British dominion over the Malay Peninsula was established primarily during the period 1874–1909. Until the last quarter of the nineteenth century, British interest in Southeast Asia itself was largely peripheral, serving the twin aims of bolstering the defenses of Britain’s Indian empire and securing the trade route to China. For a half century before 1874, the British Malay possessions were limited to the three ports of Penang, Singapore, and Malacca. These were organized as the Straits Settlements, with Singapore as center, and were under the administrative control of the Indian government in Calcutta until 1867. Thereafter, they were transferred to Colonial Office control in London with the status of a Crown colony.