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North Borneo (also known as the State of North Borneo)[2] was a British protectorate located in the northern part of the island of Borneo. The territory of North Borneo was originally established by concessions of the Sultanates of Brunei and Sulu in 1877 and 1878 to a German-born representative of Austria-Hungary, a businessman and diplomat, von Overbeck.

North Borneo
Borneo Utara
Protectorate of the United Kingdom
1882/1888–1941
1945–1946
Badge
Badge
Motto
Latin: Pergo et Perago[1]
(I persevere and I achieve)[1]
Anthem
God Save the King/Queen
North Borneo border, 1903.
Capital Kudat (1881–1884);
Sandakan (1884–1945);
Jesselton (1946)
Languages English, Kadazan-Dusun, Bajau, Murut, Sabah Malay, Chinese etc.
Government Chartered company, Protectorate
Governor
 •  1881–1887 William Hood Treacher (first)
 •  1937–1946 Charles Robert Smith (last)
Historical era New Imperialism
 •  North Borneo Provisional Association Ltd 26 August 1881
 •  Granted royal charter 1 November 1881
 •  North Borneo Chartered Company May 1882
 •  Protectorate 12 May 1888
 •  Japanese invasion 17 December 1941
 •  Allied liberation 10 June 1945
 •  Ceded to the Crown colony 15 July 1946
Area
 •  1945 76,115 km2 (29,388 sq mi)
Population
 •  1881 est. 60,000 
 •  1920 est. 200,000 
 •  1930 est. 257,804 
 •  1935 est. 285,000 
 •  1945 est. 331,000 
     Density 4/km2 (11/sq mi)
Currency North Borneo dollar
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Bruneian Empire
Sultanate of Sulu
Sultanate of Bulungan
Crown Colony of Labuan
Japanese occupation of British Borneo
British Military Administration (Borneo)
Crown Colony of North Borneo
Today part of  Malaysia

Overbeck had recently purchased a small tract of land in the western coast of Borneo in 1876 from an American merchant Joseph William Torrey, had promoted the territory in Hong Kong since 1866. Overbeck then transferred all his rights to Alfred Dent before withdrawing in 1879. In 1881, Dent established the North Borneo Provisional Association Ltd to manage the territory, which was granted a royal charter in the same year. The following year, the Provisional Association was replaced by the North Borneo Chartered Company. The granting of royal charter worried both the neighbouring Spanish and Dutch authorities and as a result the Spanish began to stake their claim to northern Borneo. A protocol known as the Madrid Protocol was signed in 1885 to recognise Spanish presence in the Philippine archipelago, in return establishing the definite border of Spanish influence beyond northern Borneo. To avoid further claims from other European powers, North Borneo was made a British protectorate in 1888.

North Borneo produced timber for export; along with agriculture this industry remained the main economic resource for the British in Borneo. As the population was too small to effectively serve the economy, the British sponsored various migration schemes for Chinese workers from Hong Kong and China to work in the European plantations, and for Japanese immigrants to participate in the economic activities of North Borneo. The starting of World War II with the arrival of Japanese forces however brought an end to protectorate administration, with the territory placed under a military administration and then designated as a crown colony.

Contents

HistoryEdit

Foundation and early yearsEdit

 
Alfred Dent, the founder of North Borneo Provisional Association Ltd (later replaced by the North Borneo Chartered Company) is the key player to the establishment of solid British presence in northern Borneo.

North Borneo was founded in 1877–1878 through a series of land concessions in northern Borneo from the Sultanate of Brunei and Sulu to an Austrian-German businessman and diplomat, von Overbeck.[3][4][5] A former American Trading Company of Borneo territory in the western coast of northern Borneo had already passed to Overbeck,[6] requiring him to go to Brunei to renew the concession of the land he bought from Joseph William Torrey.[7][8][9] William Clark Cowie played an important role as a close friend of the Sultanate of Sulu in helping Overbeck to buy additional land in the eastern coast of Borneo.[10][11][12] Meanwhile, the Sultanate of Bulungan's influence also reached Tawau in eastern southern coast,[13] but came under the influence of the more dominating Sulu Sultanate.[14]

 
Map of North Borneo from British Library, 1888.

Following his success in buying large tract of lands from both the western and eastern part of northern Borneo, Overbeck went to Europe to promote the territory in Austria-Hungary and Italy as well as in his own country of Germany, but none showed any real interest.[6][15] Only Great Britain, which had sought to control trade routes in the Far East since the 18th century, responded.[16][17][18] The interest of the British was strengthened by their presence in Labuan since 1846.[19][20][21] As a result, Overbeck received a financial support from the British Dent brothers (Alfred Dent and Edward Dent) and diplomatic and military support from the British government.[5][17][22] Following the entrance of support from the British side, a clause was included in the treaties that the ceded territories could not be given to another party without the permission of the British government.[3]

 
Civil ensign flag of North Borneo.
 
Territorial changes of northern Borneo from 1500 to 1905.

Sultanates thalassocracy:
European/Western presence:
  British North Borneo Company / British North Borneo
  German Borneo Company

Unable to attract the interest of the governments of Austria and Germany, Overbeck withdrew in 1879; all his treaty rights with the Sultanates were transferred to Alfred Dent, who in 1881 formed the North Borneo Provisional Association Ltd with the support of countrymen Rutherford Alcock, Admiral Henry Keppel, and Richard Biddulph Martin.[23][24][25] The Provisional Association then applied to Queen Victoria for a royal charter, which was granted on 1 November 1881.[6][26][27] William Hood Treacher was appointed as the first governor,[28] and Kudat at the northern tip of Borneo was chosen as the Provisional Association administration capital.[29][30] The granting of royal charter had worried both Dutch and the Spanish, who feared that Britain might threatening the position of their colony.[31]

In May 1882, the Provisional Association was replaced by the newly formed North Borneo Chartered Company with Alcock acting as the first President and Dent becoming the company managing director.[32] The administration is not considered as a British acquisition of the territory, but rather simply as a private enterprise with government guidelines to protect the territory from being encroached upon by other European powers.[33] Under Governor Treacher, the company gained more territories on the western coast from the Sultanate of Brunei.[34] The company subsequently acquired further sovereign and territorial rights from the sultan of Brunei, expanding the territory under control to the Putatan river (May 1884), the Padas district (November 1884), the Kawang river (February 1885), the Mantanani Islands (April 1885) and additional minor Padas territories (March 1898).[note 1]

At the early stage of the administration, there was a claim in northern Borneo from the Spanish authorities in the Philippines when an attempt to raise the Spanish flag over Sandakan was met interference by a British warship.[18] To prevent further conflict and ending the Spanish claim to northern Borneo, an agreement known as the Madrid Protocol was signed in Madrid between the United Kingdom, Germany and Spain in 1885, recognising the Spanish presence in the Philippine archipelago.[27][35] As the company did not wish to be involved in further foreign affairs issues,[31] North Borneo was made a protectorate on 12 May 1888.[36][37] In 1890, Labuan was incorporated into the administration of North Borneo before returned to British government rule in 1904.[38] There were several local insurrections from 1894 to 1900 by Mat Salleh and by Antanum in 1915.[39] World War I did not greatly affect the territory, and logging business grew during the interwar period.[40]

World War II and declineEdit

 
Japanese military movement throughout the Malay Archipelago from 1941 to 1942.

In World War II, North Borneo was overwhelmed by Japanese forces on 17 December 1941.[41] On 3 January 1942, the Japanese navy landed unopposed in Labuan.[42] From 7 January, Japanese troops in Sarawak crossed the border of Dutch Borneo and began to arriving on Jesselton. Another strong Japanese army detachment arrived from Mindanao and began to land on Tarakan Island before proceeding to Sandakan on 17 January.[42] The Japanese arrival was met without any strong resistance as the protectorate mainly relied on the British Navy for defence. Although North Borneo has a police force, it never had its own army or navy.[43] By the end of January, North Borneo was completely occupied by the Japanese.[44] It was administered as part of the Empire of Japan, with officers of the chartered company were allowed to continued administration under Japanese supervision.[45]

 
Disarmed Japanese troops marching towards a prisoner of war (POW) compound in Jesselton after surrendering to the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) on 8 October 1945.

The arrival of the Japanese forces to Borneo and the fall of Anglo-Japanese Alliance had already been predicted by revelation through secret telegrams that Japanese ships docked regularly at Jesselton were engaged in espionage.[46] Many of the British and Australian soldiers captured after the fall of Malaya and Singapore were brought to North Borneo and held as a prisoners of war (POWs) in Sandakan camp where they were then forced to march from Sandakan to Ranau.[47][48] Other POWs were also sent to Batu Lintang camp in neighbouring Sarawak. The occupation drove residents in the coastal areas to the interior in searching for food and escaping the brutality during the war period,[49] which led to the creation of several resistance movements; one of the such movement known as the Kinabalu Guerrillas which led by Albert Kwok and supported by indigenous groups in North Borneo.[50][51]

 
Japanese civilians and soldiers leaving North Borneo after the surrender of Japan.

As part of the Allied Campaign to retake their possessions in the East, Allied forces deployed to Borneo under the Borneo Campaign to liberate the island. The Australian Imperial Force (AIF) played a significant part in the mission,[52] with the force being sent to Tarakan and Labuan islands to secure the east and western Borneo.[53] The Allied Z Special Unit provided intelligence gatherings and other information from the Japanese that could facilitated the AIF landings,[53] while US submarines were used to transport Australian commandos to Borneo.[54] Most of the major towns of North Borneo were heavily bombed during these period.[55] The war ended on 15 August 1945 following the Japanese surrender and the administration of North Borneo was undertaken by the British Military Administration (BMA) from September.[56] The company official administration returned to administer the territory but, unable to finance the reconstruction cost after the war, ceded administration of the protectorate to the crown colony government on 15 July 1946.[1][57][58]

GovernmentEdit

 
1899 photograph of the British administration building in Sandakan, capital of North Borneo from 1884–1945.

The Chartered Company's system of administration was based on standard British colonial empire administration structures, with the land divided into Residencies, and sub-divided into Districts. Initially, there were only two Residencies: East Coast and West Coast, with Residents based at Sandakan and Jesselton respectively. Each Residency was divided into Provinces, later known as Districts, which were run by district officers. By 1922, there were five Residencies to accommodate new areas that were opened up for development. These were the West Coast, Kudat, Tawau, Interior and East Coast Residencies. These Residencies were in turn divided into 17 districts. Under this system, British held top posts, while native chiefs managed the people at grassroots level. This was not a conscious attempt by the British to instil indirect rule but a convenient arrangement for the district officers who were unfamiliar with local customs and politics.

The company administration established a foundation for economic growth in North Borneo by restoring peace to a land where piracy and tribal feuds had grown rampant. It abolished slavery and set up transport, health and education services for the people, and allowed indigenous communities to continue their traditional lifestyles.[59] The British North Borneo Constabulary, the territory's police force, in 1883 comprised 3 Europeans, 50 Indians (Sikhs and Pashtuns), 30 Dayaks, 50 Somalis and 20 Malays.[60] Constables trained at depot an average of three days per week.[61] In 1884 the force had a total of 176 members,[60] which increased to about 510 over three years.[61] While under the protectorate, international relations fell under the purview of the British government, internally North Borneo was governed by the North Borneo Chartered Company as an independent state with British protection.[2] The treaty signed on 12 May 1888 stipulated:

Agreement between the British Government and the British North Borneo Company for the establishment of a British Protectorate. —Signed at London, 12 May 1888.[2]

I. The State of North Borneo comprises the territories specified in the said Royal Charter, and such other territories as the Company have acquired, or may hereafter acquire, ‘under the provisions of Article XV of the said Charter.
It is divided into nine Provinces, namely:

Province Alcock;
Province Cunliffe;
Province Dent;
Province Dewhurst;
Province Elphinstone;
Province Keppel;
Province Martin;
Province Mayne;
Province Myburgh.

II. The State of North Borneo shall continue to be governed and administered as an independent State by the company in conformity with the provisions of the said Charter; under the protection of Great Britain; but such protection shall confer no right on Her Majesty's Government to interfere with the internal administration of the State further than is provided herein or by the Charter of the Company.
III. The relations between the State of North Borneo and all foreign States, including the States of Brunei and of Sarawak, shall be conducted by Her Majesty's Government, or in accordance with its directions; and if any difference should arise between the Government of North Borneo and that of any other State, the Company, as representing the State of North Borneo, agrees to abide by the decision of Her Majesty's Government, and to take all necessary to give effect thereto.
IV. Her Majesty's Government shall have the right to establish British Consular officers in any part of the said territories, who shall receive exequaturs in the name of the Government of North Borneo. They shall enjoy whatever privileges are usually granted to Consular officers, and they shall be entitled to hoist the British flag over their residences and public offices.
V. British subjects, commerce, and shipping shall enjoy the same right, privileges, and advantages as the subjects, commerce, and shipping of the most favoured nation, as well as any other rights, privileges, and advantages which may be enjoyed by the subjects, commerce and shipping of North Borneo.
VI. No cession or other alienation of any part of the territory of the State of North Borneo shall be made by its Government to any foreign State, or the subjects or the citizens thereof, without the consent of Her Majesty's Government; but this restriction shall not apply to ordinary grants or leases of lands or houses to private individuals for purposes of residence, agriculture, commerce, or other business.

EconomyEdit

 
The opening of North Borneo Railway Line on 3 February 1898 to transport commodity in the west coast area.

With the beginning of well-planned economic activities under British administration, the North Borneo authorities began to open land for agriculture, and native land rights began to be formed.[62][63] The government however felt that the native population was too small and unsuited to meet the requirements of modern development, so they began to sponsor various schemes for the migration of Chinese workers from Hong Kong and China.[64][65] In 1882, the North Borneo authorities appointed Walter Henry Medhurst as Commissioner for Chinese Immigration in the mission to attract more businessmen to invest in North Borneo by providing a workforce.[66] Medhurst's efforts were costly and unsuccessful; however, the Hakka, not part of the plan, began to migrate to North Borneo where they formed an agricultural community.[66]

 
Tobacco estate in Lahad Datu, 1899.
 
Bond Street in Jesselton with Chinese shoplots, c. 1930.

Since the 18th century, tobacco was North Borneo's foremost planting industry.[67] The logging history in North Borneo can be traced since the 1870s.[68] From 1890s, hardwood exports increased, [69] with logging expanding especially during the interwar period.[40] In the 1900s, North Borneo joined the rubber boom. The completion of North Borneo Railway Line helped to transport the resources to a major port on the west coast. By 1915, around 34,828 acres of land, in addition to Chinese and North Borneo smallholdings, had been planted with rubber tree.[66] In the same year, North Borneo Governor Aylmer Cavendish Pearson invited Japanese emigrants to participate in the economic activities there. The Japanese government received the request warmly and sen researchers to discover potential economic opportunities.[70] At the early stage, the Japanese encouraged their farmers to go to North Borneo to cultivate rice, as their country depended on rice imports. With incresaing economic interest from the Japanese side, they purchased a rubber estate owned by the North Borneo government.[70] By 1937, North Borneo exported 178,000 cubic metres of timber, surpassing Siam, which exporting 85,000 cubic metres of timber.[69]

CurrencyEdit

 
One North Borneo dollar, 1940.

The original monetary unit of North Borneo was the Mexican dollar, equal to 100 cents. The dollar was later matched to the Straits dollar and rated at 9 Straits dollars (equal to 5 US dollars at the time).[71] Different notes were issued throughout the administration, with backgrounds featuring the Mount Kinabalu or the company arms.[72]

SocietyEdit

 
1911 specimen stamps of North Borneo.

DemographyEdit

In 1881, 60,000 to 100,000 indigenous people lived in North Boreno.[64] The people on the coast were mainly Muslims, with the aborigines mostly located inland.[71] The Kadazan-Dusun and Murut were the largest indigenous group in the interior, while Bajau, Bruneian, Illanun, Kedayan and Suluk dominated the coastal areas.[73] Following various immigration schemes initiated by the British, the population increased to 200,000 in 1920,[74] 257,804 in 1930,[71] 285,000 in 1935,[61] and 331,000 in 1945.[75] Under company rule, the government of North Borneo not only recruited Chinese workers but also Japanese immigrants to overcome the shortage of manpower in the economic sectors.[76]

Public service infrastructureEdit

A telegraph line was run from Labuan to Sandakan in 1894; radio contact between Sandakan and Jesselton began in 1914.[77] The North Borneo Railway opened to the public on 1 August 1914 as the main transportation facility for west coast communities.[78] Postal service was also available throughout the administration.[79]

MediaEdit

The Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society (since 1820) and British North Borneo Herald (since 1883) held a significant amount of records regarding North Borneo before and during the British administration.

See alsoEdit

NotesEdit

FootnotesEdit

  1. ^ a b c Great Britain. Colonial Office 1956, p. 6.
  2. ^ a b c Great Britain. Foreign Office 1888, pp. 238.
  3. ^ a b Pryer 2001, pp. 11.
  4. ^ Wright 1988, pp. 107.
  5. ^ a b Doolittle 2011, pp. 32.
  6. ^ a b c Ooi 2004, pp. 265.
  7. ^ Pryer 2001, pp. 10.
  8. ^ Wright 1988, pp. 143.
  9. ^ Saunders 2013, pp. 87.
  10. ^ Press 2017, pp. 61.
  11. ^ Great Britain. Colonial Office 1958, pp. 164.
  12. ^ Kratoska 2001, pp. 282.
  13. ^ Trost 1998, pp. 234.
  14. ^ Magenda 2010, pp. 42.
  15. ^ Press 2017, pp. 150.
  16. ^ Fry 2013, pp. 15.
  17. ^ a b Fitzgerald 2016, pp. 70.
  18. ^ a b Barbara Watson & Leonard Y 2016, pp. 193.
  19. ^ Hong Kong Daily Press Office 1912, pp. 1504.
  20. ^ Webster 1998, pp. 130.
  21. ^ McCord & Purdue 2007, pp. 220.
  22. ^ Webster 1998, pp. 200.
  23. ^ British North Borneo Chartered Company 1886, pp. 113.
  24. ^ Hilton & Tate 1966, pp. 82.
  25. ^ de Vienne 2015, pp. 85.
  26. ^ Doolittle 2011, pp. 173.
  27. ^ a b Olson 1991, pp. 92.
  28. ^ Tregonning 1965, pp. 13.
  29. ^ Great Britain. Colonial Office 1958, pp. 172.
  30. ^ Yong 1965, pp. 25.
  31. ^ a b Olson & Shadle 1996, pp. 192.
  32. ^ Welman 2017, pp. 163.
  33. ^ Pryer 2001, pp. 12.
  34. ^ Wright 1988, pp. 185.
  35. ^ Chamber's 1950, pp. 448.
  36. ^ Dahlhoff 2012, pp. 1133.
  37. ^ Panton 2015, pp. 90.
  38. ^ Olson & Shadle 1996, pp. 645.
  39. ^ Welman 2017, pp. 153.
  40. ^ a b Jones 2013, pp. 12.
  41. ^ Epstein 2016, pp. 90.
  42. ^ a b Rottman 2002, pp. 206.
  43. ^ Tregonning 1960, pp. 14.
  44. ^ Lines 1991, pp. 193.
  45. ^ Evans 2012, pp. 16.
  46. ^ Saya & Takashi 1993, pp. 54.
  47. ^ Bickersteth & Hinton 1996, pp. 19.
  48. ^ Braithwaite 2016, pp. 347.
  49. ^ Lim 2008, pp. 36.
  50. ^ Evans 1990, pp. 50.
  51. ^ Kratoska 2013, pp. 124.
  52. ^ Ooi 2010, pp. 201.
  53. ^ a b Heimann 1998, pp. 174.
  54. ^ Feuer 2005, pp. 27.
  55. ^ Ooi 2013, pp. 77.
  56. ^ Ooi 2010, pp. 208.
  57. ^ Oxford Business 2011, pp. 13.
  58. ^ Welman 2017, pp. 159.
  59. ^ Skutsch 2013, pp. 679.
  60. ^ a b Adams 1929, pp. 310.
  61. ^ a b c Northwestern University 1935, pp. 28.
  62. ^ Cleary 1992, pp. 170.
  63. ^ Colchester 2011, pp. 87.
  64. ^ a b Danny 1999, pp. 134.
  65. ^ Wordie 2016.
  66. ^ a b c Tarling 2003, pp. 215.
  67. ^ John & Jackson 1973, pp. 88.
  68. ^ Ibbotson 2014, pp. 116.
  69. ^ a b Dixon 1991, pp. 107.
  70. ^ a b Akashi & Yoshimura 2008, pp. 23.
  71. ^ a b c Lane 2010, pp. 51.
  72. ^ Judkins 2016, pp. 149.
  73. ^ Herb & Kaplan 2008, pp. 1215.
  74. ^ Hose, McDougall & Haddon 1912, pp. 28.
  75. ^ Vinogradov 1980, pp. 73.
  76. ^ Jude 2016.
  77. ^ Baker 1962, pp. 134.
  78. ^ Lajiun 2017.
  79. ^ Armstrong 1920, pp. 32.

ReferencesEdit

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit