Great Britain, Brunei in 1888 became a British protected state. During the reign of Sultan Hashim Jalilul Alam, Brunei was divided into two separate enclaves: Brunei-Muara, Tutong and Belait districts on one side and Temburong district on the other as a result of the annexation of Limbang by Rajah Charles Brooke. In 1906, the Residential System was established in Brunei, and a British Resident was nominated as a representative of the British government to advise the sultan in all matters except Malay customs, traditions and Islamic religion.
Following the aftermath of the Second World War, Brunei gradually began to recover and made a major breakthrough during the reign of Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Muhammad Jamalul Alam which coincided with the country’s first commercial discovery of oil in 1929. Brunei underwent a massive economic growth and transformed into a thriving, modern state over the decades as the oil and gas industry continued to grow.
In 1967, His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam was proclaimed as the Sultan of Brunei. The following year, His Majesty was crowned as the 29th Sultan, leading Brunei to even greater development. Brunei and Great Britain signed an amended and revised version of the 1959 Agreement in 1971, making Brunei fully independent internally and post of High Commissioner, a normal diplomatic position. Only external affairs and defence remained in British hands.
In 1984, Brunei gained independence and attained self-government from the British. His Majesty declared Brunei as a fully independent sovereign nation ready to resume its international responsibilities.
Copyright 1993 Borneo Bulletin Yearbook All rights reserved.