Stamford Raffles founded colonial Singapore in 1819 as a trading post of the British East India Company; after the latter's collapse in 1858, the islands were ceded to the British Raj as a crown colony. During the Second World War, Singapore was occupied by Japan. It gained independence from the UK in 1963 by federating with other former British territories to form Malaysia, but separated two years later over ideological differences, becoming a sovereign nation in 1965. After early years of turbulence and despite lacking natural resources and a hinterland, the nation developed rapidly as an Asian Tiger economy, based on external trade and its workforce.
Singapore consists of 63 islands, including the main island, Pulau Ujong. There are two man-made connections to Johor, Malaysia: the Johor–Singapore Causeway in the north and the Tuas Second Link in the west. Jurong Island, Pulau Tekong, Pulau Ubin and Sentosa are the largest of Singapore's smaller islands. The highest natural point is Bukit Timah Hillat 163.63 m (537 ft). Ongoing land reclamation projects have increased Singapore's land area from 581.5 km2 (224.5 sq mi) in the 1960s to 721.5 km2 (278.6 sq mi) in 2018, an increase of some 23% (130 km2). The country is projected to grow to 766 km2(300 sq mi) by 2030. Some projects involve merging smaller islands through land reclamation to form larger, more functional islands, as has been done with Jurong Island.