Dutch Timor and the Lesser Sunda Islands


In preparation for the peace conference that was expected to follow World War I, in the spring of 1917 the British Foreign Office established a special section responsible for preparing background information for use by British delegates to the conference. Dutch Timor and the Lesser Sunda Islands is Number 86 in a series of more than 160 studies produced by the section, most of which were published after the conclusion of the 1919 Paris Peace Conference. Timor is technically the easternmost of the Lesser Sunda Islands, a chain extending east of the larger island of Java (along with Borneo, Sumatra, and other islands, one of the Greater Sundas). At the time this study was written, Timor was divided between Dutch Timor in the western part of the island (now part of Indonesia), and Portuguese East Timor (the present-day Democratic Republic of East Timor). The book covers physical and political geography, political history, social and political conditions, and economic conditions, with separate treatments of each of these topics for Dutch Timor and the Lesser Sunda Islands. Apart from Timor, the Lesser Sundas include Bali, Lombok, Sumbawa, Solor, Sumba, and many smaller islands. The study notes that the writ of the colonial government in Dutch Timor was limited mainly to a fairly narrow strip of land along the coast, and that the interior of the island was controlled by approximately 40 indigenous tribes, which warred with each other, fiercely resisted encroachments by outsiders, and about which the colonial authorities knew little. The Dutch presence in the Lesser Sundas was also very limited, with the estimated European population said not to exceed 400. Portuguese Timor is discussed in a separate study in this series, Number 80.

Last updated: July 23, 2015