The history of Borneo and its people has been largely determined by its strategic position at one of the world's major crossroads, its tropical climate, and north - east and south - east monsoons. Its geographical location served to make Borneo a "land bridge" to mainland South East Asia and an ideal meeting place for traders from East and West. The bountiful nature in the island contributed to the fact that Borneo was one of earliest homes of Man. Excavation works on the Niah Cave, which is a world famous archaeological site, had produced Paleolithic ( stone age ) implements and an ancient burial site carbon-dated to 40,000 B.C.
Although these findings provided strong evidence of Chinese and Indian civilizations having existed in Borneo since 1,500 years ago, the authenticated history of the island only began in comparatively recent times.
In 1368, after the fall of the Sri Vijaya Empire, Borneo war conquered by the Majapahit King ( Hindu Empire ). From about 1400 until the early sixteenth century, Muslim invaders began to spread their influence throughout the island. During the 1500s, a powerful kingdom known as Brunei exercised domination over the whole of Borneo and it surrounding area after the fall of the Majapahit Empire.
During that time, explorers and merchants from both the East and West visited Borneo. There are glowing accounts of the island trading chiefly in spices, rare woods, gold and precious tones and also experiencing a great deal of trouble with the coastal pirates.
In the late 1500s, the Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese and British appeared on the scene. They established prosperous trading posts in Borneo, and by the beginning of the nineteenth century, the kingdom of Brunei had shrunk to what we now know as Sarawak, Sabah and Brunei. Kalimantan was then under Dutch rule until 1949 when it ceded the territory to the Republic of Indonesia.
The state of Sarawak began to emerge as a separate political entity when an English adventurer, Sir James Brooks, war granted some territory in 1841 in return for his services in helping Brunei quell a rebellion in one of its provinces. The state of Sabah, on the other land, was under the rule of the Chartered Company of British North Borneo.
During the Second World War in 1941, the Japanese conquered the island. When the war ended, both Sabah and Sarawak were ceded to the British Government. The Malaysia concept was first announced by the late Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj, the Malayan Prime Minister, in May 1961. Nine month later, a British Commission visited Sarawak and Sabah and discovered that the majority of the people were in favour of concept.
Both states achieved full independence and joined the Federation of Malaysia in 1963.