Portuguese Timor

Portuguese Timor (Portuguese: Timor Português) refers to East Timor during the historic period when it was a Portuguese colony that existed between 1702 and 1975. During most of this period, Portugal shared the island of Timor with the Dutch East Indies.

The first Europeans to arrive in the region were the Portuguese in 1515.[2] Dominican friars established a presence on the island in 1556, and the territory was declared a Portuguese colony in 1702. Following the beginning of a Lisbon-instigated decolonisation process in 1975, East Timor was invaded by Indonesia. However, the invasion was not recognized as legitimate by the United Nations (UN), which continued to regard Portugal as the legal Administering Power of East Timor. The independence of East Timor was finally achieved in 2002 following a UN-administered transition period.

Portuguese Timor

Timor Português
Flag of Portuguese Timor
Portuguese Timor arms (1935–1975)[1] of Portuguese Timor
Portuguese Timor arms (1935–1975)[1]
Portuguese Timor with 1869-established boundaries.
Portuguese Timor with 1869-established boundaries.
StatusColony of the Portuguese Empire
CapitalLifau (1702–69)
Dili (1769–1975)
Common languagesTetum, Portuguese, Malay
Head of state 
• Monarch

Manuel I (first)
• 1908–10
Manuel II (last)
• President

Teófilo Braga (first)
• 1974–75
Francisco da Costa Gomes (last)
• 1702–05
António Coelho Guerreiro (first)
• 1974–75
Mário Lemos Pires (last)
• Colonisation
28 November 1975
7 December 1975
• Independence achieved
20 May 2002
CurrencyTimorese pataca (PTP)
Timorese escudo (PTE)
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Pre-colonial Timor
Timor Timur
Today part of East Timor


Early colonialists

Prior to the arrival of European colonial powers, the island of Timor was part of the trading networks that stretched between India and China and incorporating Maritime Southeast Asia. The island's large stands of fragrant sandalwood were its main commodity.[3] The first European powers to arrive in the area were the Portuguese in the early sixteenth century followed by the Dutch in the late sixteenth century. Both came in search of the fabled Spice Islands of Maluku. In 1515, Portuguese first landed near modern Pante Macassar. Portuguese merchants exported sandalwood from the island, until the tree nearly became extinct.[2] In 1556 a group of Dominican friars established the village of Lifau.

In 1613, the Dutch took control of the western part of the island.[2] Over the following three centuries, the Dutch would come to dominate the Indonesian archipelago with the exception of the eastern half of Timor, which would become Portuguese Timor.[3] The Portuguese introduced maize as a food crop and coffee as an export crop. Timorese systems of tax and labour control were preserved, through which taxes were paid through their labour and a portion of the coffee and sandalwood crop. The Portuguese introduced mercenaries into Timor communities and Timor chiefs hired Portuguese soldiers for wars against neighbouring tribes. With the use of the Portuguese musket, Timorese men became deer hunters and suppliers of deer horn and hide for export.[4]

The Portuguese introduced Roman Catholicism to East Timor, as well as the Latin writing system, the printing press, and formal schooling.[4] Two groups of people were introduced to East Timor: Portuguese men, and Topasses. Portuguese language was introduced into church and state business, and Portuguese Asians used Malay in addition to Portuguese.[4] Under colonial policy, Portuguese citizenship was available to men who assimilated Portuguese language, literacy, and religion; by 1970, 1,200 East Timorese, largely drawn from the aristocracy, Dili residents, or larger towns, had obtained Portuguese citizenship. By the end of the colonial administration in 1974, 30 percent of Timorese were practising Roman Catholics while the majority continued to worship spirits of the land and sky.[4]

Establishment of the colonial state

António Macedo
Portuguese commander with local troops in the 1930s

In 1702, Lisbon sent its first governor, António Coelho Guerreiro,[5] to Lifau, which became capital of all Portuguese dependencies on Lesser Sunda Islands. Former capitals were Solor and Larantuka. Portuguese control over the territory was tenuous particularly in the mountainous interior. Dominican friars, the occasional Dutch raid, and the Timorese themselves competed with Portuguese merchants. The control of colonial administrators was largely restricted to the Dili area, and they had to rely on traditional tribal chieftains for control and influence.[3]

The capital was moved to Dili in 1769, due to attacks from the Topasses, who became rulers of several local kingdoms (Liurai). At the same time, the Dutch were colonising the west of the island and the surrounding archipelago that is now Indonesia. The border between Portuguese Timor and the Dutch East Indies was formally decided in 1859 with the Treaty of Lisbon. In 1913, the Portuguese and Dutch formally agreed to split the island between them.[6] The definitive border was drawn by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in 1916, and it remains the international boundary between East Timor and Indonesia.[7]

For the Portuguese, East Timor remained little more than a neglected trading post until the late nineteenth century. Investment in infrastructure, health, and education was minimal. Sandalwood remained the main export crop with coffee exports becoming significant in the mid-nineteenth century. In places where Portuguese rule was asserted, it tended to be brutal and exploitative.[3]

Twentieth century

Lesser coat of arms of Portuguese Timor
Portuguese Timor Arms (1935–1975)[1]
Portuguese Timor stamp 12 (15 ) Avos Ceres
Stamp of Portuguese Timor

At the beginning of the twentieth century, a faltering home economy prompted the Portuguese to extract greater wealth from its colonies, resulting in increased resistance to Portuguese rule in East Timor. In 1910–12, a Timorese rebellion was quashed after Portugal brought in troops from its colonies in Mozambique and Macau, resulting in the deaths of 3,000 East Timorese.[6]

In the 1930s, the Japanese semi-governmental Nan’yō Kōhatsu development company, with the secret sponsorship of the Imperial Japanese Navy, invested heavily in a joint-venture with the primary plantation company of Portuguese Timor, SAPT. The joint-venture effectively controlled imports and exports into the island by the mid-1930s and the extension of Japanese interests greatly concerned the British, Dutch and Australian authorities.[8]

Although Portugal was neutral during World War II, in December 1941, Portuguese Timor was occupied by a small British, Australian and Dutch force, to preempt a Japanese invasion. However, the Japanese did invade in the Battle of Timor in February 1942. Under Japanese occupation, the borders of the Dutch and Portuguese were overlooked with Timor island being made a single Japanese army administration zone.[4] 400 Australian and Dutch commandos trapped on the island by the Japanese invasion waged a guerrilla campaign, which tied up Japanese troops and inflicted over 1,000 casualties.[6] Timorese and the Portuguese helped the guerillas but following the Allies' eventual evacuation, Japanese retribution from their soldiers and Timorese militia raised in West Timor was severe.[4] By the end of the War, an estimated 40–60,000 Timorese had died, the economy was in ruins, and famine widespread.[6][9] (see Battle of Timor).

Following World War II, the Portuguese promptly returned to reclaim their colony, while West Timor became part of Indonesia, which secured its independence in 1949.

To rebuild the economy, colonial administrators forced local chiefs to supply labourers which further damaged the agricultural sector.[6] The role of the Catholic Church in East Timor grew following the Portuguese government handing over the education of the Timorese to the Church in 1941. In post-war Portuguese Timor, primary and secondary school education levels significantly increased, albeit on a very low base.

Although illiteracy in 1973 was estimated at 93 per cent of the population, the small educated elite of East Timorese produced by the Church in the 1960s and 1970s, became the independence leaders during the Indonesian occupation.[6]

End of Portuguese rule

Atabae 4
Portuguese ceremony in Atabae (1970)
Flag of Portuguese Timor (proposal)
Proposed flag for Portuguese Timor.

Following a 1974 coup (the "Carnation Revolution"), the new Government of Portugal favoured a gradual decolonisation process for Portuguese territories in Asia and Africa. When East Timorese political parties were first legalised in April 1974, three major players emerged. The Timorese Democratic Union (UDT), was dedicated to preserving East Timor as a protectorate of Portugal and in September announced its support for independence.[10] Fretilin endorsed "the universal doctrines of socialism", as well as "the right to independence",[11] and later declared itself "the only legitimate representative of the people".[12] A third party, APODETI emerged advocating East Timor's integration with Indonesia[13] expressing concerns that an independent East Timor would be economically weak and vulnerable.[14]

On 14 November 1974, Mário Lemos Pires - an Army officer - was appointed by the new Portuguese Government as Governor and Commander-in-Chief of Portuguese Timor.

Meanwhile, the political dispute between the Timorese parties, soon gave rise to an armed conflict, that included the participation of members of the Colonial Police and Timorese soldiers of the Portuguese Army. Unable to control the conflict with the few Portuguese troops that he had at his disposal, Lemos Pires decided to leave Dili with his staff and transfer the seat of the administration to the Atauro Island (located 25 km off Dili) in late August 1975. At the same time, he requested Lisbon to send military reinforcements, the request being responded with the sending of a warship, the NRP Afonso Cerqueira, which arrived in Timorese waters in early October.

On 28 November 1975, Fretilin unilaterally declared the territory's independence, as the Democratic Republic of East Timor (República Democrática de Timor-Leste).

On 7 December 1975, the Indonesian Armed Forces launched an invasion of East Timor. At 3:00 a.m., the two Portuguese corvettes, the NRP João Roby and NRP Afonso Cerqueira anchored near Atauro, detected on the radar a high number of unidentified air and naval targets approaching. They soon identified the targets as Indonesian military aircraft and warships, which initiated an assault against Dili. Lemos Pires and his staff then left Atauro, embarked on the Portuguese warships and headed to Darwin, Australia.

The João Roby and Afonso Cerqueira were ordered to continue patrolling the waters around Timor, in preparation of possible military action to respond the Indonesian invasion, constituting the naval task force UO 20.1.2 (latter renamed FORNAVTIMOR). Portugal sent a third warship to the region, the NRP Oliveira e Carmo, which arrived on 31 January 1976 and replaced the NRP Afonso Cerqueira. The Portuguese warships would continue in the region until May 1976, when the remaining NRP Oliveira e Carmo left back to Lisbon, at a time when a military action to expel the Indonesian forces was clearly seen as unviable.

On 17 July 1976, Indonesia formally annexed East Timor, declaring it as its 27th province and renaming it Timor Timur. The United Nations, however, did not recognise the annexation, continuing to consider Portugal as the legitimate administering power of East Timor.

Following the end of Indonesian occupation in 1999, and a United Nations administered transition period, East Timor became formally independent in 2002.


Portuguese Timor 20 Escudos 1967

The first Timorese currency was the Portuguese Timorese pataca, introduced in 1894.

From 1959, the Portuguese Timorese escudo - linked to the Portuguese escudo - was used.

In 1975, the currency ceased to exist as East Timor was annexed by Indonesia and began using the Indonesian rupiah.

See also


  • Corfield, Justin (2015). 'The Entrance Door to Australia': Australia and East Timor Before the Second World War. Lara, Vic: Gentext Publications. ISBN 9781876586270.
  • Dunn, James (1996). Timor: A People Betrayed. Sydney: Australian Broadcasting Corporation. ISBN 0-7333-0537-7.
  • Durand, Frédéric B (2017). History of Timor-Leste. Chiang Mai: Silkworm Books. ISBN 9786162151248.
  • Goto, Kenichi. "Japan and Portuguese Timor in the 1930s and early 1940s" (PDF).
  • Gunn, Geoffrey C (2011). Historical Dictionary of East Timor. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press. ISBN 9780810867543.
  • Indonesia. Department of Foreign Affairs. Decolonization in East Timor. Jakarta: Department of Information, Republic of Indonesia, 1977. OCLC 4458152.
  • Schwarz, A. (1994). A Nation in Waiting: Indonesia in the 1990s. Westview Press. ISBN 1-86373-635-2.
  • Taylor, Jean Gelman (2003). Indonesia: Peoples and Histories. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-10518-5.
  • West, Barbara A. (2009). Encyclopedia of the Peoples of Asia and Oceania. Infobase Publishing. ISBN 0-8160-7109-8.


  1. ^ a b Flags of the World
  2. ^ a b c West, p. 198.
  3. ^ a b c d Schwartz (1994), p. 198
  4. ^ a b c d e f Taylor (2003), p. 379.
  5. ^ Gunn (1999), Timor Lorosae: 500 years (Macau: Livros do Oriente),p.80. .
  6. ^ a b c d e f Schwartz (1994), p. 199.
  7. ^ Verzijl, J.H.W. (1973). International Law in Historical Perspective. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers. p. 488.
  8. ^ Post, The Encyclopedia of Indonesia in the Pacific War , pages 560-561;
  9. ^ Goto.
  10. ^ Dunn (1996), p. 53–54.
  11. ^ Quoted in Dunn, p. 56.
  12. ^ Quoted in Dunn, p. 60.
  13. ^ Dunn, p. 62; Indonesia (1977), p. 19.
  14. ^ Dunn, p. 62.

External links

Coordinates: 8°33′00″S 125°35′00″E / 8.5500°S 125.5833°E

Augusto César Cardoso de Carvalho

Augusto César Cardoso de Carvalho (31 March 1836 – 3 February 1905) was a Portuguese colonial administrator and a general of the Portuguese Army. He was governor of Portuguese Timor from 1880 to 1881, governor-general of Portuguese India from 16 December 1886 until 27 April 1889 and governor of Cape Verde from 12 June 1889 until 4 February 1890.During his tenure as governor of Timor, in early 1881, the Timorese Kingdom of Cová submitted to Portuguese authority. During his administration in Portuguese India, the harbour of Mormugao and the railway line from there to the then-border with British India were opened.

Battle of Timor

The Battle of Timor occurred in Portuguese Timor and Dutch Timor during the Second World War. Japanese forces invaded the island on 20 February 1942 and were resisted by a small, under-equipped force of Allied military personnel—known as Sparrow Force—predominantly from Australia, United Kingdom, and the Netherlands East Indies. Following a brief but stout resistance, the Japanese succeeded in forcing the surrender of the bulk of the Allied force after three days of fighting, although several hundred Australian commandos continued to wage an unconventional raiding campaign. They were resupplied by aircraft and vessels, based mostly in Darwin, Australia, about 650 km (400 mi) to the southeast, across the Timor Sea. During the subsequent fighting the Japanese suffered heavy casualties, but they were eventually able to contain the Australians.

The campaign lasted until 10 February 1943, when the final remaining Australians were evacuated, making them the last Allied land forces to leave South East Asia following the Japanese offensives of 1941–42. As a result, an entire Japanese division was tied up on Timor for more than six months, preventing its deployment elsewhere. Although Portugal was not a combatant, many East Timorese civilians and Portuguese European colonists fought with the Allies, or provided them with food, shelter and other assistance. Some Timorese continued a resistance campaign following the Australian withdrawal. For this, they paid a heavy price and tens of thousands of Timorese civilians died as a result of the Japanese occupation, which lasted until the end of the war in 1945.


Baucau (Portuguese: Baucau, Tetum: Baukau) is the second-largest city in East Timor, after Dili, the capital, which lies 122 km east of Dili.

Baucau has about 16,000 inhabitants, and is the capital of Baucau, located in the eastern part of the country. In the times of Portuguese Timor, Baucau was little more than an overgrown village, and for part of those times was called Vila Salazar, after the Portuguese dictator António de Oliveira Salazar.

East Timor (province)

East Timor (Indonesian: Timor Timur) was a de facto province of Indonesia, whose territory corresponded to the previous Portuguese Timor and to the presently independent country of Timor-Leste.

From 1702 to 1975, East Timor was an overseas territory of Portugal named "Portuguese Timor". In 1974, Portugal initiated a gradual decolonization process of its remaining overseas territories, including Portuguese Timor. During the process, a civil conflict between the different Timorese parties erupted. In 1975, Indonesia invaded East Timor and in 1976, it formally annexed the territory, declaring it as its 27th province and renaming it Timor Timur. The United Nations, however, did not recognise the annexation, continuing to consider Portugal as the legitimate administering power of East Timor. Following the end of Indonesian occupation in 1999, and a United Nations administered transition period, East Timor became formally independent of Portugal in 2002 and adopted the official name of Timor-Leste.

FC Porto Taibesse

FC Porto Taibesse is a football club of East Timor from Taibesse in Dili (Vila de Lahane Oriental). The team plays in the LFA (Liga Futebol Amadora)

Flag of East Timor

The national flag of East Timor (Portuguese: Bandeira de Timor-Leste) is one of the official symbols of East Timor. It consists of a red field with the black isosceles triangle based on the hoist-side bearing a white five-pointed star in the center superimposed on the larger yellow triangle, also based on the hoist-side, that extends to the center of the flag.

History of East Timor

East Timor is a country in Southeast Asia, officially known as Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste. The country comprises the eastern half of the island of Timor and the nearby islands of Atauro and Jaco. The first inhabitants are thought to be descendant of Australoid and Melanesian peoples. The Portuguese began to trade with Timor by the early 16th century and colonised it throughout the mid-century. Skirmishing with the Dutch in the region eventually resulted in an 1859 treaty for which Portugal ceded the western half of the island. Imperial Japan occupied East Timor during World War II, but Portugal resumed colonial authority after the Japanese surrender.

East Timor declared itself independent from Portugal on 28 November 1975, but was invaded by neighbouring Indonesia nine days later. The country was later incorporated as a province of Indonesia afterwards. During the subsequent two-decade occupation, a campaign of pacification ensued. Although Indonesia did make substantial investment in infrastructures during its occupation in East Timor, dissatisfaction remained widespread. Between 1975 and 1999, there were an estimated about 102,800 conflict-related deaths (approximately 18,600 killings and 84,200 'excess' deaths from hunger and illness), the majority of which occurred during the Indonesian occupation.

On 30 August 1999, in a UN-sponsored referendum, an overwhelming majority of East Timorese voted for independence from Indonesia. Immediately following the referendum, anti-independence Timorese militias – organised and supported by the Indonesian military – commenced a punitive scorched-earth campaign. The militias killed approximately 1,400 Timorese and forcibly pushed 300,000 people into West Timor as refugees. The majority of the country's infrastructure was destroyed during this punitive attack. On 20 September 1999, the International Force for East Timor (INTERFET) was deployed to the country and brought the violence to an end. Following a United Nations-administered transition period, East Timor was internationally recognised as an independent nation on 20 May 2002.

List of colonial governors of Portuguese Timor

This is a list of European (as well as Australian and Japanese) colonial administrators responsible for the territory of Portuguese Timor, an area equivalent to modern-day East Timor.

Men of Timor

Men of Timor is a 1943 short documentary propaganda film about the guerrilla warfare activities of Sparrow Force on Timor Island during World War II.

Mário Lemos Pires

Mário Lemos Pires CvA (30 June 1930 – 22 May 2009) was a Major-general of the Portuguese Army and the last colonial governor of Portuguese Timor.

Operation Lancer

Operation Lancer was a military operation by Dutch and Australian troops on Timor during World War II.

Lancer Force was the name of Australian troops used to replace Sparrow Force.Around 60 men from the KNIL were to be inserted onto Timor by the Australian navy to undertake guerrilla warfare against the Japanese. Australian ships were constantly attacked by Japanese planes and on 1 December 1942 HMAS Armidale was sunk with heavy loss of life; most of the survivors died.

Operation Suncob

Operation Suncob was a military operation by the Australian Army in Timor in 1945 to investigate what happened to Operation Cobra. It consisted of Captain P. Wynne and Corporal J.B. Lawrence, both AIF and Z Special Unit. They were inserted into Timor on 2 July 1945 despite the Services Reconnaissance Department not hearing back from Operation Sunlag which had been undertaken shortly prior. Both men were captured and tortured by the Japanese.

Portuguese Timorese escudo

The escudo was the currency of Portuguese Timor between 1959 and 1976. It replaced the pataca at a rate of 5.6 escudos = 1 pataca and was equivalent to the Portuguese escudo. It was replaced by the Indonesian rupiah following East Timor's occupation by Indonesia (the exchange rate is unknown). The escudo was subdivided into 100 centavos.

East Timor (formerly Portuguese Timor) now uses the United States dollar banknotes and has its own coins in circulation.

Portuguese Timorese pataca

The pataca was a monetary unit of account used in Portuguese Timor between 1894 and 1958, except for the period 1942-1945, when the occupying Japanese forces introduced the Netherlands Indies gulden and the roepiah. As in the case of the Macanese pataca which is still in use today, the East Timor unit was based on the silver Mexican dollar coins which were prolific in the wider region in the 19th century. These Mexican dollar coins were in turn the lineal descendants of the Spanish pieces of eight which had been introduced to the region by the Portuguese through Portuguese Malacca, and by the Spanish through the Manila Galleon trade.

Postage stamps and postal history of East Timor

East Timor, officially the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, is a country in Southeast Asia. It comprises the eastern half of the island of Timor, the nearby islands of Atauro and Jaco, and Oecusse, an exclave on the northwestern side of the island, within Indonesian West Timor. East Timor was a Portuguese colony, known as Portuguese Timor, until 28 November 1975,

Teófilo Duarte

Teófilo Duarte (6 October 1898 – 16 May 1958) was a Portuguese colonial administrator, a military officer and a politician. He was a supporter of the Sidonist movement and the Estado Novo.He was born on 6 October 1898 in Idanha-a-Nova, eastern Portugal. An army officer, he was governor of Cape Verde from 9 March 1918 to 1919. Having participated in movements against the democratic governments, he was dismissed from the Portuguese Army in 1920, only to be reinstated after the 28 May 1926 coup d'état. He was governor of Portuguese Timor from 30 September 1926 to 22 December 1928. He encouraged Portuguese immigration to the colony, including political deportees. Under his rule, forced labour took a rise in East Timor.He was Minister of Colonies from 4 February 1947 to 2 August 1950 under Prime Minister Salazar. On 1 September 1950, he was awarded with the Grand Cross of the Military Order of Christ.

Timorense football league system

The Timorense Football League System, also known as the football pyramid, is a series of interconnected leagues for association football clubs in Timor-Leste.

Vehicle registration plates of East Timor

Vehicle registration plates of East Timor are Australian standard 372 mm × 134 mm, and use Australian stamping dies. East Timor requires its residents to register their motor vehicles and display vehicle registration plates. Vehicle registration numbers consist of five digits, and display the letters TL or TLS, short for Timor Lorosae, the name for East Timor in Tetum. The current format started in 2002.


Wehali (Wehale, Waihali, Veale) is the name of a traditional kingdom at the southern coast of Central Timor, now in the Republic of Indonesia. It is often mentioned together with its neighbouring sister kingdom, as Wewiku-Wehali (Waiwiku-Wehale). Wehali held a position of ritual seniority among the many small Timorese kingdoms.

States and territories in the sphere of influence of the Empire of Japan during World War II

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