From the 14th to the 16th centuries Brunei Darussalam was the seat of a powerful sultanate extending over Sabah, Sarawak and the lower Philippines. Thus, the current Sultan represents one of the oldest continuously ruling dynasties in the world. By the 19th century, the Brunei Darussalam Empire had been whittled away by wars, piracy and the colonial expansion of European powers.
In 1847, the sultan concluded a treaty with Great Britain and in 1888 Brunei Darussalam officially became a British protectorate. In 1906, the Residential System was established in Brunei Darussalam. A British Resident was nominated as a representative of the British government to advise the sultan in all matters except Malay customs, traditions and Islamic religion.
The 1959 Agreement established a written constitution which gave Brunei Darussalam internal self-government. In 1971, the agreement was amended and revised to assert full internal independence except defence and external affairs.
In 1967 His Highness Sultan Haji Sir Muda Omar Ali Saifuddien abdicated in favour of his son Pengiran Muda Mahkota Hassanal Bolkiah. On January 1, 1984 Brunei Darussalam resumed full independence and the Sultan took office as Prime Minister, Finance Minister and Home Affairs Minister, presiding over a cabinet of six. In October 1986, the cabinet was expanded to 11 members, with His Majesty relinquishing the portfolios of Finance and Home Affairs and taking over the Defence portfolio which his late father had held since 1984. In 1988 another reshuffle brought about the elevation of the deputy minister to a full minister and the creation of the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources designed to boost the country’s development.