Early Perak kingdoms existed in the settlements of Dinding, Beruas and Manjung. However, the the present sultanate has its origins from the Melaka Sultanate. Perak was established in 1528 and the first sultan of Perak was Sultan Muzaffar Syah, a decendent of Sultan Mahmud Shah of Melaka.
Perak was constantly menaced by regional powers. The Achinese plundered the state in the 16th century, while the Dutch in 1641 tried to establish a monopoly on Perak’s tin trade by building a fort on Pangkor Island. The Bugis and Siamese posed further threats to Perak in the 18th century. Among all the external influences, the Siamese presented the biggest threat.
Internally, Perak was embroiled in a throne succession war in the 1870s between Raja Yusuf, Raja Ismail and Raja Abdullah. Adding to the air of strife was the rivalry between factions of the Chinese. By the mid-nineteenth century the Chinese presence in Malaya was considerable, with immigration being spurred by the growing tin industry. With its abundant cache of tin, Perak was one of the favoured destinations for incoming workers. This immigration also brought the social order of secret societies. By the 1870s, there was an ongoing dispute between the rival Chinese clans of Ghee Hin and Hai San. This led to British intervention in order to protect their interests in Perak.
The Malay chiefs and clan leaders were summoned to a conference onboard the British ship, Pluto, at Pangkor Island in 1874. On 20 January 1874, the Pangkor Treaty was signed. With the signing of the Pangkor Treaty, Raja Abdullah was conferred the sultanate and J.W.W. Birch was appointed the first British Resident. Disgruntled by the forceful implementation of British interest with little regard for their own, a number of Malay leaders planned the assassination of Birch in 1875. Several Malay nobles such as Sultan Abdullah, Dato’ Maharajalela, Ngah Ibrahim and Dato’ Sagor were implicated in the plot and were subsequently sentenced to death or exiled.
In 1896, Perak became a Federated Malay State, which lasted until the Japanese invasion. When the Japanese withdrew in September 1945, the British Military Administration (BMA) took over.
The British in London formed the Malayan Peninsula Planning Unit in 1943, and on 10 October 1945, the Malayan Union scheme was laid out before the British Parliament. A day later, Sir Harold MacMichael was sent to the Malayan Peninsula to obtain the agreement of the Malay Rulers. According to this agreement, Pulau Pinang, Melaka and nine other Malay states were united under the Malayan Union.
Malay opposition derailed the Malayan Union plan, and the Malays under Dato’ Onn Jaafar’s leadership formed the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) on 11 May 1946. The Malay Federation was founded on 1 February 1948, the first step towards independence, and on 31 August 1957, independence was achieved.