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Johor is brought under British control 12th May 1914

Johor was effectively brought under British control when the position of the British General Adviser in the Johor sultanate was elevated to the level similar to that of a Resident in the Federated Malay States (FMS).[1] With the newfound status, the General Adviser, a post occupied by Douglas Graham Campbell at the time, had control over the reigning Sultan Ibrahim of Johor on all matters except those related to Malay religion and custom.[2] Prior to this, the only influence that the British had over the Johor sultan through the General Adviser was on the territory’s foreign affairs. This influence was established after both sides signed an agreement in 1885.[3]

There were numerous reasons why the British wanted to exert its control over Johor. The British disapproved of the extravagant and flamboyant lifestyle of the previous Sultan Abu Bakar and were annoyed over the sultanate’s pace to modernise its administration style.[4] They were also irked by Johor’s determination to uphold its autonomy.[5] For instance, in the construction of the FMS’s railway through Johor, then Sultan Ibrahim defied the British by arranging for the Johor line to be built by private English contractors instead of British authorities. This decision infuriated the British, leading them to decide that the best course of action – especially to protect growing British interest in Johor – was to bring the territory under its direct control.[6] To do so, the British used the excuse of a critical report compiled by a prison commission in January 1914 about the poor conditions of the Johor Bahru prison to compel the sultan to enlarge the powers of the General Adviser to those of a Resident in the FMS. This meant that the adviser could advise the sultanate more effectively on how to carry out the necessary administrative reforms.[7]

The powers of the General Adviser were revised after Ibrahim signed an agreement on 12 May 1914 repealing Article III of the 1885 agreement and substituting the provisions made by the sixth, eighth and 10th articles of the Pangkor Agreement.[8] In substance, the new agreement introduced the FMS Residential System into Johor. It also marked the completion of British influence over the Malay states.

1. Johor treaty revision. (1914, May 18). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Nadarajah, N. (2000). Johore and the origins of British control, 1895–1914 (p. 179). Kuala Lumpur: Arenabuku. Call no.: RSING 959.5 NES.
2. The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), 18 May 1914, p. 7; Nadarajah, 2000, p. 179; Sinclair, K. (July 1967). The British advance in Johore, 1885–1914. Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 40(1), 93. Call no.: RCLOS 959.9 JMBRAS.
3. Turnbull, C. M. (1981). A short history of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei (p. 184). Singapore: G. Brash. Call no.: RSING 959.5 TUR; Sinclair, Jul 1967, p. 96.
4. Turnbull, 1981, p.184; Nadarajah, 2000, pp. 166–170.
5. Turnbull, 1981, p. 184.
6. Turnbull, 1981, p. 184; Sinclair, Jul 1967, pp. 98–99.
7. Turnbull, 1981, p. 184; Sinclair, Jul 1967, pp.108–110.
8. Nadarajah, 2000, p. 179.
9. Nadarajah, 2000, p. 179.


The information in this article is valid as at 2014 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

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