Malacca an extensive region, situate in Southern India, consisting of a large peninsula connected by the isthmus of Kraw, extends from the 1st to the 12th degrees of N. lat., and from the 98th to the 104th degrees of E. long., and is 775 miles in length by 125 in average breadth. The country is a long, narrow strip of land, traversed by a chain of lofty mountains, and covered with extensive forests and marshes, so that it is very difficult to penetrate into the interior. A range of extremely bleak mountains, running through it from one extremity to the other, gives rise to innumerable streams. the courses of which, from the proximity of the mountains to the sea, are short, and are so obstructed at the mouths by bars and sand-banks that they can not be ascended by vessels of any size. At the southern extremity of the continent are the islands of Bintang, Batang, and Singapore, with many others, so thickly clustered together that they are only separated from the continent by narrow straits, and seem to be a prolongation of the land. On the west coast also there are numerous islands.
History. — The political state of Malacca has been subject to many revolutions, having been occasionally dependent on Siam when that monarchy was in the height of its power, and when its supremacy was owned by the whole peninsula. But, since the Siamese have yielded to the increasing power of the Burmans, all the southern portion of the peninsula has shaken off the yoke, and the northern states pay only a moderate tribute. The whole of the sea-coast from that latitude to Port Romania is still possessed by the Malays, who are mixed in some places with the burgesses from Celebes, and who have a small settlement at Salengore. The northern and inland parts of the peninsula are inhabited by the Patany people, who appear to be a mixture of the Siamese and Malays, and who occupy independent villages. The negro race is found in the interior among the aboriginal natives. The great majority of the inhabitants are, however, of the Malay race, who are well known and widely diffused among all the eastern islands. The origin of this remarkable race is not distinctly known; they are understood, however, not to be natives of this country, but to have come originally from the district of Palembang, in the interior of Sumatra, situate on the banks of the River Malaya. Having crossed over about the end of the 12th century to the opposite continent, they, in 1252, founded the city of Malacca. Sultan Mohammed Shah, who ascended the throne in the 13th century, was the first Mussulman prince who extended his rule over Malacca. During part of the 15th century Malacca was under Siamese sovereigns. In 1509 sultan Mahmud repelled the aggression of the king of Siam, but in 1511 he was conquered by the Portuguese under Albuquerque. In 1642 it became the possession of the Dutch, and in 1824 it was finally transferred to the British among the cessions made by the king of Netherlands in exchange for the British possessions on the island of Sumatra, E. long. 1000, N. lat. 5° (comp. Cyclop. Brit. s.v.).
Religion. — Until the inroads of the Mohammedans in the 13th century, the inhabitants of Malacca were pagans or followed some corrupt form of Hindu idolatry. With the Mussulman reign the religion of the Crescent became the predominating belief. Christianity was introduced in the 16th century by the Portuguese. One of the earliest laborers here was the renowned Spanish Jesuit, Francis Xavier (q.v.). Unfortunately, however, for the success of the Gospel truth, the conduct of the Romish priesthood and of the Portuguese authorities was very unkind toward the natives. Not much better was the influence of the Dutch. Though Protestantism, with their entrance, superseded Romanism in a measure, the government hesitated to encourage the Christian missions, and gave great liberty to Mohammedans, lest the latter should be tempted to insurrection, and Holland be deprived of these valuable possessions. To this day the Mussulmen continue to make converts in Malacca. The Romanists maintain a suffragan bishop at the capital (of like name as the country). For further details on the success of Christianity in Malacca at present, see the articles SEE INDIA; SEE MALAYS. See also Grundemann, Missionsatas, No. 7, 21, and 24; Cameron, Our Trop. Possess. in Malayan India (Lond. 1865).