As early as the 5th century, a Chinese historian named Shen-Yau recorded the existence of a thriving city called Ho-lo-tan or Kuo-lo-tan in the Malay Peninsula. Much later, the Sejarah Melayu (Malay Annals) records that during the reign of Sultan Mahmud Shah of Malacca, three princesses ruled Kelantan.
Early accounts of Kelantan history show it was embroiled in constant political turmoil with Thailand to the north and Terengganu, Pahang and Johor to the south.
After the fall of the Malacca Sultanate in the 15th century, Kelantan fell on and off under the influence of neighbouring Patani. The Siamese eventually established their influence over Kelantan following a treaty in 1832. Later, Siam dispatched a British adviser with the title of Siamese High Commissioner to Kelantan. W.A. Graham was appointed the first Siamese High Commissioner in 1902.
Then in 1909, the British and Siamese ratified the Bangkok Agreement, delivering Kelantan to the British and J.S. Mascon was dispatched as the first British adviser. The Japanese invasion in 1941 saw Kelantan being handed back to Siam during the Japanese Occupation. In September 1945, Kelantan was placed under the British Military Administration.
The British in London formed the Malayan Peninsula Planning Unit in 1943; and on 10 October 1945, the Malayan Union scheme was presented to the British Parliament. Sir Harold MacMichael was sent to obtain the agreement of the Malay Rulers. According to the plan, Penang, Malacca and 9 Malay states were to be united under the Malayan Union.
However, Malay opposition derailed the Malayan Union plan. The Malays united under the leadership of Dato’ Onn Jaafar to form the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) on 11 May 1946. Finally, the Federation of Malaya was founded on 1 February 1948 and on 31 August 1957, Malaya gained independence from the British.