Malaya and Its History consists of two parts, which are A History of Malaya by R. O. Winstedt and Early Indian Influence in Malaysia by R. J. Wilkinson. In A History of Malaya, Richard Winstedt inevitably found his unifying thread in the history of South-East Asian trade and colonization. After a brief introduction to the prehistory of the peninsula, he discussed the evidence of Indian cultural influence from the fourth century to the fall of Temasek (Singapore) 1000 years later. He went on to deal with the Malay Empire, in Malacca—the beginning of a continuous Malay political tradition with its center in the Peninsula; the Portuguese and Dutch activities in the Straits of Malacca; the continuation of the Malacca tradition in the Malay Empire of Johore; early British trade and settlement; and finally the establishment of British political authority in the Malay State themselves.
Winstedt does not merely generalize; he draws on his great knowledge of Malay sources and his wide reading on the Hindu, Portuguese and Dutch periods to incorporate aa much of the evidence as he can and to let it speak for itself where possible; and in these chapters, he sets his story of movement and change in its South-East Asian context. In places, he sacrifices lucidity and comprehension for detail, and his packed, intricate sentences are sometimes difficult to follow; in his chapter on the Johor empire, for example, it is often hard to pick out the relationships of Dutch, Bugis, Sumatrans, and Johor Malays from the labyrinthine narrative of wars and intrigues and succession quarrels. But despite its stylistic difficulties, his summary of Malayan history up to the eighteenth century remains the best available, and the detail and frequent quotations from contemporary sources are usually apt and illuminating.
In Part II, besides Early Indian Influence in Malaysia, there are other essays by Wilkinson as well, which are Old Singapore, The Malaccan Sultanate, and The Fall of Malacca.