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. Sumatra is Number 83 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. Part of present-day Indonesia, Sumatra was at that time ruled by the Netherlands as part of the Dutch East Indies. The book covers physical and political geography, political history, social and political conditions, and economic conditions.  The part on political history deals with the rivalry between the Dutch and British for control of the island and the Aceh War of 1873–1907 between the Dutch and the princely state of Aceh, which fiercely resisted submission to foreign rule. The discussion of economic conditions emphasizes the importance of such valuable commercial crops as coconut palms, coffee, cotton, tobacco, rubber, and spices. The chapter predicts that rubber is likely to be an increasingly important industry, and notes that the “Sumatra crop of 1917 went mainly to America, where the demand for rubber has been increasing to an unequalled degree, mainly owing to the enormous development of the motor-car industry.”

Last updated: March 24, 2015