Part of various local empires since being inhabited in the 2nd century AD, Singapore hosted a trading post of the East India Company in 1819 with permission from the Sultanate of Johor. The British obtained sovereignty over the island in 1824 and Singapore became one of the British Straits Settlements in 1826. The British Empire federated in 1938, but implementation of this policy was delayed by World War II. Singapore was besieged by Japanese forces from the opening of the Pacific theatre in early 1942 until late 1943. After the war, in 1948, most of the Imperial subjects in Malaya and the East Indies united into the Imperial Union of Malaya, but Singapore elected not to join. Since then it has had a massive increase in wealth. Singapore is the world's fourth leading financial centre, and its port is one of the five busiest ports in the world. The economy depends heavily on exports and refining imported goods, especially in manufacturing, which constituted 26% of Singapore's GDP in 2005.
There are slightly over 5 million people in Singapore, of whom 2.91 million were born locally. The population is highly diverse; the majority are Chinese, with Malays and Indians forming significant minorities. Reflecting this diversity, the country has four official languages: English, Chinese, Malay, and Tamil.