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South China Sea, constitutional monarchy, Malay Peninsula, NIEs, rubber industries

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Malaysia, constitutional monarchy in Southeast Asia on the South China Sea. Malaysia is divided into two regions, known as West Malaysia and East Malaysia. West Malaysia, also known as Peninsular Malaysia, consists of the southern portion of the Malay Peninsula and nearby islands. Thailand borders West Malaysia on the north, and Singapore lies off the southern coastal tip. East Malaysia occupies the northern section of Borneo Island, as well as offshore islands. East Malaysia shares Borneo with Brunei, which lies on a small section of the northern coast, and with the Kalimantan region of Indonesia, which lies to the south. Malaysia is a federation of 13 states and 3 federal territories. The city of Kuala Lumpur, coextensive with the federal territory of the same name, is the capital and largest city. Located near Kuala Lumpur is the administrative center of the federal government, Putrajaya, which also makes up a federal territory.

From the late 18th to the early 19th century, Britain gradually gained control of Peninsular Malaysia, and most of northern Borneo fell into private British hands. During the same period, the largely Malay population became diversified, as ethnic Chinese and Indians immigrated to work in Malaysia’s tin and rubber industries. Since independence in 1957, ethnic tensions, especially between Chinese and Malays, have dominated political and economic issues. Despite the tensions, however, Malaysia has experienced rapid economic growth, particularly in the manufacturing sector, and economists include the country among Asia’s newly industrialized economies (NIEs).


For younger readers

McNair, Sylvia. Malaysia. Scholastic, 2001. For readers in grades 5 to 9.

Munan, Heidi. Malaysia. 2nd ed. Marshall Cavendish, 2001. For readers in grades 5 to 8.

Rowell, Jonathan. Malaysia. Raintree Steck-Vaughn, 1997. For readers in grades 4 to 6.


Andaya, Barbara Watson, and Leonard Y. Andaya. A History of Malaysia. 2nd ed. University of Hawaii Press, 2001. A good general history.

Crouch, Harold. Government and Society in Malaysia. Cornell University Press, 1996. Analyzes the social, political, and economic changes in Malaysia from 1970 to 1993.

Dumarcay, Jacques, and Michael Smithies. Cultural Sites of Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia. Oxford University Press, 1998. A well-illustrated study of the region's archaeological wonders.

Gullick, J. M., ed. They Came to Malaya: A Travellers' Anthology. Oxford University Press, 1995. Collection of writings from a variety of authors, both historical and contemporary.

Heussler, Robert. British Rule in Malaya: The Malayan Civil Service and Its Predecessors, 1867-1942. Greenwood, 1981. How every aspect of Malayan life was influenced by the British.

Kaur, Amarjit, and Ian Metcalfe, eds. The Shaping of Malaysia. St. Martin's, 1998. Description and analysis of the forces that shaped present-day Malaysia.

Kaur, Amarjit. Historical Dictionary of Malaysia. 2nd ed. Scarecrow, 2001. This reference work identifies key people, places, and events in Malaysian history.

Rowell, Jonathan. Malaysia. Raintree, 1997. An examination of Malaysian history, geography, and culture. For younger readers.


Ulack, Richard, B.A., M.S., Ph.D. Professor of Geography, University of Kentucky. Coauthor of Mobility and Employment in Urban Southeast Asia: Examples from Indonesia and the Philippines and Atlas of Southeast Asia.

Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2009. © 1993-2008 Microsoft Corporation.

Article key phrases:

South China Sea, constitutional monarchy, Malay Peninsula, NIEs, rubber industries, Putrajaya, Peninsular Malaysia, economic issues, rapid economic growth, manufacturing sector, economists, largest city, Southeast Asia, tin, regions, Indians, federal government, Singapore, Brunei, Asia, century, independence, Britain, period, country, federation, states

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