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Sir Thomas Stamford Bingley Raffles

Raffles, Sir Thomas Stamford Bingley, 1781–1826, British East Indian administrator. He was one of the founders of Britain's empire in East Asia. Beginning his career (1795) as a clerk in the British East India Company, he was sent to Pinang, Malaya (Malaysia), in 1805 as assistant secretary. Through his knowledge of the Malay language and customs he played a large part in planning the capture of Java from the Dutch. He ruled Java as lieutenant governor (1811–15) and reduced the power of native princes. Raffles also reorganized the administration, launched reforms in taxation, abolished forced labor and feudal dues, and provided security of land tenure. Recalled (1815) on the eve of Java's restoration to the Dutch, he returned to England, where his History of Java (1817) was published. While lieutenant governor of Bencooleen in Sumatra (1818–23), he introduced coffee and sugar cultivation and established schools. He secured the transfer (1819) of Singapore to the East India Company and initiated policies that contributed greatly to Singapore's vital role in the lucrative China trade. Raffles was outstanding for his liberal attitude toward peoples under colonial rule, his rigorous suppression of the slave trade, and his zeal in collecting historical and scientific information. He played the chief role in founding the Zoological Society of London and was its first president. He was knighted in 1817.

See biographies by C. E. Wurtzberg (1954) and M. Collis (1966).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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