, Volume 36, Issue 3, pp 309–324 | Cite as

The British colonial ‘divide and rule’ concept: its influence to transport access in inner city of George Town, Penang

  • Ahmad Sanusi HassanEmail author


George Town, Penang, is the oldest British colonial city in South East Asia. The colonial settlement layout in the inner city area is still intact today. The establishment of George Town as a trading centre had attracted immigrants from all over the world, especially from Asia (Chinese, Indians and Arabs). Recently, George Town has been enlisted under the UNESCO World Heritage Lists as an outstanding example of traditional multi-cultural settlement. The uniqueness of this inner city is that the formation of its urban pattern is the result of ‘divide and rule’ concept adopted by the British authority. Under the ‘divide and rule’ concept, these immigrants were located to settlement areas based on their ethnic background under one leader known as ‘kapitan’ (captain). The study finds that transport access in this inner city was influenced by the ‘divide and rule’ concept. Unlike formation of well-planned gridiron pattern in other British colonial cities such as in North America, Canada and Australia, the formation of the urban pattern in George Town has an irregular gridiron pattern. This type of urban pattern is typical under ‘divide and rule’ concept and this had indirectly influenced the setting and planning of the present street access and transport networks.


Divide and rule Irregular gridiron Transport access 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Housing, Building and PlanningUniversiti Sains Malaysia (USM)PenangMalaysia

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