Strategically located at a trading crossroads along the Straits of Malacca, Penang has seen its role evolve over the centuries. The island started out as a haven for pirates and smugglers long before the British arrived in 1786, after which the backwater transformed into the first port of discharge for ships sailing from Europe and India to the Straits Settlements. The island was also the last port of call for returning ships.
Penang was Malaya’s only entrepôt for incoming labour immigrants (mostly from India and China), before Port Swettenham took over in the 1930s.
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