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Travel Guide > Asia > Malaysia > Penang

Penang History & Politics

  
 
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Penang was part of the Malay sultanate of Kedah until 1786, when Captain Francis Light built a fort at the site of present-day Georgetown and managed to get the island ceded to the British East India Company. The island, along with Malacca and Singapore, was one of the three British Straits Settlements. The name Penang comes from the Malay word Pinang, means the betel nut tree (Areca catechu).

The name Pulau Pinang translated literally from Malay means "betel nut island". The original name of Penang was Pulau Ka-satu or "First Island", it was renamed to Prince of Wales Island on 12 Aug 1786 to commemorate the birthday of the Prince of Wales, later, George IV. During the early and middle part of the last century, Penang Island was also known as "The Pearl of the Orient". The capital, Georgetown, was named after King George III of Great Britain.

Today, Penang has the highest population density in Malaysia and is the only state where the ethnic Chinese are the majority. The state of Penang today has the third-largest economy amongst the states of Malaysia, after Selangor and Johor. The cargo trade has largely shifted down to Port Klang and Singapore since Penang lost its free-port status in 1969, but now Penang makes a good living off tourism and electronics manufacturing. The multi-national corporations that operate factories in Penang's Free Trade Zones include Intel, AMD, BBraun, Dell, Flextronics, Agilent, Osram, Motorola, Seagate, and Jabil Circuit. Penang was granted Cyber-City status on 21 June, 2004. At the World Heritage Committee Session in July 2008, Georgetown and Malacca were listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.






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