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(sərä`wäk), state (1991 pop. 1,648,217), 48,342 sq mi (125,206 sq km), Malaysia, in NW Borneo and on the South China Sea. It is bordered on the NE by the states of Brunei and Sabah and on the S and W by Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo). KuchingKuching
, city (1991 pop. 277,346), capital of Sarawak, Malaysia, in W Borneo and on the Sarawak River. It is the largest city in the state and a river port. Sago flour and pepper are exported. It was founded in 1839 by James Brooke.
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 is the capital, and Sibu is an important port. Natural gas and petroleum are the most valuable natural resources, and they and their products dominate the state's and exports the chief mineral, and palm oil, rubber, rice, pepper, and cocoa are important commercial crops. Wood and wood products are also important. Ibans and other indigenous groups, Chinese, and Malays are the main ethnic groups.

Sometimes called the Land of the White Rajahs, Sarawak was ceded (1841) by the sultan of Brunei to James BrookeBrooke, Sir James,
1803–68, rajah of Sarawak on Borneo, b. India, of English parents. After active service in Burma (1825–26), he retired (1830) from the army of the East India Company.
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, an Englishman, who became rajah of the independent state. It became a British protectorate in 1888, but remained under the control of the Brooke family. In World War II the area was occupied by the Japanese. The Brookes ceded Sarawak to the British in 1946, and it became a crown colony. A leftist revolt (Dec., 1962) in nearby Brunei spread to Sarawak, and the rebels, who opposed the formation of the proposed Federation of MalaysiaMalaysia
, independent federation (2015 est. pop. 30,723,000), 128,430 sq mi (332,633 sq km), Southeast Asia. The official capital and by far the largest city is Kuala Lumpur; Putrajaya is the adminstrative capital.
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, occupied several towns. The revolt was quelled by British troops. However, sporadic activity by the rebels, who apparently were supported by Indonesia, continued into 1963, when Malaysia was formed. The name of the state is sometimes spelled Serawak.


See S. Runciman, The White Rajahs (1960).



a state in Malaysia, situated in the northwestern section of the island of Kalimantan. Sarawak borders on Brunei and Indonesia. Area, 124,900 sq km. Population, 975,900 (1970 census). The capital is Kuching (population, 63,500).

An alluvial lowland stretches along the South China Sea. The country’s interior is mountainous, with elevations to 2,400 m. The climate is equatorial, with a year-round temperature of 26°-28°C. Annual precipitation reaches 4,000 mm. Most of the land is covered with evergreen equatorial forests.

Sarawak’s population is principally concentrated on the plains. The economy is based primarily on the production of agricultural goods and raw materials. Agriculture and forestry account for approximately 26 percent of the gross national product; mining, for approximately 19.5 percent; and the manufacturing industry, for 7.8 percent (1972). Agriculture employs 78 percent of the work force. The patriarchal and communal system has been preserved along with the system of small farms and plantations. Sarawak’s export crops include rubber-bearing plants (187,000 hectares [ha], 1971), peppers (Sarawak is one of the world’s leading exporters), and coconuts (44,000 ha). The principal food crop is rice (145,000 ha). Hogs are raised (200,000), and there is commercial fishing and forestry. Petroleum is extracted (48,000 tons, 1964; 3.5 million tons, 1974; there is an oil refinery at Miri), as well as gold and bauxites. Other industries include sawmilling and food processing. Sarawak’s electric power plants have an output of 46,000 kilowatts (1972). The freight turnover of the ports, including Kuching and Sibu, is 8.5 million tons. Sarawak exports petroleum, petroleum products, lumber, rubber, peppers, and coconut oil.


Sarawak is known to have been at one time within the sphere of influence of the states of Srivijaya and Majapahit. From the 16th to the first half of the 19th century it belonged to the Brunei sultans. In 1841 the British adventurer J. Brooke seized Sarawak. Subsequent expansions in 1861, 1882, 1885, 1890, and 1905 enabled Brooke and his successors to increase their possessions at the expense of the Brunei sultans. Sarawak was recognized as an independent state by the USA in 1850 and by Great Britain in 1864. It became a British protectorate in 1888 and a colony in 1946. It was included as a state in the Federation of Malaysia in 1963.


a state of Malaysia, on the NW coast of Borneo on the South China Sea: granted to Sir James Brooke by the Sultan of Brunei in 1841 as a reward for helping quell a revolt; mainly agricultural. Capital: Kuching. Pop.: 2 071 506 (2000). Area: about 121 400 sq. km (48 250 sq. miles)
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