By Quinn, Nation, and Millett
Published here with authors’ permission
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Many years ago Sarawak was part of Brunei and many different people such as Malays, Dayaks and Chinese lived there. The country was ruled by a sultan and in the time of James Brooke the sultan was not a good man. He acted badly towards his people and they turned against him and started fighting him. The Sultan’s name was Hassim.
James Brooke was English. He was born in India in 1803, but he was sent to school in England at the age of fourteen. He studied for several years. When he was older, he went back to India to work, but he did not like it there. One day he became ill and was sent back to England to rest and get better. When he was well again, he decided not to return to India. Instead he worked on a ship which went to many parts of Asia. Brooke began to be interested in foreign places.
Brooke started to read widely about Asia, and he wanted to visit the places that he read about. When his father died, he left him a lot of money and with the money he bought a ship. He left England and went to Asia. When Brooke reached Sarawak, the people, especially the Dayaks were fighting the sultan, Hassim.
Hassim really wanted to end the war and he told Brooke that he would give him the country of Sarawak, if he would help him to stop the fighting. Brooke began to teach Hassim’s men how to use guns. When the people saw that their enemies had guns, they were afraid and wanted to stop the war. Brooke organized a meeting between the sultan and the people and the war ended peacefully. After the war ended, the sultan gave Sarawak to Brooke and he became the first English sultan of Sarawak in 1842. This was the beginning of one hundred years of rule in Sarawak by the Brooke family.
Brooke was a very good leader. He learned the Malay language and mixed with his people. Before Brooke became sultan, the rich and important people in Sarawak had been very powerful and they had not always followed the rules of the country. Because of this the poor people were afraid of them. After Brooke became the sultan everybody, both rich and poor, had to follow the laws of the land. If anyone broke the law, they were caught and had to pay. However, people who followed the law and lived their lives in a good way no longer had to be afraid. The people felt safer and enjoyed a happier, more peaceful life.
James Brooke helped his people in other ways too. He was very interested in learning and he wanted the people of Sarawak to learn about the world. He sent to Britain for teachers to come to Sarawak and when they arrived, Brooke and the teachers built the first schools in the country. People became more and more interested in studying and parents sent their children to the schools so that they could make their lives better.
In 1863 Brooke returned to England because he was not well and another member of his family, Charles Brooke, became the second English sultan of Sarawak. James Brooke died in England in 1868. Now Sarawak is a part of Malaysia but the name Brooke is still remembered.