There have been many opinions as to how Perak got its name. Some people say that the name is taken in conjunction with the Bendahara Tun Perak from Melaka while some others say that it is taken from the “flash caused by a fish in the water” which shone like silver. Hence, the origin of the name illustrates the rich treasures available in its soil.
Perak has been around since the pre-historic era. Kota Tampan in Lenggong is the only source of evidence of its existence since the Palaeolithic Age in Tanah Melayu. Starting from 400,000 to 8,000 years B.C, Perak has gone through a series of evolutions. The finding of tools made from stone and a human fossil known as the “Perak Man” are evidences of the stone age existence in Perak.
Perak has gone through the Hoabinhian Era followed by the Neolithic and Metal Age, which can be proven by some specific findings.
This is followed by the Hindu/Buddha era which was expected to have happened at the same time as with the other states in Tanah Melayu.
After this era, the historical realm of Perak advanced a step forward with the emergence of such local governments as Manjung in the Dinding district and Beruas (which comes into existence after the extinction of Manjung). So are a few other governments in Central and Ulu Perak such as Tun Saban and Raja Roman. Simultaneously, Islam has started to set foot firmly in Perak.
The real point of history for Perak starts with the installation of Sultan Muzaffar Syah I from the descendent of Sultan Mahmud Syah in Melaka in 1528. Although the Perak sultanate has emerged as a strong entity, other local governments at that time remained as strong. The administration method chosen was a descendent from the feudal system of the democratic Melaka.
Perak is generally more well-known following the discovery of tin in Larut in 1848 by Cik Long Jaafar. With the discovery, Perak rapidly developed and more mines are opened. Besides tin, rubber too plays an important role in Perak and has been planted during the reign of 34 Sultans. Due to these developments, a multi-racial community has been formed in Perak, comprising especially the Chinese who had flocked to the mines to work.
The English, who had always had an interest in Perak, finally had the opportunity to intervene via the Pangkor Agreement 1874 after a riot broke in Larut. With this intervention, the English Resident administration system has been installed and J.W.W Birch became its first Resident.
Initially, the resident system is expected to produce a positive implication, however, due to of its deviating implementations coupled by the locals’ attitude that refused to be colonised, a confrontation has taken place led by Datuk Maharaja Lela. As a result, J.W.W Birch was killed in 1875.
The Resident System, however, continued to be practiced until the arrival of the Japanese in Malaya in the year 1941. Perak has suffered tremendously during the Japanese occupation until 1945.
The English colonialisation does not end even after the Japanese surrendered and prolonged until 1948. Violence, everywhere in Perak, was mainly caused by the Communist Party of Malaya.
After the Japanese occupation in Tanah Melayu, the position of the Malay States became very unstable. This is made worse by the emergence of nationalism among the people to demand independence. The English tried their best to stay in power by introducing a few administration systems such as the Malayan Union in 1946.
Both commoners and state officials toiled hard to fight off the English system until the English finally declared independence on Tanah Melayu in 1957.
The independence of Tanah Melayu means the freedom of the confederated states and Perak is one of the states. Rapid development in all sectors continued to grow until today after 34 generations of Sultans have ruled the state.< p align="justify">In commemorating the bravery of the national heroes of Perak, be it the Sultan himself or the followers, the mausoleum has been restored and preserved while the dead heroes proclaimed as national heroes.
Pre Historic Era
Perak has gone through four pre-historic eras namely the Palaeolithic Age, the Hoabinhian Age, the Neolithic Age and the Metal Age.
The Palaeolithic Age
This era is estimated to have taken place between 400,000 and 8,000 BC. The only proof of the era in Tanah Melayu is the ancient site found in Kota Tampan, Lenggong. The remains of this era which contain incomplete tools made from stone are also known as the Tampan cultural heritage.
The Hoabinhian Era
This era is estimated to have taken place between 8,000 and 2,000 BC. The proofs of the era in Tanah Melayu can be found in the ancient site in Gua Badak, Lenggong, Gua Pondok, Padang Rengas and in a few more caves in Perak. The remains of this era which contain more complicated tools made from stone including stone mortar which was used to make red dye (haematite)..
The Neolithic Era
This era is estimated to have taken place between 2,000 and 800 BC. The proofs of the era in Tanah Melayu can be found in Gua Badak, Lenggong and its surroundings, Gua Tambun, Ipoh and are in a better shape, smoother and identifiable. The people during this era knew how to use porcelain to make cooking utensils and build proper huts for shelter. They also knew how to plant crops.
This era is estimated to have taken place between 500 and 200 BC. The artifacts found in Changkat Menteri, Sungkai and Slim River indicate that the society during this era used metal like bronze and iron to make spear heads, fishing hooks and arrows. There is also a strangely shaped tool from iron that is known as “Ape Bone” (Tulang Mawas) found buried in a Batu Ubin graveyard.
The Hinduism/Buddhism Era
The finding in Kuala Selensing, Perak is regarded as a transition era before Hinduism/Buddhism while the era of Hinduism/Buddhism was actually the opening era of the entire history of Perak. The influence of Indian culture and beliefs in this region since the early years had changed the society values in Tanah Melayu. The findings of Hindu/Buddha statues and worship equipment in Bidor, Jalong and Pengkalan Pegoh had been proofs of such existence.
Perak After Pre-Historic
The Arrival of Islam and Before Sultanate
The Manjung government in Beruas is regarded as the oldest government system in Perak. After the extinction of Manjung, approximately in the early 15th century, the Malay Beruas government comes into existence. The encryptions found on the tombstones showed obvious evidence of the existence of Islamic influence. It is believed that Islam came to Perak via the other states like Melaka and from the East Coast.
Apart from that, Islam had expanded deep into the rural areas of Perak via the Perak River. Other than the Beruas government, there were also the powers of the local officials such as the Roman government, Tun Saban, Tok Temong and a few other governments which have not yet been identified.
The Sultans Era
The height of the state’s historical glory came after the formation of the sultanate system which covered a vast area of 8,110 square miles. The coronation of Sultan Mudzaffar Shah I in 1528 turned over a new leaf to a more modern approach.
The discovery of tin by Cik Long Jaafar in Larut in 1824 had quickened the pace of development in Perak. Coupled by the occupation of the English in 1874 has introduced rubber as the new source of economy. Due to that, a lot of Chinese and Indian immigrants entered the state.
From the two sources of economy and in addition to its traditional economy, Perak has rapidly developed under the reign of 34 sultans until today.
The occupation of the English beginning from 1874 has introduced a few administrative systems which in the end have caused a rebellion against them.
The English Interference
The Pangkor Agreement which was sealed on 20 January 1874 between the English and the Perak Malay Officials confirmed the English authority in Perak and the Malay states in general. A few factors have influenced the interference namely the wealth of Perak natural resources, the friction between the officials in power and the havoc in Larut caused by the Chinese triads.
With this interference, the English introduced the Resident system which was projected to be able to improve the traditional ruling system.
Texts of the Pangkor Agreement on 20 January 1874
The Rebel against the English Administrative System
The Resident System is not an improvement to the traditional government system, but is regarded more of as an Oppression System due to the fact the English gains the most benefits from the system. In its implementation, misuse of power by its first Resident J.W.W Birch had led to grievances and dissatisfaction from the locals which then led to a resistance. In the end, J.W.W. Birch was killed in 1875. Despite the tragedy, the same system remained in practice until the Japanese set foot in Malaya.
The Resident Administrative System
The power of a Resident which was introduced via a Western-style administration which was claimed to be more modern was found to be in contradictions of the patterns of the traditional Malay government. The Sultans and state officials no longer had the functions as the ultimate rulers except for matters related to religion and the Malay customs only. Hence, there were oppositions after oppositions but the system remained in practice until the Japanese occupation.
World War I ‘Downturn Era’
Although the World War I which started in 1814 took place only in Europe, the impact of which were felt worldwide.
Perak was involved indirectly via international trade links when the prices of tin and natural rubber dropped tremendously. The implications – all development projects were forced to be put on hold.
World War II
The destruction of World War II was equally felt by the people in the Federated Tanah Melayu on 8 December 1941 with the landing of the Japanese army on the shore of Kota Bharu.
Perak felt into the hands of the Japanese on 1 January 1942. The people suffered tremendously during the Japanese occupation well into 1945.