The Straits Settlements were a collection of territories of
the British East India Company in Southeast Asia, which were given collective
administration in 1826. Initially, the Straits Settlements consisted of Penang,
Singapore, and Malacca.
The establishment of the Straits Settlements followed the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1824 between the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, by which the Malay archipelago was divided into a British zone in the north and a Dutch zone in the south. This resulted the exchange of the British settlement of Bencoolen for the Dutch colony of Malacca and for undisputed control of Singapore. Its capital was originally in Penang, but was moved to Singapore in 1832.
In 1867, the Settlements became a British crown colony, which was extended with the addition of Christmas Island and the Cocos Islands to Singapore, and the addition of Labuan in 1912. The Governor of the Straits Settlements also acted as High Commissioner of the Malay States and Brunei, which were British protectorates in the region.
The colony was occupied by Japan in 1942-45 and was dissolved in 1946, when Singapore became a separate crown colony, while Penang and Malacca joined the Malayan Union, which eventually became Malaysia. Christmas Island and the Cocos Islands came under Australian administration, while Labuan became part of British North Borneo, later also part of Malaysia.
The Straits Settlements have a distinct postal history from the other Malayan areas. Mail was originally handled privately by passing ships; the earliest known postal markings date from around 1806, used by a post office on Prince of Wales Island (now Penang). Service was regularized in 1837. Postage stamps of India were used from 1854.
When the Settlements became a crown colony in 1867, they
began issuing their own stamps. Beginning on 1 September 1867, nine types
in the existing stocks of Indian stamps were overprinted with a crown and
a new value in cents. Stamps printed by De La Rue for the Settlements started
arriving in December. The set of nine values, 2c to 96c, appeared gradually,
with the 30c value not being issued until 1872.
Shortages from 1879 through 1882 forced the production of various surcharges, until new 5c and 10c stamps arrived in January of 1882. This was not the end of difficulties, and additional surcharges appear regularly until the end of the century.
The accession of King Edward VII necessitated new stamps in 1902. In 1907, the remainder of the stamps of Labuan were overprinted "STRAITS SETTLEMENTS.", some with new denominations, and in 1910 new large-format stamps appeared with values of $25 and $500 (although available for postage, their usual use was fiscal).
George V replaced his father on stamps beginning in 1912,
reusing frames and only replacing vignettes. The last issue of the Settlements
was for George VI beginning in 1937.
In March 1942, Japan issued stamps for their occupation, made by overprinting existing stamps with Japanese inscriptions.