Portuguese Timor


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. Portuguese Timor is Number 80 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. East Timor, occupying the eastern part of the island of Timor, came under Portuguese control in the 16th century and was important in the spice trade. The Dutch established a settlement in the western part of Timor in 1618. Portugal and Holland disputed control of the island until the late 18th century, when the Portuguese finally accepted the Dutch presence. The border between the Dutch and Portuguese parts of the island was settled in 1914; it forms the present-day frontier between Indonesia (the former Dutch East Indies) and East Timor. The book covers physical and political geography, political history, social and political conditions, and economic conditions. The population is given as 377,815 in 1915, with Tetum the main linguistic group. The economy of East Timor was primarily agricultural, with a few large plantations existing alongside the largely subsistence farming of the native population. The main export was coffee. The study notes the agricultural potential of the colony, based on the quality of the coffee and prospects for increased cultivation of cocoa and cotton, but it predicts that as in the past development would be held back by shortages of labor and capital. East Timor became formally independent as Timor-Leste on May 20, 2002, after a long dispute with Indonesia over sovereignty and a period of United Nations administration.

Last updated: February 4, 2016