Until the late 18th century, the Western influence was minimal in Malaya and northern Borneo, but Britain's interest changed the situation. The British East India Company acquired Penang in 1786 and Singapore in 1819, becoming important trading centers attracting Chinese immigrants. Malacca came under British control in 1824, and the three ports were called the Straits Settlements. The Suez Canal's opening in 1869 brought European development and increased commercial activity. Chinese settlers formed communities, causing tensions with Malays. British officials intervened, establishing political influence. By 1909, Britain controlled several sultanates, forming British Malaya while respecting religious and cultural autonomy.
Exports play a significant role in the economies of the Malayan area (Federation of Malaya and Singapore, Brunei, North Borneo, and Sarawak), contributing from one-third to over one-half of the gross domestic product. In 1956, despite a decline in export prices, increased export volume and domestic activities balanced the impact on incomes. These economies, with a strong inclination to import, responded to high export earnings in 1955 and 1956 by importing more, particularly consumer goods.
Issued by the Board of Commissioners of Currency, Malaya, and British Borneo, the Malaya and British Borneo dollar (ringgit) replaced the Malayan dollar and Sarawak dollar as Malaya and British Borneo’s currency from 1953 to 1967. After 1967, each country introduced its own currency, but the Malaya and British Borneo dollar remained legal tender until January 16, 1969. It was also used in the Riau Archipelago in Indonesia until 1963.
The Board of Commissioners of Currency Malaya and British Borneo was established on January 1, 1952, as the sole issuing authority for British Malaya and British Borneo. It consisted of members from Singapore, the Federation of Malaya, Sarawak, North Borneo, and Brunei. On June 12, 1967, the currency union ended, and Malaysia, Singapore, and Brunei introduced their own currencies. The Interchangeability Agreement allowed the currencies to be interchangeable at par value until May 8, 1973. The Board was officially dissolved on November 30, 1979. Brunei and Singapore continue to use the Agreement.
The 1953 series of banknotes, all dated March 21, 1953, were signed by the Board of Commissioners of Currency Chairman W.C. Taylor. These banknotes were printed by Thomas de la Rue & Co. Ltd, Waterlow and Sons, and Bradbury, Wilkinson & Co. Ltd. To prevent counterfeiting, security measures such as a broken security thread and a lion's head watermark were added to the notes.