Portuguese Timor


Map of Portuguese TimorFlag of Portuguese Timor
















The inhabitants of Timor are descended from three waves of migrants. The first to settle the island, Vedo-Australoid people related to Sri Lankans, arrived between 40.000 and 20.000 B.C. A second wave of Melanesian people around 3.000 B.C. drove the original inhabitants, called Atoni, up into the interior of Timor. The Melanesians were followed by Malay and Hakka people from southern China. Most of the Timorese practiced subsistence agriculture. Frequent visits from sea-going Arab, Chinese, and Gujerati traders brought in metal goods, silks, and rice; the Timorese exported beeswax, spices, and fragrant sandalwood.


By the time the Portuguese made contact with Timor in the early sixteenth century, it was divided into a number of small fiefdoms. The largest was the kingdom of Wehale, composed of a mixture of Tetum, Kemak, and Bunak peoples.


Portuguese explorers claimed Timor for their king in 1515, lured by the promise of spices. For the next 460 years, the Portuguese controlled the eastern half of the island, while the Dutch East India company took the western half as part of its Indonesian holdings. The Portuguese ruled coastal regions in cooperation with local leaders, but had very little influence in the mountainous interior.

Although their hold on East Timor was tenuous, in 1702 the Portuguese officially added the region to their empire, renaming it "Portuguese Timor." Portugal used East Timor mainly as a dumping ground for exiled convicts.


The formal boundary between the Dutch and Portuguese sides of Timor was not drawn until 1916, when the modern-day border was fixed by The Hague.


In 1941, Australian and Dutch soldiers occupied Timor, hoping to fend off an anticipated invasion by the Imperial Japanese Army. Japan seized the island in February of 1942; the surviving Allied soldiers then joined with local people in guerrilla war against the Japanese. Japanese reprisals against the Timorese left about one in ten of the island's population dead, a total of more than 50.000 people.


Portuguese Timor was handed back to Portugal after the war, but Portugal continued to neglect the colony. Very little investment was made in infrastructure, education and healthcare. The colony was declared an 'Overseas Province' of the Portuguese Republic in 1955. Indonesia declared its independence from the Dutch, but made no mention of annexing East Timor.


In 1974, a coup in Portugal moved the country from a rightist dictatorship to a democracy. The new regime sought to disentangle Portugal from its overseas colonies, a move that the other European colonial powers had made some 20 years earlier. East Timor declared its independence in 1975.


In December of that year, Indonesia invaded East Timor, capturing Dili after just six hours of fighting. Jakarta declaring the region the 27th Indonesian province. This annexation, however, was not recognized by the UN.



Capital:                      Dili

Government:              overseas territory of Portugal / overseas province (1955)

Area:                         14.925 km²

Population:                 442.378 (1950) / 653.211 (1974)

Currency:                   Portuguese Timorese pataca (100 avos), from 1959: Portuguese Timorese escudo (100 centavos)



For more stamps see:

United Nations Transitional Administration of East Timor






Portuguese Timor in Wikipedia.

Flag of Portuguese Timor in Flags of the World.




Stamp catalogue


UPU 75th anniversary

date:                  October 1949

designer:            José de Almada Negreiros

printer:               Lito Nacional, Porto

perforated:         14


1     16 A.           globe, letters, text "UniÃO POSTAL UNiVERSAL / 75º aniversario"


                          (cat. Michel 278/SG 319/Yvert 264)


Portuguese Timor - stamp as described above



The World United Against Malaria

date:                  April 1962

designer:            -

printer:               Casa da Moeda, Lisbon

perforated:         12¼


2     2$50            malaria mosquito (Anopheles sundaicus), campaign emblem, text "O mundo unido contro o

                          paludismo" and "A. sundaicus"


                          (cat. Michel 336/SG 383/Yvert 328)


Portuguese Timor - stamp as described above



ITU Centenary

date:                  17 May 1965

designer:            -

printer:               Lito Nacional, Porto

perforated:         14½


3     1$50            Archangel Gabriel, ITU emblem, text "CENTENÁRIO / DA UNIÃO / INTERNACIONAL / DAS /

                          TELECOMUNICAÇÕES / 1865-1965" and "S. GABRIEL PATRONO DAS TELECOMUNICAÇÕES"


                          (cat. Michel 336/SG 385/Yvert 330)


Portuguese Timor - stamp as described above



WMO Centenary

date:                  15 December 1973

designer:            -

printer:               Litografia Maia, Porto

perforated:         13


4     20$              WMO jubilee emblem, text "CENTENARIO DA OMI-OMM"


                          (cat. Michel 368/SG 418/Yvert 354)


Portuguese Timor - stamp as described above









Up - Home



last revised: 6 October 2008