Singapore's strategic position in South East Asia has been the catalyst for its growth over the last 500 years.
Today, the Port of Singapore is the busiest port in the world in terms of shipping tonnage and is at the centre of a web of trade routes with access to more than 600 other ports in over 120 countries.
Positioned not only at the centre of the Malacca and Singapore Straits, the city is also tethered to the Malay Peninsula to the north by a small number of bridges which span the Straits of Johor.
On a global scale, the Singapore Straits have acted as a natural bottle-neck for maritime trade between India and East Africa to the west, and China, Japan and the Malay Archipelago to the east.
The strategic importance of Singapore has been significant even from the 13th century: the island was known as "Pu-luo-chung", or "the island at the end of a peninsula". Later, the city was known as Temasek, or "Sea Town" in Chinese.
For hundreds of years the city was a natural meeting place for Chinese Junks, Arab Dhows, Portuguese battleships and Buginese schooners from around the world.
One of the most famous individuals in the history of modern Singapore is Stamford Raffles who landed on the island on the 29th January 1819: Raffles identified Singapore’s strategic importance to the British Empire’s sphere of influence in the area, and established a trading station under agreement with local rulers.
By 1832, Singapore was the centre of Government for the surrounding Straits Settlements of Melaka and Penang.
The increase in trade led to the extraordinary growth of Singapore into the city that it is today: the population has grown from a mere 150 people in 1819, to over 5 million people in 2010.
However, the strategic position of Singapore has also bought conflict and destruction: during WWII the island was occupied by the Japanese military who identified its importance to allied dominance in the area.
Singapore has subsequently recovered, and continued to grow into a centre for trade, finance and tourism.